Obama Considered Putting OBL on Trial If Captured Alive


President Obama was prepared to put Osama bin Laden on trial in the criminal federal court system, if the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks had been captured alive, according to a new book.

In interviews conducted by Vanity Fair contributing editor Mark Bowden for his book, The Finish, the president said he viewed a criminal trial as a way to avoid bin Laden being considered a martyr:

According to Bowden in the story—in November’s Vanity Fair—in the unlikely event that bin Laden surrendered, Obama saw an opportunity to resurrect the idea of a criminal trial, which Attorney General Eric Holder had planned for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. This time, the president tells Bowden, he was prepared to bring bin Laden back and put him on trial in a federal court. “We worked through the legal and political issues that would have been involved, and Congress and the desire to send him to Guantánamo, and to not try him, and Article III.” Obama continues: “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.”

Bowden also notes that, contrary to many reports, most of the president’s top advisers supported the raid that killed bin Laden:

Bowden contradicts reports that many of the president’s top advisers opposed the raid. “Nearly everyone present favored it,” he writes. “The only major dissenters were Biden and Gates, and before the raid was launched, Gates would change his mind.” According to Bowden, Leon Panetta told Obama that he ought to ask himself this question: “What would the average American say if he knew we had the best chance of getting bin Laden since Tora Bora and we didn’t take a shot?”