Did Clinton Drop the Ball on Bin Laden?

This is a partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, September, 2 2003 that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Nearly two years after the September 11 attacks, terrorist master mind Usama bin Laden (search) is still unaccounted for. Could bin Laden have been captured years ago?

In a new book called Losing bin Laden, Wall Street Journal editorial writer Richard Miniter says that Bill Clinton is to blame for the destruction that bin Laden has unleashed.

He joins us now.

Well, as you know, I'm not of your school on this. And I also think, we ought to get beyond this finger pointing and really focus on fighting the war on terror. What's the advantage of coming out now and saying this?

RICHARD MINITER, AUTHOR, LOSING BIN LADEN: What were you saying, is it time to move on?

COLMES: Well, it's time to focus on winning the War on Terror (search) and I think a lot of people want to blame Bill Clinton because it suits their political agenda.

MINITER: Look, 9/11 didn't just happen. 9/11 was planned for years. And most of those years were during the Clinton year.

We know intelligence overwhelmingly pointed…not just U.S. intelligence but also French intelligence, hardly a bastion of the right wing, they began planning 9/11 in May of 1998 in a camp in Afghanistan.

And bin Laden is a very patient form of evil, in that he began meticulous attacks and meticulous planning for these attacks. But his first attack on America, and I relate this in my book, Losing bin Laden, for the first time in December of 1992, after Clinton had won the election, but before he was sworn as president, his second major attack, February of 1993. A month after Clinton spent in office.

Look, bin Laden was nobody until Clinton came into office, and then emerged as a threat. And when you're president of the United States, and threats emerge, you've got to do something about it.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Richard, if we don't find out how we got into that situation, we doomed to repeat it. I wrote it about it in my book. You take it to a new level. Every time I bring that up, the Clinton lovers say oh, let it go. It's a terrible mistake.

What happened here was a disaster. And a failure of monumental proportions for this country's national security.

MINISTER: Absolutely correct. And in fact, the majority of senior Clinton administration officials that I interviewed for this book would agree with you, Sean.

The majority in the Clinton administration officials whose job was to manage anti-terrorism. Richard Clarke, who briefed the president every day on terrorist threats and was in charge of managing Clinton's war on terror, secret war on terror, which I documented in my book, was frustrated so many times by Clinton officials.

HANNITY: It was about ambition, though. It was about the desire for reelection.

By they way, if we go back, it was about the desire for reelection. We go back to the '93 bombings in the World Trade Center. You know, it's very interesting to me because Bill Clinton said, "I knew as soon as the second plane hit it was bin Laden."

Why did he pass on the opportunity by the Sudanese to get him. You know of three separate occasions…You chronicle 13 times they had an opportunity to get him?

MINITER: There are numerous times. And the Sudanese office, which I have a lot of new details about.

HANNITY: All right, Richard, let me ask you this. We were talking about the Sudanese and the offers. Bill Clinton was offered bin Laden on a silver platter, but the real reason he says he couldn't take him was from legal reasons. We didn't have a legal reason to take him.

MINITER: That was the real excuse. The real reason was presidential politics. The dates are really important here. Bin Laden left Sudan in may of 1996. The offer was March 3, 1996.

They were afraid that Dole would rally Christian conservatives in the south against Clinton because, as you know, in the Sudan, many of the Christian rights had persecuted Christians in the south of that country. And I've been to the south of the country. I've seen the war-torn villages and the condition of people there, and they are suffering terribly and a lot of Christian groups have been very helpful, from setting up schools and hospitals. And a lot of those people went and volunteered and came back and become politically active.

And Clinton did not want to bring those…the wrath of those people down upon him. And so he thought he could ignore bin Laden and deal with it after the election. During the course of all these Sudanese offers, the various intermediaries, who I document in this book.

We're told by Sander Berger and others, talked to us after the election. And the election was seven months away.

HANNITY: The indictment was how Bill Clinton's failures unleashed global terror.

MINITER: Right. He was playing politics with national security.

HANNITY: This is the biggest failure…we hear a lot about Monica, lying under oath, disbarred, but the big failure of his administration is this.

MINITER: Absolutely.


MINITER: Absolutely.

COLMES: You know what's really amazing here? First of all, a lot of Republicans, I think, misdirected Clinton.

They spent so much time going after him for impeachment. I think that was bad for the country. He was impeached, clearly, and that really distracted him. Some of…with his own doing.

And when he finally did respond, i.e., the Sudan, and what was called an aspirin of factory, but Sandy Berger told me for my book, there was more to it than that. It was part of the military-industrial complex here. He was accused of just trying to divert attention. You can't have it both ways. When he finally responded, conservatives said, "Oh, he's just trying to get our attention off Monica Lewinsky." You can't have it both ways.

MINITER: I looked into this extensively. Find me a Republican who went on television or radio during August, between August 7, the embassy bombings and August 20 when we hit the aspirin factory in 1998 and find me one Republican who said on the air that Clinton shouldn't have done it.

Later, when the evidence came out by The New York Times, hardly a member of the vast right-wing conspiracy.

COLMES: All of a sudden The Times agrees with you, all of a sudden its not left week.

They found the agent, the V.X. nerve gas and so on. It wasn't just an aspirin factory and conservatives lashed at Clinton, who are doing the very thing he said they should have done, which is respond to terrorism.

MINITER: The...It turned out the soil didn't come anywhere near from the aspirin factory.

HANNITY: It's a great book Losing bin Laden: How Bill Clinton's Failures Unleashed Global Terror. Amazon.com or any book store near you.

Thank you. Appreciate it, Richard. Thank you.

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