Al Qaeda boss Osama Bin Laden narrowly missed assassinating President Clinton during a 1996 trip to the Philippines, according to a new book on the impeachment battle of the 1990s. In The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr, author Ken Gormley says he learned of the plot from former Secret Service Director Louis Merletti, who said it occurred during the president's 1996 visit to Manila.
At one point during the trip, Clinton was scheduled to travel across a bridge in central Manila to meet a local politician. But as his motorcade was about to depart for the meeting, Secret Service officers received a message stating that intelligence agents believed an attack was imminent.
"The motorcade was quickly re-routed and American agents later discovered a bomb had been planted under the bridge," the London Telegraph reported Tuesday summarizing Gormley's account. A subsequent investigation revealed that the assassination plot had been masterminded by Bin Laden.
"The thwarted assassination attempt was never made public," Gormley writes. "It remained secret except to select members of the U.S. intelligence community."
At the time there were media reports that several bombs had been located in the Manila area. But they were said to be linked to a Philippine communist insurgency rather than an attempt on Clinton's life.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a top aide to Bin Laden who masterminded the September 11 attacks, has admitted plotting to kill Clinton and former President Carter.
"I was responsible for surveying and financing for the assassination of several former American Presidents, including President Carter," Mohammed said at his March 10, 2007 Combatant Status Review Tribunal hearing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mohammed said he was also responsible for an assassination attempt on President Clinton during a mid-1990s visit to the Philippines.