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. duckets615

    Give me a break, he didn't do it because he didn't want to kill everyone in the city? what was he gonna use a nuke? These missiles can obliterate a building and leave the neighbors house standing. He didn't order it cuz he didn't have the marbles to go through with it. Though I'm sure if this opportunity came up during the Lewinski scandal he'd probably send the entire fleet at him just to get the heat off him.

    August 1, 2014 02:24 am at 2:24 am |
  2. Jimbo

    I could have killed Hitler if I was born during that time.

    August 1, 2014 02:38 am at 2:38 am |
  3. blucorsair

    The russians had Bin Laden in custody and Clinton said let him go! Instead, Clinton did nothing and dumped the 911 mess on Bush. ...What a je^k!

    August 1, 2014 02:41 am at 2:41 am |
  4. Robert

    Was George Tenet or Richard Clark in office then? Just curious..

    August 1, 2014 02:43 am at 2:43 am |

    Almost doesn't count Billy boy, except in horseshoes and hand grenades!

    August 1, 2014 02:43 am at 2:43 am |
  6. blah blah

    uh huh

    August 1, 2014 02:46 am at 2:46 am |
  7. Anonymous

    My brother in law was in Pakistan at the time and said he had OBL in his sights, but due to all of the edicts regarding assassinations, he was unable to pull the trigger. Whether BC was right or wrong, those soldiers did their duty and deserve a lot more respect than they get now. I wish he would have violate the highest orders and just offed him, but our soldiers are honorable. God bless them and F Osama.

    August 1, 2014 02:46 am at 2:46 am |
  8. lividemerald2013

    HIndsight is 20/20.

    August 1, 2014 02:47 am at 2:47 am |
  9. Cruz Control

    So could George W. Bush in the 7.5 years he was president after 9/11

    August 1, 2014 02:48 am at 2:48 am |
  10. Ghost

    Now that Oladen is dead, the world is a much safer place.....

    August 1, 2014 02:51 am at 2:51 am |
  11. hafidh

    ...at least he was human and acted humanly,

    August 1, 2014 02:56 am at 2:56 am |
  12. Edster

    Rage in 3...2...1...

    August 1, 2014 03:01 am at 3:01 am |
  13. Mitch

    Another lie. He had the opportunity during the "Monica" fiasco; but passed on going after Bin Laden so he could deal with his domestic issues. Why do we continue to put faith in, and trust these liars?

    August 1, 2014 03:02 am at 3:02 am |
  14. Kerry

    Ha ha ha ha ha! I coulda been a contenda!

    August 1, 2014 03:06 am at 3:06 am |
  15. Guest

    Meh, I know the right will make a big fuss over this, but he made a judgement call with the information presented to him. That's what the President is supposed to do. Playing Monday morning quarterback isn't going to bring those killed on 9/11 back.

    August 1, 2014 03:07 am at 3:07 am |
  16. newmuch

    On October 20, 1998, Clinton announced his cruise missel bombing raid against Bin Laden in Afganistan. Obviously, it was unsuccessful, but killed some of Bin Laden's friends and probably planted the seeds for revenge that led to the 9/11 attack against the US..
    "The president said he ordered the strike against bin Laden..."

    August 1, 2014 03:08 am at 3:08 am |
  17. Larry

    Wow. How is this news now? I recall hearing that he did not make the decision because Bin Laden was near other Saudi royalty. That is the collateral damage that is mentioned in this article. In hind sight, I wonder if he would have made the same decision, knowing that 9/11 was on its way. I also wonder how this "revelation" could impact possible decision of a future president....

    August 1, 2014 03:15 am at 3:15 am |
  18. Alan

    Even if Bin Laden had been killed that day, would it have changed the plans of the terrorists getting ready to board the planes? I think not.

    August 1, 2014 03:24 am at 3:24 am |
  19. Tom

    The victims of 9/11 and the hundreds of thousands that have died in the war on terror thank-you for your cowardice Bill. Just think what your wife could add to world suffering, you wuss.

    August 1, 2014 03:25 am at 3:25 am |
  20. myuntidydesk

    I really think the Clinton's are trying to discredit Obama. I am losing more respect for them as time goes on... not sure what I'll do if Hillary is the Democratic nominee for president.

    August 1, 2014 03:25 am at 3:25 am |
  21. trioofsixes

    Israel could learn a lesson from old Bill. If you have to bomb innocents to get the "terrorist" then you become the terrorist.

    August 1, 2014 03:29 am at 3:29 am |
  22. Anonymous

    so what is your point?

    August 1, 2014 03:38 am at 3:38 am |
  23. allinittogether

    Oh, please. Clinton wasn't psychic. He weighed the pros and cons of the situation and made the best decision he could based on the information he had at the time. When he left office, he repeatedly warned Bush about Bin Laden, and Bush did absolutely nothing, even when it became clear that the Oct. 2000 attack on the USS Cole was a Bin Laden operation, and even when the CIA was specifically warning Bush of an impending Bin Laden attack.

    Remember also that Republicans were in the middle of impeaching Clinton that month, and they were hysterically screaming "wag the dog" over Clinton's strike on Iraq. (Iraq was refusing to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors and was continuing to pursue WMDs, including nuclear, chemical, and biological agents.)

    Just think what the Republicans would have done if he'd assassinated Bin Laden, killing 300 innocent women and children. Clinton made the right call with the information he had at the time. He had no way of knowing that Bush would let Bin Laden get so powerful that he'd be able to carry out a massive attack on the US three years later.

    August 1, 2014 03:39 am at 3:39 am |
  24. William Clinton

    Bubba's done it again!

    August 1, 2014 03:47 am at 3:47 am |
  25. Believer


    August 1, 2014 03:57 am at 3:57 am |
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