The Law at War: How Osama Slipped Away

Five and a half years ago, Osama bin Laden nearly fell into U.S. custody--until the Clinton Administration began to think like his defense attorney.

Issue: Winter 2001-2002

In the spring of 1996, the White House was preoccupied with Bosnia-implementing the Dayton Agreement, ferrying American troops across the Sava River, building facilities at Tuzla, attempting to install an unworkable three-headed government in Sarajevo, hoping to persuade Muslim, Croat and Serb factions to let refugees return to their burnt-out homes. Bosnia may have been important to the confidence of Europe and the credibility of NATO-but everything is relative. On the same White House watch, a far more important war was left unattended: We let Osama bin Laden escape our clutches.

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