"Though neither I nor anyone can tell you there will not be another terrorist attack on U.S. soil, it will be all right," said Mr. Clinton, speaking to a packed concert hall at the Kennedy Center. "They still can't win unless we give them permission. We are not about to give them permission."
The former president confirmed a failed U.S. attempt in 1996 to have Osama bin Laden arrested in Sudan and placed in Saudi Arabian custody and a CIA-sponsored plan to have Pakistani commandos hunt him down in 1999, abandoned after a military coup there.
Bin Laden is the prime suspect in last month's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Mr. Clinton said bin Laden's network will be difficult to disable.
"He's smart, he's rich, he's ruthless, bold," said the former president. "What bin Laden is good at is finding the seams in our defenses."
Mr. Clinton ticked off a list of thwarted terrorist attacks, including plans to bomb the Holland Tunnel connecting New York City and New Jersey and a flight from Los Angeles to the Philippines and to kill the pope. He said that during the celebrations marking the turn of the century, a dozen terrorist plots were stopped, including planned attacks in the northeastern and northwestern United States, at the Los Angeles airport, a hotel in Jordan and a Christian holy site in the Middle East.
"If we take down barriers, collapse differences, spread knowledge, we are inevitably vulnerable here in ways we never were before," said Mr. Clinton.
He agrees that the best way to combat that reality is President Bush's fight against terrorism on military, economic, legal and diplomatic fronts.
Mr. Clinton added that it is also necessary to work to alleviate poverty and oppression that creates disaffected people ripe for terrorists' arguments. He says that should include increased debt relief for poor nations, AIDS-fighting funds and efforts to promote democracy.
"Terrorists ... feel they can recruit among the dispossessed," said Mr. Clinton. "We must do more to reduce the pool of potential terrorists."
By Jennifer Loven © MMI The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed