A recording has surfaced from September 10, 2001 revealing information that former President Bill Clinton passed on a chance to kill al-Qa’ida leader Osama bin Laden in 2000. The recording is from a paid speaking appearance by the former U.S. President in Australia. Australia’s Sky News received the recording from Victoria’s former Liberal Party state president Michael Kroger.
In the tape, Clinton talks about a chance that the former President of the United States had to take out the al-Qa’ida leader in Kandahar, Afghanistan from information obtained by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Clinton showed his southern upbringing by calling Kandahar a “little town”, even though, at the time, the population was around 400,000 people. The former President had second thoughts and felt that casualties of near 300, including women and children was not acceptable.
At the time, President Bill Clinton thought that killing bin Laden would make him no better than the al-Qa’ida leader, and passed on the chance. A few hours after Clinton shared the information with a group of 30 Australians, hijackers took control of four airliners, slamming two into the World Trade Center twin-towers in New York City and one into the Pentagon. The fourth was intended for the White House until the passengers fought back and the flight crashed in Pennsylvania. Clinton had struggled with the thought of killing 300 while bin Laden had no troubles ordering the deaths of more than 3,000 on September 11, 2001.
The opportunity that Clinton indicated that he had to take out the al-Qa’ida leader came from intelligence obtained after bin Laden’s role in the bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. The bombings had landed bin Laden on the FBI’s most wanted list and the CIA was looking for him. Clinton did authorize cruise missile strikes into Afghanistan as an answer to the bombing. These were aimed at suspected al-Qa’ida training camps. However, when it came to killing innocent women and children to take out bin Laden, Clinton just could not pull the trigger. Clinton’s objective was to capture bin Laden and turn him over to law enforcement to answer for the embassy bombings.
In 2004, a report by NBC News indicated that in late 2000, the CIA had located the elusive al-Qa’ida leader. The CIA intelligence is thought to be the chance Clinton indicated to the Australians at his speaking engagement. The CIA reportedly had drone footage from a compound in Kandahar of a tall man who resembled bin Laden. This man was wearing white robes and was typically surrounded by guards. In hopes the al-Qa’ida leader would face trial instead of a Tomahawk cruise missile or a bullet, Clinton chose not to destroy the compound. The al-Qa’ida leader would devastate the United States just hours after Clinton revealed this information. In 2012, CBS primetime news show, 60 Minutes, reported the former President did not feel the intelligence was as sound as needed to take action.
Bin Laden would evade capture for almost 10 years after the events that took place after Clinton’s Australian speech. It was not until a U.S. Navy Seal team infiltrated a compound in Afghanistan that the al-Qa’ida leader would be on the receiving end of a bullet, ending his life and terror leadership.
Kroger, after releasing the tape, revealed that he had forgotten that it existed, stressing that there was no plot to deliberately conceal the recording. Kroger stated that Mr. Clinton was fully aware that his speech to the 30 people at the JT Campbell offices in Melbourne was being recorded, and that the former President had given Kroger the ok to record. The event that former President Bill Clinton revealed that he had passed on the chance to kill bin Laden earned the American $150,000.
By Carl Auer