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Osama bin Laden nearly killed Clinton in 1996, book claims

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Osama bin Laden attempted to assassinate President Bill Clinton during a summit in the Philippines in 1996, says a new book about the 42nd president’s financial and sexual scandals.

Ken Gormley’s The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr, set to be published in February, recounts an incident during Clinton’s visit to the Philippine capital, Manila, in 1996 for an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference. According to blogger Jamie Malanowski at True/Slant, moments before the president’s convoy was to start down a route that would take it over a bridge in downtown Manila, the Secret Service was warned that an attack might have been planned on the bridge.

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Malanowski reports:

During the 1996 visit, Clinton was scheduled to visit a Filipino politician. The route he was to take required him to cross a bridge in downtown Manila. As the motorcade was about to depart, Merletti received “a crackly message in one earpiece” informing him that intelligence operatives had picked up a transmission that used the words ‘bridge’ and ‘wedding’ in the same sentence. Since ‘wedding’ was known to be a code word for assassination, Merletti ordered that the motorcade be re-routed. An intelligence team then discovered that a bomb had been planted under the bridge. No estimate is given in the passage for how soon the motorcade would have crossed the bridge, but the implication is that the bridge was not far away.

Malanowski quotes Gormley directly implicating bin Laden in the purported attack:

The thwarted assassination attempt was never made public. … It remained top secret except to select members of the U.S. intelligence community. The American government’s subsequent investigation of this plot to kill Clinton, however, revealed that it had been masterminded by a Saudi terrorist living in Afghanistan — a man named Osama bin Laden.

Malanowski notes that the New York Times reported at the time that security services found two bombs around Manila during the president’s visit, and neither of those bombs appeared to be the one found under the bridge, suggesting that as many as three bombs may have been planted around the city.

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Malanowski asks if the revelations in the book, if true, should change the public’s perspective on the Bush administration’s actions, or lack thereof, in the run-up to the 9/11 attacks.

“The Bush administration has been largely been given a pass for its failure to thwart the attacks, for after all, no one could have predicted that terrorists would hijack planes and fly them into buildings,” he writes. “But now we see al Qaeda, in addition to the embassy bombings, the attack on the Cole, and the thwarted airport plot in 2000, had actually attempted to assassinate an American president. ‘Chatter,’ we’ve been told, was high throughout the month of August [2001]; shouldn’t security apparatus been placed on a higher level of alert?”

The book by Gormley, a Duquesne University Law School Professor, focuses primarily on the Whitewater scandal, the Ken Starr investigation and the sex scandals that haunted Clinton’s presidency.

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Last week, after obtaining a copy of the book, Politico reported that Monica Lewinsky, the intern at the center of the sex scandal that almost toppled the Clinton presidency, said in the book that the former president lied under oath during the investigation into his affair with Lewinsky. According to Politico, the book also alleges that Clinton had an affair with Susan MacDougal, who was convicted and sentenced to 22 months in prison in the Whitewater affair.

The book also alleges that prosecutors were prepared to indict both Bill and Hillary Clinton in their roles in the Whitewater and Lewinsky affairs. But prosecutors evidently determined that getting an indictment against the first lady would have been very difficult, and dropped that strategy, the Associated Press reported.

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And the New York Times reported that Gormley’s book also alleges FBI “abuse of power” in the bureau’s attempts to pressure a former Secret Service director into testifying against Clinton.


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