Meet the Lawyers Who Justified Killing Osama bin Laden

Their secret memos were a defense in case things went 'terribly badly'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 28, 2015 3:39 PM CDT
Meet the Lawyers Who Justified Killing Osama bin Laden
The New York Times reports on four government lawyers who basically ensured Osama bin Laden would be killed, not captured, during the 2011 raid in Pakistan.   (AP Photo/File)

On Wednesday, the New York Times published a fascinating story on the four government lawyers who secretly cleared the way for the 2011 raid that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. It's one of the few stories behind the raid that hasn't been told before and relies on largely anonymous interviews with former and current officials. According to the Times, the lawyers—Stephen Preston, Mary DeRosa, James Crawford, and Jeh Johnson—were responsible for devising legal justifications for each step and potential outcome of the raid, especially if—in their words—it went "terribly badly."

Using highly secure laptops and hand-delivered notes to avoid leaks, the lawyers were able to come up with legal justifications for everything from not notifying Pakistan about the raid to going in with the intent to kill bin Laden, the Times reports. They also made sure they'd be able to legally defend the decision to bury bin Laden at sea, to not tell Congress about the raid, to violate international law, and to—if necessary—cause the death of a large number of innocent civilians. They wrote their defenses in five secret memos that they could use to prove the administration wasn't coming up with legal justifications after the fact. Despite being instrumental to the raid—and, as the Times reports, essentially ensuring bin Laden would be killed and not captured—none of the lawyers' involvement has ever been publicized. Read the full story here. (More Osama bin Laden stories.)

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