Former President Bill Clinton told an audience in Australia just hours before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that he passed on the chance to kill Osama bin Laden with a military strike, according to an audio tape just released.
Australia's Sky News aired the tape, which was rebroadcast by NBC News on Thursday.
The recording had been forgotten about until Michael Kroger, former head of the Liberal Party in the Australian state of Victoria, remembered the tape, NBC said.
"I'm just saying, you know, if I were Osama bin Laden — he's a very smart guy, I've spent a lot of time thinking about him — and I nearly got him once," Clinton says in the recording.
In a newly discovered audio tape, Bill Clinton reveals he decided not to kill bin Laden during a fundraiser held hours before the 9/11 attacks.
Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)
00:00 -- Guided Australia has just uncovered -- -- former President
00:06 Bill Clinton admitting he passed up an opportunity to attack Osama
00:10 bin Laden. Clinton's remarks came on September 10 2001. One --
00:15 for the horrific 9/11 attack. X I couldn't kill them. And
00:19 the people a little football and football team and then --
00:23 didn't even the blue. -- Sky -- Australia obtain that audio
00:29 clip from former Australian politician Michael Kroger. Who -- Clinton made
00:34 the remarks during a fund raiser. Hours later the September 11
00:38 terrorist attacks orchestrated by bin Laden. Killed almost 3000 people now
00:43 the fact that Clinton had a shot at bin Laden isn't
00:45 -- as these surveillance tapes a year ago or by NBC
00:49 show. The CIA had been able to pin down bin Laden
00:52 location at least one in the path. And the 2004 report
00:56 from the 9/11 commission concluded the Clinton administration had at least
01:00 two good chances to kill bin Laden. But didn't take either
01:03 over concern of collateral damage. But it's the eerie timing of
01:07 Clinton's remarks which grabbed headlines mostly from conservative out. But instead
01:12 of simply condemning the former democratic president for not taking action
01:15 the right responses a bit more complex we lost thirteen. It's
01:19 3000 Americans the very next morning things may have been different
01:23 he was being very thoughtful about how he handled it. And
01:26 that's what president still in the top deficient when fox news's
01:29 Eric -- tried to use Clinton's remarks to stir up outrage
01:33 -- notes the rest of the the five hosts honestly didn't
01:36 really find anything too outrageous. And there -- even the defense
01:40 of words spoken in favor of Clinton and Clinton -- Seems
01:43 to have been spared the wrath of some other conservative media
01:45 sites as well. Writer for hot -- -- still critical Clinton's
01:49 decision. What's -- 9/11 fundamentally change how America -- the fight
01:54 against terrorism. Posted on eleven when you've got a big --
01:57 hook you reel them in come what may. There's a reason
02:01 why the -- that number tent mentality exists. And Bill Clinton's
02:05 not the only one who's guilty of bin Laden was ultimately
02:08 killed in May have to eleven during a raid on his
02:10 hideout and a bottom but Pakistan. And -- -- Christian Bryant.
"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 made his remarks Sept. 10 in Melbourne to a group of business leaders after being asked about terrorism -- about 10 hours before the attacks on the United States.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed when hijackers directed by bin Laden, the former al-Qaeda leader, crashed jets into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon. A third plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
At the time, bin Laden was was already on the FBI's Most Wanted list for his role in the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
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