- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 18, 2004

As he prepared for yesterday’s opening of his presidential library, Bill Clinton was, true to form, spinning about his herculean efforts to stop Osama bin Laden and other jihadists. As Mr. Clinton told ABC-TV’s Peter Jennings in this rambling, somewhat defensive-sounding explanation of his record: “If you look at the 9/11 commission’s report about what we did, and how we prepared for, we had the 9/11-style threats for the millennium. And the extent of our preparations, and the work we did, the number of terrorists we brought to justice, the 20 al Qaeda cells we broke up, if you look at all that, and the fact that we apparently came closer to getting bin Laden than anybody has since, even though they have a lot more options — military options — than we had. I wish I had gotten him.”

What Mr. Clinton neglected to mention, however, is that during his eight years as president, he failed to make effective use of the many options that were available to him in combating bin Laden and other terrorists, making September 11 much more likely. In his book “Losing Bin Laden,” investigative journalist Richard Miniter documents some of the Clinton administration’s policy failures.

From the beginning, it was apparent that intelligence matters were not a priority for Mr. Clinton. James Woolsey, CIA director during Mr. Clinton’s first two years in office, was never able to get a one-on-one meeting with Mr. Clinton. The president’s lack of interest in intelligence matters enabled Sen. Dennis DeConcini, who had developed an intense personal dislike of Mr. Woolsey, to block the hiring of CIA Arabic-language translators.

Mr. Clinton took the politically safe path by treating the February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center as a criminal matter rather than the terrorist attack that it really was. As a result, he shut the CIA out of the investigation. Administration blundering enabled Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a top bin Laden aide who coordinated the September 11 attacks, to escape capture in Qatar. The Clinton administration refused offers by the government of Sudan to turn over bin Laden and objected to efforts by the Northern Alliance — the anti-Taliban coalition in Afghanistan — to assassinate the terrorist leader. Mr. Clinton refused several offers by Sudan to take custody of two terrorists wanted in the August 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. On three occasions in 1999 and 2000, Mr. Clinton deferred or hesitated to launch missile strikes against bin Laden. This is but a partial listing of instances documented by Mr. Miniter in which the Clinton administration passed up opportunities to kill bin Laden and/or weaken his terror network.

The reality is, Mr. Clinton’s self-serving spin to the contrary, myriad errors of omission and commission by his administration weakened this country’s response to the al Qaeda threat and made the horror of September 11 much more likely.

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