Posted 09-13-2001 at 17:36:52
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Subject: Clinton nixed bin Laden hit
Thursday Sept. 13, 2001; 10:06 a.m. EDT
Report: Clinton Nixed Hit on Bin Laden
As recently as last December, former President Bill Clinton was presented with reliable intelligence pinpointing the whereabouts of suspected Word Trade Center terrorist Osama bin Laden -- along with the U.S. military's
plan to take him out.
But Clinton declined to green light the operation.
The information on bin Laden's location came from "eyes-on intelligence,"
the Associated Press reported Thursday, indicating he was spotted by a tipster on the ground or via satellite surveillance.
The intelligence coup is said to have spurred "a high-level debate" among senior White House officials over whether this was Clinton's last
chance to eliminate bin Laden before he left office.
Former Clinton administration national security advisor Sandy Berger admitted to the AP, "There were a couple of points, including in December,
where there was intelligence indicative of bin Laden's whereabouts."
But in the wake of reports that bin Laden masterminded Tuesday's attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, Berger sounded
somewhat defensive, complaining, "I can categorically tell you that at no point was it ripe enough to act."
He also attempted to shift blame to the military for the decision not to act, saying, "There was never a recommendation from the Pentagon."
Among the factors weighed in the decision to spare the deadly terrorist in December were concerns about collateral damage; i.e., the deaths of innocent civilians in Afghanistan.
In 1998, Clinton ordered a cruise missile strike on a suspected bin Laden training camp in Khost, Afghanistan, resulting in the deaths of 20
Tuesday's World Trade Center attack is believed to have killed as many as 30,000 Americans.