On the night before the September 11, 2001, attacks, former president Bill Clinton told an audience that he passed on the opportunity to kill al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden because he feared there would be a cost of civilian lives.
“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 told a group of Australian businessmen, according to unreleased audio captured by Paul Murray of Sky News. “I nearly got him. And I could have gotten, 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 didn’t do it.”
The Huffington Post notes that in a 2012 60 Minutes interview former CIA official Hank Crumpton said the agency had the opportunity to take out bin Laden in 1999 when they detected his convoy, but did not get authorization from the White House to move forward with the missile strike.