In ABC News exclusive, Brian Ross writes that the FBI made secret plans to capture Osama bin Laden five years ago. Jack Cloonan, a former FBI agent who is now an ABCNEWS consultant, says they had a plan to fly a plane in and attack a compound in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he was living in 1998 ? three years before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, but the plan was killed by then-Attorney General Janet Reno.
"They came to the decision that this plan was probably too dangerous, that the loss of life on the ground would have been significant," Cloonan says. "There was concern that people around the bin-Laden compound would be killed."
In 1996, a team of FBI and CIA agents was secretly sent to an unmarked office in Alexandria, Va. Code-named Alex Station, it was the center of the operation to capture bin-Laden. Cloonan was one of 13 FBI agents from New York who took part. By early 1998, they had enough information to get a formal criminal indictment against bin Laden, which could still be used if he were captured today.
"We had information, pretty good information on the particular house where he was," Cloonan says. They practiced short takeoffs and landings in a desert area outside San Antonio, Texas, which is similar to the terrain in Afghanistan. They planned to fly into the country from Uzbekistan.
"A U.S. plane was to fly in," Cloonan says. "And he [bin-Laden] would have been greeted by an FBI agent, who would have said, 'Sheik bin-Laden, there is a warrant for your arrest.'"
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