Former President Bill Clinton came within minutes of being assassinated in the Philippines by terrorists controlled by Osama bin Laden, a new book has revealed.
The US leader was saved shortly before his car was due to drive over a bridge in Manila where a bomb had been planted.
The foiled attack came during Mr Clinton's visit to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in the city in 1996.
You'd think a guy might hold a grudge for something like that.
But throughout the rest of his term, President Clinton seemed unable to muster the necessary will and military resources to take out Bin Laden.
In the fall of 2000, in Afghanistan, unmanned, unarmed spy planes called Predators flew over known al-Qaida training camps. The pictures that were transmitted live to CIA headquarters show al-Qaida terrorists firing at targets, conducting military drills and then scattering on cue through the desert.
Also, that fall, the Predator captured even more extraordinary pictures — a tall figure in flowing white robes. Many intelligence analysts believed then and now it is bin Laden.
Why does U.S. intelligence believe it was bin Laden? NBC showed the video to William Arkin, a former intelligence officer and now military analyst for NBC. “You see a tall man…. You see him surrounded by or at least protected by a group of guards.”
Bin Laden is 6 foot 5. The man in the video clearly towers over those around him and seems to be treated with great deference.
Another clue: The video was shot at Tarnak Farm, the walled compound where bin Laden is known to live. The layout of the buildings in the Predator video perfectly matches secret U.S. intelligence photos and diagrams of Tarnak Farm obtained by NBC.
“It’s dynamite. It’s putting together all of the pieces, and that doesn’t happen every day.… I guess you could say we’ve done it once, and this is it,” Arkin added.
The tape proves the Clinton administration was aggressively tracking al-Qaida a year before 9/11. But that also raises one enormous question: If the U.S. government had bin Laden and the camps in its sights in real time, why was no action taken against them?
“We were not prepared to take the military action necessary,” said retired Gen. Wayne Downing, who ran counter-terror efforts for the current Bush administration and is now an NBC analyst.
“We should have had strike forces prepared to go in and react to this intelligence, certainly cruise missiles — either air- or sea-launched — very, very accurate, could have gone in and hit those targets,” Downing added.
Gary Schroen, a former CIA station chief in Pakistan, says the White House required the CIA to attempt to capture bin Laden alive, rather than kill him.
Can anyone explain why Clinton didn't think Bin Laden deserved exactly what Bin Laden had planned to do to Clinton?
Failing to take out Bin Laden in the immediate aftermath of the 1996 assassination attempt left him free to plot the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa and the 2000 USS Cole bombing. Either of those should have been a casus belli for killing Bin Laden on sight. Clinton seems to have been more interested in sexual stimulation than in national defense, or indeed even basic self-preservation.