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Ex-CIA agents claim Bill Clinton 'prevented' Bin Laden's killing

Al-Qaeda leaders Osama Bin Laden (R) and Ayman al-Dhawaheri walking in an unspecified location [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 April, 2020

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CIA station chief Bob Grenier describes bin Laden as constantly on the move, and that Afghan tribal networks would report his travels and whereabouts to intelligence operatives.
A group of ex-CIA agents said a bill signed by former US President Bill Clinton prevented them from killing Osama Bin Laden years before 9/11, according to a new documentary released on Tuesday.

The Longest War, a new documentary from director Greg Barker (Manhunt) and executive producer Alex Gansa (Homeland), features interviews with the-then CIA's station chief in Islamabad, Bob Grenier.

"The CIA had a so-called 'lethal finding' [bill] that had been signed by President Clinton that said we could engage in 'lethal activity' against bin Laden, but the purpose of our attack against bin Laden couldn't be to kill him," Grenier explains in the documentary.

The so-called "Memorandum of Notification", was enacted by former President Clinton in August 1998, which forbade the CIA killing the international Al-Qaeda figurehead, once allegedly funded by the intelligence organisation to lead the fight against the Soviet Army in Afghanistan.

Grenier desribes bin Laden as constantly on the move, and that Afghan tribal networks would report his travels and whereabouts to intelligence operatives.

According to the official 9/11 commission report, the memorandum authorised the CIA to attack bin Laden in ways which would lead to his capture rather his killing.

When the Afghan tribal networks uncovered a caravan carrying bin Laden would navigate a specific route, they suggested US forces bury a cache of explosives along it, but Grenier told them they would be "risking jail" if they did, according to his statements in the documentary.

A station chief is a senior US intelligence officer who is based in a foreign country and manages all CIA operations in that country.

The day after the missed opportunity, the language of the memorandum was changed to authorise clearance for the CIA to kill him if there was no other option to capture.

This was then followed by explicit orders not to carry out attacks on bin Laden’s camp in 1999 and 2000, downgraded back to 'capture not kill' language.

Marty Martin, who was a CIA counterterrorism officer at the time, suggests in the documentary that a consequential chain of events were sparked by the missed opportunities to eliminate one America's greatest perceived security threats.

"And if President Clinton had acted and killed Osama bin Laden, there wouldn't have been a 9/11," Martin said.

"And if there wouldn't have been a 9/11 there wouldn't have been an Afghanistan, and if there wouldn't have been an Afghanistan there wouldn't have been an Iraq. What would the world be like?"

Bin Laden was eventually killed in US operation in Abottabad, Pakistan, in 2011. Bin Laden's No.2, Ayman al Zawahiri, is still presumed to be alive and leading the insurgent group.

The US killed top al-Qaeda leader, Qassim al Rimi, earlier this year in another decisive blow to the waning organisation. Bin Laden's son and presumptive heir, Hamza bin Laden, was also killed in a US counterterrorism operation.

Some al-Qaeda sympathisers believe the latter is still alive.

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