Clinton Administration's missed opportunities

The Clinton Administration had chances to kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and disrupt his network.

* May 1996

Bin Laden and his associates leased an Ariana Airlines jet and flew to Afghanistan from Sudan, stopping in the United Arab Emirates to refuel. A commission staff report said it was unclear whether the United States had considered intercepting him.

* September 1998

Pentagon counter-terrorism officials prepared an eight-page strategy paper that urged a "more proactive and aggressive" strategy against al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Senior Pentagon officials said the strategy was too aggressive and killed it.

* December 1998

Intelligence suggested that Bin Laden was at a specific location in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and missile strikes were prepared. But President Bill Clinton's advisers decided not to recommend a strike because no one had seen Bin Laden in a couple of hours.

* February 1999

Intelligence reports put Bin Laden near a hunting camp in the Helmand province of Afghanistan used by visitors from the United Arab Emirates. Preparations were made for a possible strike but none was launched. CIA officials told the commission that policymakers were concerned that a strike might kill an Emirati prince or other senior officials who might be with Bin Laden or nearby. A CIA official said, "this was a lost opportunity to kill Bin Laden."

* May 1999

Sources reported in great detail about the location of Bin Laden over five nights in Kandahar. "At the time CIA working-level officials were told that strikes were not ordered because the military was concerned about the precision of the source's reporting and the risk of collateral damage."

* July 1999

Intelligence was too sketchy to support a cruise missile strike in Ghazni, Afghanistan.

* Late 2000

Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold, the director of operations for the military's Joint Chiefs , prepared a plan to use military, economic and political efforts to pressure the Taleban to expel Bin Laden. Senior military and civilian officials said much of the plan was outside the military's scope and sent it back for more work; it was never acted on.

March 24, 2004
Statements to the 9-11 Panel (Sept 23, US time):

Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defence [PDF]

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