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.

[twitter-follow screen_name='politicalticker'][twitter-follow screen_name='danmericacnn']

"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. Tyler

    Jesus, some of these comments are beyond moronic. Anyone who seriously believes that if Clinton went through with the strike that 9/11 would of been stopped needs to actually think before posting knee-jerk, brainless comments. Attacks of that magnitude aren't planned overnight, and just because the brains/face of an operation is taken out doesn't stop the events that were undoubtedly already underway. If anything, the terrorists would of been more enraged the following day.

    I'm not a fan of Clinton by any means, but I think this was the right call.

    August 1, 2014 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  2. Obamasucks

    Tossing a tomahawk missile into a tent was close to killing bin Ladin

    August 1, 2014 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  3. johnny Doughboy

    Bubba, so you take the blame for missing Bin Laden. One other question, Since the Media has published stories about your lack of service during the Vietnam War, was it because you dodged the Conscription/Draft, evaded it, or was just lucky you were not called up, or had friends in high places who made sure you were not called up? What is the real story on this issue and especially as you went to school in England for a period of time and even protested over there against this vital issue. Please tell us the real story and settle the issue !!

    August 1, 2014 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  4. wishlist89

    Time doesn't exist in a vacuum. Who knows what the consequences would have been if Clinton authorized the strike. It is possible 9/11 still happens, or something much worse in retaliation. The point is, no one knows what would have happened in the future if Clinton launched that attack other than killing 300 innocent women and children.

    August 1, 2014 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  5. Gurgyl

    -bushW hid Bin Laden in Pakistan and gave 30 billion dollars yearly for keeping him there safe.

    August 1, 2014 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  6. lifesabeachobx

    And I could have boinked the head cheerleader in high school too.....

    In summation......bc has/had NO spine.......thanks again.....Bill!!!

    August 1, 2014 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  7. Malory Archer

    The same people crying that he did not are the same people that would have gone nuts if he had. You do not even fool each other anymore.


    They're also the same hypocrites clutching their pearls and falling onto their fainting couches over President Obama's use of drones to take out terrorists.

    August 1, 2014 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  8. lifesabeachobx

    And I could have boinked the head cheerleader in high school too.......

    summation: he has/had no spine......EVER!!!! Thanks......Bill....

    August 1, 2014 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  9. grichard1956

    Key words, "could have". He didn't.

    August 1, 2014 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  10. Lamanzo

    It was the right call. You don't slaughter hundreds of innocent people for one guy based on some unknown event at the time that probably would have happened anyway. All the armchair quarterbacks want to say he traded thousands of American lives on that decision need to get over themselves.

    August 1, 2014 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  11. ValidArguement

    Almost got him mr.Clinton. But was he dead? (Insert picture of the Asian guy from The Hangover)

    August 1, 2014 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  12. Sergey

    Billy, you've shelled Yugoslavia and killed much more, that 300 women and children, so you ARE no better, that Bin Laden

    August 1, 2014 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  13. Boo

    Doesn't matter. 9/11 happened on Bush's watch. He owns it.

    August 1, 2014 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  14. Rudy NYC

    I am thankful for his decision, too. The optics on it would have looked really bad. United States launches sneak attack into sovereign nation that kills dozens of civilians would have played in one of two disastrous ways. An air strike would have probably meant that there would be no means to verify the objective. A ground assault has its' own set of logistical problems, the least of which is the operation being called an invasion.
    According to the article, he could have got him in December, 1998. This was AFTER the first WTC bombing. AFTER the USS Cole. AFTER the destruction of the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. AFTER Bin Laden was on the FBI's most wanted list.

    You're thankful for his decision?????? Wow. Just wow.
    Wow? The USS Cole was attacked in 2000. Wow? You need to get your facts from better sources. The Kenyan and Nairobi embassies were attacked in August of 1998. Wow, is right. That's at least one strike, maybe three, against you.

    In 1998, Clinton was in the midst of being impeached and Republicans kept accusing him of using foreign crises as a distraction from it. Yes, I am thankful that he didn't make the types of mistakes that George W. Bush made.

    August 1, 2014 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  15. an Iowan

    Yeah, and GW 'almost had him' too but he chose to go after something that had more $$$$$ in it!

    August 1, 2014 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  16. pablo

    I 'nearly' won the last powerball also... fade away slick willy just fade away

    August 1, 2014 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  17. Justin

    Rudy NYC

    So was the OKC bombing Clintons fault? Was the bombing of the USS Cole Clintons fault? Was the attack on the WTC in 1993? Was the WACO tragedy Clintons fault? What about all the attacks on Barry's watch (though he uses word games, and does not classify much as terrorism), like Fort Hood, Naval Yard Station & The Boston Marathon bombing, Are those King Barry's fault?

    August 1, 2014 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  18. Deni

    Such a nice guy he save 300 Afgani but didn't mind to kill thousands of Serbians and do ethnicall cleansing in Kosovo

    August 1, 2014 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  19. Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC

    Some of you folks can blame Clinton for 9/11. Nothing changes the fact that it occurred on George W. Bush's watch, despite all of the daily intelligence briefings, which were seemingly ignored as they plotted an Iraq invasion, that were warning of a domestic terrorist attack involving hijacked airplanes.
    Anything else you can share while you were attending the daily intelligence briefings? Oh... you weren't there?

    August 1, 2014 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  20. bcrunner

    @lindalutrell: Please read the article. He is not admitting to anything now. They found a tape of the speech he gave prior to 9/11.

    August 1, 2014 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  21. greenaxe

    I like you Bill, but you need to be a little more selective about what you are talking about.

    August 1, 2014 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  22. Jesse Gonzalez

    Isn't this old news? I thought I heard him say this already.

    August 1, 2014 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  23. Anonymous

    It's too bad the conditions didn't allow him to kill Bin Laden BUT he WARNED Pres. Bush that Al Queda was the #1 priority and to beware. Bush ignored the warning and we got 9/11 on HIS watch!

    August 1, 2014 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  24. Clouds9

    Bring the Clintons Back!! HILLARY 2016!!!!!!!

    August 1, 2014 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  25. mike

    i guess bubba also owns the nearly 1 million rwandans that got slaughtered on his watch.

    August 1, 2014 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23