We all remember former President Bill Clinton’s defense of why he didn’t kill Osama bin Laden when he had the chance, but a new documentary claims Clinton had another chance to kill the terrorist leader but also didn’t take it. Further, members of the Clinton administration, the document claims, ridiculed anyone who saw bin Laden as a threat.
“The Longest War,” a new documentary directed by Greg Barker, interviews former CIA agents who talk about this second opportunity to take out bin Laden.
Clinton said just hours after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, that he had the chance to kill bin Laden during his presidency but balked because civilians would have been killed in the attack.
“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 just didn’t do it,” Clinton said.
This second opportunity, the CIA agents say in the documentary, would have resulted in much less collateral damage, yet Clinton still didn’t take it.
The Daily Beast reported on the documentary, quoting then-CIA station chief in Islamabad, Pakistan, Bob Grenier as saying, “Bin Laden was constantly moving, and we were using Afghan tribal networks to report on his travels and his whereabouts.”
As The Daily Beast explained, Afghan tribal networks figured out that bin Laden’s caravan would travel along a certain route and told the U.S. it could bury explosives to take the terrorist leader out. Grenier, however, told them U.S. forces would be “risking jail” because Clinton had signed a bill limiting what they could do to bin Laden.
“The CIA had a so-called ‘lethal finding’ [bill] that had been signed by President Clinton that said that we could engage in ‘lethal activity’ against bin Laden, but the purpose of our attack against bin Laden couldn’t be to kill him,” Grenier says in the documentary. “We were being asked to remove this threat to the United States essentially with one hand tied behind our backs.”
Greg Barker explains in the documentary, “It’s hard to believe now, but back in the late ‘90s, most of the Washington national security establishment—including President Clinton, the State Department, the Department of Defense—simply did not view Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda as a serious threat. The handful of U.S. officials who saw the looming threat clearly—and there were some, mostly mid-level officers at the CIA’s bin Laden unit and the counter-terrorism branch at the FBI—tried in vain to raise alarm bells at the highest levels, but were often ignored and even ridiculed.”
“As a result,” Barker continues, “policy decisions were made that seem unfathomable today, like a Justice Department ruling that it would be illegal for the United States to intentionally kill bin Laden, which left CIA officers in the field feeling frustrated and angry, as if they were unable to prevent a train crash happening in slow motion right before their eyes. The irony is that many of these same mid-level officers were later blamed for not doing enough to prevent the 9/11 attacks, when in fact the blame rests with the senior decision-makers who ignored direct warnings for far too long.”
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