The Bush administration permitted the world's most notorious terrorist mastermind to escape because it needed additional justification to invade Iraq, according to a Democratic lawmaker from New York.
Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) leveled the allegation during an interview with MSNBC host David Shuster on Monday afternoon.
"Look what happened with regard to our invasion into Afghanistan, how we apparently intentionally let bin Laden get away," he said. "How we intentionally did not follow the Taliban and al-Qaeda as they were escaping. That was done by the previous administration because they knew very well that if they would capture al-Qaeda, there would be no justification for an invasion in Iraq."
"They deliberately let Osama bin Laden get away?" asked an incredulous Shuster. "They deliberately let the head of al-Qaeda get away right after he, right after the 9/11 attacks? You really believe that?"
"Yes, I do," Hinchey replied. "There's no question about that. The leader of the military operation in the United States called back our military, called them back from going after the head of al-Qaeda because there was a sense that they didn't want to capture him."
"...To suggest that they deliberately let Osama bin Laden get away so they could invade Iraq, that will strike a lot of people as crazy," Shuster countered.
"I don't think it will strike a lot of people as crazy," Hinchey said. "I think it will strike a lot of people as very accurate and all you have to do is look at the facts of that set of circumstances and you can see that's exactly what happened. When we went in there, when our military went in there, we could have captured them. We could have captured most of the Taliban and we could have captured the al-Qaeda. But we didn't, and we didn't because of the need felt by the previous administration and the previous head of the military -- that need to attack Iraq, which is completely unjustified."
Hinchey apparently based his allegations on a recently released Senate report that found then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld rejected calls for reinforcements in December 2001, when the military allegedly had bin Laden trapped in Afghanistan.
"The vast array of American military power, from sniper teams to the most mobile divisions of the marine corps and the army, was kept on the sidelines," the report says.
"Instead, the US command chose to rely on airstrikes and untrained Afghan militias to attack Bin Laden and on Pakistan's loosely organized Frontier Corps to seal his escape routes."
Entitled "Tora Bora revisited: how we failed to get Bin Laden and why it matters today," the report -- commissioned by Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- says Bin Laden expected to die and had even written a will.
"But the Al-Qaeda leader would live to fight another day. Fewer than 100 American commandos were on the scene with their Afghan allies and calls for reinforcements to launch an assault were rejected.
"Requests were also turned down for US troops to block the mountain paths leading to sanctuary a few miles away in Pakistan.
"The decision not to deploy American forces to go after Bin Laden or block his escape was made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his top commander, General Tommy Franks," the report says.
"On or around December 16, two days after writing his will, Bin Laden and an entourage of bodyguards walked unmolested out of Tora Bora and disappeared into Pakistan's unregulated tribal area. Most analysts say he is still there today."
This video was broadcast by MSNBC on Monday, Nov. 30, 2009, as snipped by Talking Points Memo.