July 31st, 2014
06:56 PM ET
9 years ago

Bill Clinton: ‘I nearly got’ Osama bin Laden

Washington (CNN) – Bill Clinton, just hours before planes crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, reportedly told an audience in Australia that he almost killed Osama bin Laden during his presidency.

Speaking to a group of businessmen in Australia on September 10, 2001, according to audio aired by SkyNews Australia on Wednesday, Clinton said that he "nearly got" the al Qaeda leader but didn't go through with a missile attack because of the collateral damage that would have come from it.

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"He [Osama bin Laden] is a very smart guy, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about him – and I nearly got him once," Clinton said. "I nearly got him. And I could have killed him, but I would have to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children, and then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn’t do it.”

The tape, which was provided to SkyNews by Michael Kroger, a former head of the Liberal Party of Australia, aired on the networks show "Paul Murray Live."

According to Kroger, who appears on the show, the Clinton remarks came from a meeting the former president had with 30 businessmen and women at Crown Casino Complex in Melbourne.

"The event was taped with his knowledge," Kroger says on the show. "The tape has never been played. … Bill Clinton was answering a question from a member of the audience about terrorism, international terrorism and he made some extraordinary remarks which had hitherto remained in my vault."

A number of books and the 9/11 Commission Report have acknowledged that the Clinton administration considered a December 1998 strike on bin Laden but scrapped the plan over possible collateral damage.

Bin Laden would infamously go on to be the mastermind behind the September 11 attacks that killed 2,977 people. After going into hiding for years, bin Laden was killed on May 2, 2011 by U.S. Special Forces during an early morning raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Filed under: Australia • Bill Clinton • Osama bin Laden
soundoff (561 Responses)
  1. Demigod Vadik, CA

    In hindsight killing 300 to save 2997 makes sense...

    ...but only in hindsight...

    ...and we don't live in hindsight...

    August 1, 2014 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  2. Democrat Junk

    Rudy.....I heard "al Quaeda was on the run". Not in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq or Kansas City. I love the way things get tweeked to "clarify" peoples points of view.

    August 1, 2014 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  3. Ricky Gibson

    New York Times headline, February 7, 2001–front page headline: "Ex-aide to bin Laden describes terror campaign aimed at U.S."

    Shame the president and VP at the time seemed to be more interested in griping about the liberal bias of the mainstream media than they were about taking threats seriously.

    August 1, 2014 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  4. DS Mullings

    Osama Bin Ladin probably had less to do with 9/11 than our political leaders did. We need to stop talking about Dems vs. Repubs, and start looking at whose really in charge. Wake up sleepyheads, it only going to get worse from here....

    August 1, 2014 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  5. nadirrrr

    Since when has USA started caring so much about a couple of hundred civilians. This statement does not carry any weight given how Israel has US backing in GASA killing thousands of innocent civilians. Specially the fact that its not even collateral damage. They are targeting civilians !!

    August 1, 2014 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  6. venrooy

    Wow... can you imagine the consequences of this tape had it of come out when it should have? – I think this can also be called the recorded moment that journalism died.

    August 1, 2014 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  7. desire


    August 1, 2014 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  8. allinittogether

    Some commenters are confused.

    Bill Clinton SAID this just hours before the 9/11 attacks. He was talking about a decision he had made as President back in 1998, three years earlier.

    August 1, 2014 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Just hours before? Try a full day and bit before. If everyone forgets Australia is a day ahead of America. 12PM on september 10 in Australia is actually 10PM on september 9 in New York. Funny because everyone is going on about Clinton not being able to see the future when not one new channel or outlet can tell the time.

    August 1, 2014 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  10. kaleem

    ohhhh! american army killed thousands of afghani to save 300 this all is liar their propaganda is to destroy afghanistan and to take oil from iraq and looting them.... hence they didnot killed osama...

    August 2, 2014 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  11. Julie

    And as a result of sparing the 300(as unfortunate as it would have been)several thousand INNOCENT people were killed. And hundreds injured.
    And yes. Why wasn't it brought out that day. Instead of 13 years later...?

    August 2, 2014 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
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