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. Mark C

    If only the worlds leaders still thought this way, violence begets violence.

    August 1, 2014 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  2. Rick Patel

    Clinton was too busy chasing skirts to do much of anything.

    August 1, 2014 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  3. Sean

    In retrospect, I wonder if he would have changed his mind?

    August 1, 2014 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  4. Ed

    If this is common knowledge, why i itnews 13 years later?

    August 1, 2014 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  5. Jim

    You couldn't have killed anything but a 6-pack Willie. You could have signed a paper and sent others in harms way, but that is the extent of what you could have done. You would have then been free to cheat on your wife some more with an intern. You are slimy, not heroic.

    August 1, 2014 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  6. Your Mom

    Could have inhaled, whatever, who let this guy talk?

    August 1, 2014 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  7. Bob R., Maryland

    President Clinton's decision came down to what he knew, when he knew it, and where Bin Laden was at the time. That President exercised good judgement. So why bring this out now?

    I recall that after 9-11, George W had an ideal opportunity to send a missle to Bin Laden who was in the hills of Afganistan away from innocent civilians. Yet he had our warriors stand down. As I recall, 60-Minutes did a piece on that.

    August 1, 2014 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  8. hatenapa

    Too bad Bush didn't spend much time thinking about him, as he stated. 9/11/2001 might have been different.

    August 1, 2014 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  9. nauseating...

    He was too busy sleeping around.

    August 1, 2014 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  10. jzaks

    Would have, could have, should have. Lots of those for Bill.

    August 1, 2014 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  11. Name


    August 1, 2014 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  12. shamus

    Of all the things Bill Clinton should NOT have done, this is one thing he should have done.

    August 1, 2014 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  13. korkea aika

    So what? GW Bush was on vacation most of the first year of his presidency. So he had ample warning and opportunity. Mission accomplished!

    August 1, 2014 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  14. Blunt Talk

    Should'a, would'a could'a....... I could have gone to the moon too...

    August 1, 2014 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  15. getajobhippies

    dont worry bill the idtiots on the left still love you. You could have prevented the death of 3000+ Americans but because you kind of sort of tried to stop him that is good enough. your heart was in the rights place and that is all that matters to the lefties. great work bill go back to shakin up with interns in the oval office.

    August 1, 2014 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  16. Anonymous

    ...If I just spent less time with Monica

    August 1, 2014 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  17. wtf!

    So if I read this correctly....Clinton could have saved thousand of lives if only he had the balls to do what needed to be done?

    August 1, 2014 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  18. Anonymous

    He could have nailed Monica too

    August 1, 2014 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  19. Uncle Sam

    Bin laden was not the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. The US government was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks.

    August 1, 2014 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  20. Daniel

    The Clinton administration was inept when it came to terrorism. The original twin tower attack, the CIA Vriginia shooting, the Oklahoma City bombing, Riyadh, Khubar towers, the Atlanta Olympic bombing, US Beirut Embassy attack, the Twin African embassy attacks, USS Cole attack, not to mention the two lead 9/11 hijackers were already setting up shop on US soil while he was walking out the White House door. What were his policies to prevent this? Cut CIA and military funding, then fire a couple tomahawk missiles at a shack in Afghanistan, and say "Job well done".

    August 1, 2014 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  21. Debbie Chanik

    Somewhere in hell Bin Laden is getting a chuckle from this. This ladies and gentlemen is why the US will never win any more wars. Imagine if we were afraid of collateral damage in WW2. That war might still be raging on. Or we would all be speaking German or Japanese by now. We are so afraid of looking bad (for political purposes) that we do nothing and look soft.

    August 1, 2014 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  22. Bobbie Jo Justice

    good for not doing that, 300 lives do mean something, even if they aren't white European americans.

    August 1, 2014 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  23. JC

    He would have to supposedly destroy an entire town to kill one man? I guess GPS guided cruise missiles didn't exist in 1999.

    August 1, 2014 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  24. Charlie

    could of; should of....a little late!

    August 1, 2014 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  25. thomas doubter

    I could have, Should have. Would have. Please!
    Not unlike Mrs. Clinton trumpeting her leadership in Libya and now that policy led to the fundamental collapse of Libya.
    Sad. That's not leadership.

    August 1, 2014 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
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