In an interview with Vanity Fair, President Obama announced today that if the Navy SEALs had captured Osama Bin Laden alive, the administration would have signed off on a prosecution in federal court. “We worked through the legal and political issues that would have been involved,” Obama intoned, “and the desire to send him to Guantanamo, and to not try him, and Article III. I mean, we had worked through a whole bunch of those scenarios. But frankly, my belief was if we had captured him, that I would be in a pretty strong position, politically, here, to argue that displaying due process and rule of law would be our best weapon against al-Qaeda, in preventing him from appearing as a martyr.”
The original Bin Laden order was unclear was to whether the mission was to kill or capture Bin Laden. No doubt that lack of clarity was in no small part affected by the administration’s stance on federal prosecution. Was the administration willing to cloud its kill of Bin Laden by allowing him to use a federal courtroom as his soapbox? Were they willing to watch American defense attorneys stand up and proclaim that Bin Laden’s actions were motivated by US foreign policy? The idiocy of the administration Gitmo policy would undoubtedly have been laid bare.
The interview also included information stating that Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Robert Gates opposed the Bin Laden raid. No doubt, for Gates, that opposition stemmed in part from the fact that Obama put full operational authority in the hands of the Defense Department, and if the raid had gone wrong, Gates would promptly have been tossed under the bus.