I knew when I saw that Leopold Stotch blogged this over at at OTB that there was a reason for the timing:
Ex-president Bill Clinton now says he would have taken out Osama bin Laden before the 9/11 attacks – if only the FBI and CIA had been able to prove the al-Qaida mastermind was behind the attack on the U.S.S. Cole.
“I desperately wish that I had been president when the FBI and CIA finally confirmed, officially, that bin Laden was responsible for the attack on the U.S.S. Cole,” Clinton tells New York magazine this week. “Then we could have launched an attack on Afghanistan early.”
“I don’t know if it would have prevented 9/11,” he added. “But it certainly would have complicated it.”
Despite his failure to launch such an attack, Clinton said he saw the danger posed by bin Laden much more clearly than did President Bush.
“I always thought that bin Laden was a bigger threat than the Bush administration did,” he told New York magazine.
Why now? What was Clinton up to? Because if there is one thing we know about Clinton, he’s always up to something. The New York Times provided the bombshell that Clinton was looking to defuse.
WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 – State Department analysts warned the Clinton administration in July 1996 that Osama bin Laden’s move to Afghanistan would give him an even more dangerous haven as he sought to expand radical Islam “well beyond the Middle East,” but the government chose not to deter the move, newly declassified documents show.
In what would prove a prescient warning, the State Department intelligence analysts said in a top-secret assessment on Mr. bin Laden that summer that “his prolonged stay in Afghanistan – where hundreds of ‘Arab mujahedeen’ receive terrorist training and key extremist leaders often congregate – could prove more dangerous to U.S. interests in the long run than his three-year liaison with Khartoum,” in Sudan.
The declassified documents, obtained by the conservative legal advocacy group Judicial Watch as part of a Freedom of Information Act request and provided to The New York Times, shed light on a murky and controversial chapter in Mr. bin Laden’s history: his relocation from Sudan to Afghanistan as the Clinton administration was striving to understand the threat he posed and explore ways of confronting him.
Before 1996, Mr. bin Laden was regarded more as a financier of terrorism than a mastermind. But the State Department assessment, which came a year before he publicly urged Muslims to attack the United States, indicated that officials suspected he was taking a more active role, including in the bombings in June 1996 that killed 19 members American soldiers at the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
So we now have proof of what was widely suspected. Clinton had every opportunity to stop bin Laden and was too busy… well, we all know what he was too busy doing in July 1996.
Perhaps had he been a little more concerned with the deaths of 19 service men then he was *ahem* himself, history might have been different.
Remember, this was at the exact time Clinton accused Lewinsky of telling people about the affair. Clearly he knew the Presidency was in jeopardy. Do you think maybe he was distracted?
Update Ironically, it was 6 years ago today he admitted to the affair.