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Legal Questions Raised for US After Bin Laden Killed

Tully Rinckey Managing Partner and military attorney, Greg T. Rinckey, weighs-in on the death of Osama bin Laden, including whether the killing was legal.

“There is simply no question this operation was lawful,” said White House Spokesman Jay Carney.

The White House made its case for action against Osama bin Laden, but not before confusion over the released details of the operation.

White House Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan said on Monday, “Whether or not he got off any rounds? I frankly don’t know.”

White House officials at first insinuated bin Laden was armed, forcing the Navy SEAL’s shots. But now, they admit he wasn’t. And one of bin Laden’s wives who they said was also shot and killed, wasn’t. Instead, she was injured, unlike what we heard Monday.

Brennan said, “That when she fought back when there was an opportunity to get to bin Laden, she was positioned in a way that indicated she was being used as a shield.”

“You have to remember this is a SEAL team moving very fast, being shot at in an active firefight. Are they going to take any chances? No,” Tully Rinckey, PLLC Managing Partner Greg Rinckey said.

Rinckey is a former JAG attorney and former Assistant US attorney. He said regardless of the changes in details, the US military had a clear legal basis.

“There is a term under international law where under anticipatory defense you can go in and attack someone before they attack you if there’s a threat,” said Rinckey. “Clearly there’s going to be issues going into Pakistani sovereignty, but he was a threat to the United States and a continuing threat.”

This, as United Nations rights officials ask the US for details of the operation. Rinckey said, “The United States is clearly going to have to put forth its reasoning to the United Nations, but in the end, I believe it’s going to be justified.”

But as unclear and messy as the details surrounding the raid may be, just imagine the legal ramifications if bin Laden had instead been taken alive.

Rinckey asked, “And where do you try him? Do you try him in federal court? Because I read today there was a federal indictment against him that was just dismissed because he’s clearly been killed. Would he have been tried in federal court, or a military tribunal?”

Carney said, “The team had the authority to kill Osama bin Laden unless he offered to surrender. In which case the team is required to accept his surrender, if the team could do so safely.” Details from the largest manhunt in history – the “what-ifs” – that are still being sorted out.


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