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. Robert

    The amount of people who have no idea how to make a logical moral decision is astounding. Lets present the facts Clinton knew he could Kill Osama but it would risk the lives of some 300 innocent or he could wait for a better opportunity and hope for the best. He has NO knowledge of the future. Of course you don't kill 300. Even if he knew that a lot of people would die if he didn't, it's still not okay to kill 300 innocent people for the lives of others. If your wife/husband or child was part of the 300 I bet you'd feel different.

    August 1, 2014 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  2. Ted Brooks

    So, if he nearly got him, that means he didn't, right?

    August 1, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  3. mrlgh1

    Shoulda, woulda, coulda...

    August 1, 2014 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  4. LucyRicardo

    Eric, you are so full of it! These terrorists are not worried about the collateral damage they inflicted on our country and the 3,000 innocent lives lost. If he had the cojones to act, 9/11 would not have happened. Period.

    And [Not So] Sly . . . Whining? 3,000 innocent lives are lost and you call that "Whining?" Get over it????? You're even more full of it!!! I'll bet you wouldn't be so cavalier if it was one of your family members who was killed.

    And Obama accomplished a lot???? A lot of what???? This country is going down the tubes and Nero is fiddling while Rome burns. He wasn't qualified for the job to begin with.

    August 1, 2014 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  5. Omar

    Ok...You didn't. Something's are better left quiet.

    August 1, 2014 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  6. Al

    So, Clinton didn't go through with a missile attack because of the collateral damage that would have come from it. Is that like the damage Clinton caused in Somalia? or did he not go and take out the one that was responsible for the first attack on The World Trade Centers when they tried to bring down the building by blowing up a device in the underground garage. But perhaps this Clinton was to busy with someone by the name of Monica to make the proper call to take out OBL, or he was enjoying a cigar who knows he had other things going on. What is known is that 9/11 might have been averted and all those lives might not have been lost had Clinton done the right thing, but it was not meant to be and thousands lost their lives due to weakness.

    August 1, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  7. TurdFurgeson

    Read the book "Dereliction of Duty". Written by the commander in charge of the nuclear football under Clinton. His version of the story was Clinton was too busy drinking and socializing at a fundraiser to come into the "Ops Tent" and give the go ahead with the strike that would have killed Osama. After they pleaded with him three times to come approve the strike it was too late, the window for the strike had closed. Clinton was still drinking...

    August 1, 2014 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  8. treva

    Our gov seems to care more what the world thinks of us rather than being proactive and protecting those who elected them. The 9/11 attack was just the last straw for America. The reason Clinton HAD the opportunity was we were already keeping an eye on OBL. Remember there have been attacks on American, her alies and innocent people for decades – actiions either supported by OBL directly or endorsed and praised in a vulgar, twisted and kidnapped view of their religon. Clinton blew it. Should have killed the SOB when the opportunity presented itself thus saving the lives of untold thousands both from the military and citizens of all countries affected by his liberal views of what the world may think of him.

    August 1, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  9. it must be said

    This may have been one opportunity he passed on but there was another reported. It was when the CIA literally had Bin Laden in sniper gun sights but the shot was not allowed to be taken because of the presence of a Saudi prince.

    Hell, I would have given the go ahead to take BOTH of them out!

    August 1, 2014 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    Considering what happened with 9/11, that's something you keep to yourself.

    August 1, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  11. Mike Johnston

    'I nearly got' all of the lottery numbers right.....but I didn't.

    August 1, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  12. Can anyone Read?

    Bill Clinton said this BEFORE 9/11 happened – he did not say it yesterday!
    "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."
    Of course I'm sure after 9/11 happened he wished they had gone through with it and potentially saved all those innocent people – but at the time, I'm sure the idea of potentially killing 300 people without knowing that 9/11 would happen, did not sound like a reasonable idea. And I'm sure anyone who didn't like him would have gone off about how he was an evil dictator with no regard for human life. And MAYBE 9/11 would not have happened.
    Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could go back in time?

    August 1, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  13. JB

    I ll take stories you will never see on. Huffpo or Msnbc for 1000 Alex.

    August 1, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  14. Marvin M

    You are exactly right Robert. The amount of people without a moral compass is outstanding. And it seems to be the some ones complaining about the US going down the tubes. The difficult thing about being the good guys is holding ourselves to a higher moral standard than the bad guys. Israel is experiencing that right now in Gaza. If we just throw in the towel and start acting like our enemies, what are we fighting for?

    August 1, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  15. sly

    President Clinton demonstrating the value of morals.

    One of the best Presidents America has had. Good choice Mr. Clinton – only savages murder civilians for poltiical gain.

    August 1, 2014 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  16. J

    Bill could save 3,000 lives but he didn't?

    August 1, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  17. Hamlet

    I could have too.

    August 1, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  18. Debbie

    This is old news and it's not the only time he could have gotten him. Where's the real news located at on this site?

    August 1, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  19. Moses

    the enemy does not care a bit about calateral damage; that is their fault for supporting bin Laden

    August 1, 2014 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  20. World is crazy and stupid

    And Clinton is going to win NY when she runs for President. Just think if this was Bush speaking in the tape, people would be calling for his head. Thanks for 9/11 Clinton's

    August 1, 2014 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  21. Time To Flee

    Once and for all proving that 9/11 was Clinton's fault.

    Had he taken out Bin Laden, there would have been no 9/11, and no reason for getting into a war with Iraq and Afghanistan. All of you liberals who bash Bush can put this in your pipe and smoke it.

    August 1, 2014 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  22. MPA

    That's weird, because back in 2006 he told Chris Wallace, in an interview, that the only reason he didn't get Bin Laden, was because the CIA couldn't certify that he was responsible for the attack on the USS Cole.

    He said nothing about putting women and children in danger.

    August 1, 2014 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  23. street smart

    Under Clinton with the help of other intel agencies from other countries Al Queda had been thwarted hijacking commercial airliners at LA & Paris. His Saving 300 innocent lives is not the reason 911 happened. The innocent lives that were murdered on 9!! were due to the fact that Dubya ignored Ronald Reagan terrorist expert, Richard Clarks warning of an impending terrorist attack that resulted in 911. How many thousands of Amer lives could have been saved had he killed OBL at Tora Bora instead of shrugging his shoulders & declaring OBL had become unimportant & irrevalant? Pathetic

    August 1, 2014 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  24. James

    too all of those that said he should have pulled the trigger, ask yourself what the terrorist community and the world as a whole would have said when the US killed 300 innocent people? you don't think that would have painted a bigger target on the US for the terrorist??

    August 1, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  25. Nick

    Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA bin Laden unit, recalls that bin Laden had gone from his home in southern Kandahar to Kandahar city to meet with Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders. He said bin Laden stayed too late and ended up staying the night in a wing of the governor's palace. "We had an asset that put him in that room, escorted him there and reported to us where he was. The attack would have occurred in the middle of the night and it would have killed no one but Taliban people and Usama bin Laden and his crew," said Scheuer.

    Seems like Bill made the facts fit his story instead of the other way around. Reportedly they didn't want to anger the Muslims. Thanks, Bill.

    August 1, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
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