What if we had caught Osama alive?

Let’s say he decided not to resist or that the SEALs saw no reason to shoot him and they ended up taking him alive. What then?

Would he have been thrown into Gitmo? Brought to some facility in the U.S.? Would he be tried in a military court, civilian court? And if he were to be tried on U.S. soil, would there have been a shitstorm raised like when it was suggested a few years ago that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed be tried in New York?

My feeling has been that we did, in fact, catch him alive, and shot him anyway. In other words, there was never any intent to capture him - he was going to resist, and the SEALs were going to have a reason to fire. That would of course obviate the need to draw it out and deal with the kinds of questions you’re asking. I don’t know if there would have been the same level of shitstorm given how ecstatic everybody seems to be as a result of the apparent specialness of Bin Laden to Americans, but the same issues would still exist.

The conservatives would not permit us to put him on trial in America. They are too afraid of a trial on our soil. So we would have to try him in a military court somewhere else.
I believe I read the prez gave orders to kill him. That may be why.

Based on previous actions, I’d guess he’ eventually wind up in Guantanamo, after several, possibly rather painful months in an undisclosed location.

As to a possible trial, no idea. Looking at all the, apparently still-unresolved, to-ing and fro-ing over whether to hold civilian or miltary tribunals for other high-level militants, what form prosecution would take is anyone’s guess.

I will say that, just as I would for the current Guantanamo detainees, I’d prefer to see a civilian trial based on US federal case law. For me this is the sort of situation that demonstrates whether or not we have a justice system worthy of the name.

There is 0 chance they would bring him back to the US. Possibly Guantanamo. Probably somewhere in Afghanistan. Definitely tried in military court; tons of civil and criminal suits would be filed but the military court would sentence him to death before any would proceed.

He authorized the killing. He did not order than bin Laden be killed. Despite what I read (and posted a few times) yesterday, the administration says they were prepared to take him alive if he hadn’t resisted.

Given all the confusion over the legal status and trials of other detainees, I have no idea how anybody could predict how bin Laden would have been handled. It does go without saying he would have been interrogated for a long time before any trial or commission was started.

Because of the confusion over legal status, I think that the administration would have tried to avoid as much controversy as possible. In addition, imagine the huge technical and logistical difficulty of having him on US soil. Also, a civilian trial would give OBL a voice. That’s why I think that the chances of OBL ever coming to the US, where there would be the most oversight of his actions, or even Guantanamo, with some oversight, is unlikely. An overseas military base is where the government is least likely to run into civil rights issues or questioning of their procedures. There is no doubt in my mind that he would get a military trial.

Well, they pretty much have to say that, but I do not believe there was ever any serious intent to take the guy alive. A trial is just too messy. Any defense lawyer worth his salt is going to demand access to all sorts of classified material the government is not going to want to turn over–and if they don’t turn it over in civilian courts, the evidence can’t be used. Even the considerably more restrictive military tribunal option poses major problems with access to evidence and witnesses.

The written orders, if any, likely said “capture or kill”, but I strongly suspect the unspoken understanding was “kill”. And I don’t have a problem with that.

First, I’m assuming the public would be informed of his immediate capture in the same time frame as we learned of his death (which would not be wise straight away). This influences my answer.

Once captured, he could be detained as an enemy combatant sans criminal charges. If he were a normal combatant (not such a high profile), he’d probably be brought to the Bagram detention facility. While Gitmo is much more secure and it would make a ton of sense to bring him there for that reason, politically I just doubt it. The name/perception alone overrides any of those concerns; remember, the world is watching; really watching now. Further, if brought there you’d then be unable to transfer him into the US; so that removes the civilian trial option for some time.

Because swift justice would be such a high priority with him, and the public would want to be apart of that justice, that leaves a transfer to Gitmo out if you wanted to try him inside the US. If that public perception wasn’t a high concern, you could immediately try him by military commission at Gitmo for violations listed in the Military Commissions Act 2009 (mostly “war crimes” type crimes). Either way, he’s tried as quickly as possible; he won’t sit around being detained without being charged.

I would wager he’d go to Bagram, then to the US, then to a federal civilian court for war crimes violations and/or criminal charges in New York. Remember, the KSM trial problems was that the security cost too much (during a recession). Not just the security concerns alone. For some reason I’m just feeling OBL is different than KSM and the objections won’t be raised as loudly. It’s also possible he’d be tried in a military court inside the US.

I’m not sure why I’m thinking it’s different with OBL, when I don’t have a problem with the current military commissions. The need for press and coverage would be overwhelming. Maybe if Gitmo was changed to allow for all that.

Having said that, I don’t believe capturing him was ever a real possibility; in part due to all your questions and problems they present.

News to me – Bin Laden was unarmed when he was killed. Resisted arrest, but was not armed, and got shot in the head twice? If that doesn’t at least strongly suggest they were going to kill him regardless, I don’t know what would.

CNN is now reporting that bin Laden was not armed when he was shot.US forces had killed 3 on the first floor of the house, moved upstairs and found him on the third floor.

I don’t think there was ever a serious attempt to take him alive. Beyond the problems of where to keep him and how to run a trial, bin Laden sitting in a prison someplace would be something for al Qaeda and other extremest to focus on. “Free bin Laden, or we will blow up one city a week until you do” kind of thing. Same thing with the burial at sea. “Return the body, or we start exploding things.”

Sure, there are going to be acts of retaliation. But a dead bin Laden, with no body, funeral or grave to focus on, will be much less of a inspiring point than a live bin Laden sitting in Gitmo.

Yep. There was never any option to take him alive.

“Oh Crap” said the highly trained SEAL, “My gun went off by mistake! Oooh, that looks fatal. My bad!”

I doubt there was any expectation he would be taken alive. Beyond that I think we’re pretty much splitting hairs.

Quoth Oakminster:

The videotapes where he claims responsibility for all manner of crimes are all publicly available. What more evidence would be necessary?

Just to play devil’s advocate, there is a recently made, widely watched video of Trump claiming that it was his tireless work that made the release of the President’s long form birth certificate happen. His public assertions don’t necessarily make it so.

If Al Qaeda had the capability to launch an attack on the US every week, why aren’t they doing it now? Like, they weren’t really upset with us before we captured bin Laden, but now it’s on and the gloves come off?

The gloves have been off for a decade, and there have been a few failed bombing attempts in the US during that time. Al Qaeda is already trying its best to hurt us, and its best isn’t very good.

I’m wondering why it was announced. Seems to me they could have just taken him and never said a word about it. No point in martyring him.

When and where were those tapes made? Who was present during the taping? Are the tapes authentic? Have they been edited? Could he have been coerced into making those tapes? Are the alleged confessions truthful? Is there any corroborative evidence?

Is he competent to stand trial?

What other witnesses does the prosecution know about? Where are they? How were they interrogated? Could they have any exculpatory evidence? What about favorable witnesses? Wiretaps? Recordings? How was information obtained, from who, when, where, under what conditions…all those questions and more are fair game for defense counsel.

I for one would not have even chanced losing another American to that dirt ball.

What if we had tried to catch him alive and lost a man because of it?