The folks over at Politico have a question: was killing OBL legal? As more details of the death of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden surfaced Monday, some individuals suggested that the killing of the Al Qaeda leader by U.S. special forces may have violated international law.
However, human rights and civil liberties groups that have sharply criticized the Obama administration for its use of lethal force against terror suspects outside of war zones remained largely mum after the notorious bin Laden was shot by U.S. Navy SEALs in an operation that took place in Pakistan, where the U.S. is not involved in formally declared combat.
Tom Malinowski, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch, said his group wasn’t prepared to express an opinion “until we know more solid details about the facts of the operation.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, which has vocally opposed the Obama administration’s use of lethal force outside of armed conflict zones, told POLITICO it has not released an official comment on bin Laden’s death, and has no plans to comment on it.
Some legal scholars and intelligence analysts are also expressing concerns that the covert military operation in Abbottabad was further evidence to them that the U.S. is taking the wrong approach in the so-called “global war on terror.”
Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern went as far as to say that bin Laden was “martyred by U.S. forces acting arbitrarily and independently in a Muslim nation.” “The professor turned president was out to show how tough he is and how his crackerjack extrajudicial assassins can get their man,” McGovern said. “There are commonly accepted legal ways to capture and bring such people to a court of law — yes, even the ‘bad guys’ like Osama bin Laden.”
Terrorism – even that perpetrated by Osama bin Laden — is a criminal action and doesn’t necessarily require military force, according to Mary Ellen O’Connell, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame. “If we’re not there by the authorization of the U.N. Security Council, then we should be using law enforcement methods – not military force,” she told POLITICO.
I would like to ask: Was bombing the USS Cole legal? Was the 1993 bombing of the WTC legal? Were the 1998 US Embassy bombings legal? Or was hijacking four planes on 9/11 legal? I’m no lawyer yet I’m going go out on a limb here and suggest justice was served. And I don’t care if it violated U.N. Security Council laws.
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