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. Roland

    The question is would it have stopped 9/11? I doubt it, Bin Laden was more or less a figurehead.As we see Islamic terror groups are like a hydra you cut one head off another head spawns.

    August 1, 2014 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  2. jacksdeals

    The world should realize that every terrorists is equal evil to Osama bin Laden. Once you understand that, you will understand what Israel is doing right now. Cleaning the mess the media created

    August 1, 2014 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  3. Rudy NYC

    He's been known to have said this before. There's nothing to see here. He's long admitted collateral damage was too high.

    August 1, 2014 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  4. smith

    Clinton had chances to get Bin Laden and looking back at it now he should have done it. However, no one expected 9/11 so I can see why he didn`t do it.

    August 1, 2014 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  5. BrendaMor

    Can't wait to hear all the free passes that the media and Democrats will give Bill Clinton all the while bashing George Bush for not doing more.

    August 1, 2014 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  6. TSB8C

    Bill had his chance to kill bin Laden and prevent 9/11 from ever happening. When bin Laden attacked the World Trade Center in 1993, Bill refused to admit it had been bombed. Even after the investigation proved what had happened, Bill refused offers from the Sudanese to review intelligence files on bin Laden or sharing efforts to try and get him. After the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, he also failed to act an a real opportunity to get bin Laden. Of course Bill later authorized a few cruise missile launches in a vain attempt to appease the public who wanted a retaliation, but there was never any real attempt to do anything that might have been seen as controversial prior to his re-election. Newsweek and Time Magazine both carried the question: 'Is President Clinton Relevant?' Apply applied to him then and to her again now.

    August 1, 2014 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  7. BuckeyePilot

    Yea Bill, Sudan offered to hand him over to you and you were worried about the legal ramification. there would have been no collateral damage or World trade center attack. Stop trying to rewrite history to cover up your incompetence. You were to busy patting Monika's head to do you job.

    August 1, 2014 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  8. Dr Richard

    I was in Kandahar in '73. It's not a little town but a city. Got bad vibes off it compared to Herat and Kabul, though (was crossing by bus from France to Nepal). For what it's worth my impressions of Afghanistan at the time: This is a neat and friendly place but you don't screw with the people, especially about their religion. And this would be a terrible place to fight a land war. The British lost an entire army here in 1840; no one else should try. Too bad both the Russians and the US thought they could do better. (And too bad Clinton didn't get bin Laden.)

    August 1, 2014 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  9. Fair is Fair

    "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."
    Thanks, Bubba. Thanks heaps.

    August 1, 2014 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  10. Mike Wallace

    Clinton did the right thing. Sure, you would have killed Osama Bin Laden, but chances are that the Sept 11th attacks would have been carried out anyway; only 300 more innocent people would have died.

    August 1, 2014 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  11. Susan

    What's billy doing? Trying to appease himself to the radical islamists? "I didn't do it, he didi it!" I would not trust a word coming out of his or his wife's mouths.

    August 1, 2014 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  12. k

    so funny the mistakes of our presidents come back to haunt later ones especially when they are terrorists that the u.s. used to support when will we learn

    August 1, 2014 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  13. joey

    Hey Merica, this is very old. slick willy has talked about this a million times. and , btw, bin laden was NOT the mastermind of 911, it was khalid sheik mohammed

    August 1, 2014 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  14. yolanda

    @Rudy, I guess the collateral damage incurred because he sat on his thumb is okay, though?

    August 1, 2014 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  15. tv22

    So basically then, 9/11 was his fault.

    August 1, 2014 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  16. Gabbo

    Of course he blew off the Sudanese when they offered OBL to Clinton on a silver platter ......too risky politically, he thought.

    August 1, 2014 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  17. hopelessinseattle

    @korkea aika, ample warning AND opportunity......please explain.

    I applaud Clinton for considering collateral damage when making a decision NOT to go after Bin Laden, remember at that time 9-11 hadn't happened and making those types of decisions is part of what separates us from the Bin Laden's of the world, concern about the innocent. We aren't so concerned all the time and in every circumstance, but it is good when we are.

    As for Bush being on vacation most of his first year, needless mudslinging that is less than true. He certainly wasn't on vacation anymore than our current vacationer-in-chief .

    August 1, 2014 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  18. kjfuller7

    Where would we be right now if Clinton had pulled that trigger? 300 innocent dead in Kandahar or 3000 dead in NYC? I wonder if that weighs on his mind? K?

    August 1, 2014 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  19. TasteyTreat

    Why must we continue to hear from/about this narcissistic fool? Just go away.

    August 1, 2014 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  20. clusterpuck

    Clinton was a fool NOT to have done what he could have done...and DIDN'T!!! And he would have saved 3000 Americans directly and a lot of worry since that time, on a lot of others due to this dumb decision!

    August 1, 2014 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  21. PRISM

    He depleted a cruise missile inventory trying!

    August 1, 2014 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  22. JSH

    I spent two years working in Kandahar; it is not a little town

    August 1, 2014 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  23. Leelanau

    He never met a microphone (or a slippery cigar) that he didn't like....

    August 1, 2014 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  24. Gunderson

    It is water under the bridge now. Bill Clinton was never the sharpest knife in the drawer. Statements like this prove it. Obama on the other hand, doesn't even know where the knife drawer is.

    August 1, 2014 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  25. workin4theweekend

    Well the real reason that missile wasn't fired was that some of those 'innocents' were royalty from Saudi Arabia there visiting Bin Laden. Would have been very bad for gas prices, you see.

    August 1, 2014 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
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