The PJ Tatler

Did Obama Consider Giving Osama bin Laden a Civilian Trial?

Vanity Fair reports, based on a new book by Mark Bowden, that President Obama considered a remarkably bad idea: Granting terrorist Osama bin Laden a trial in US federal court if he had been captured in the raid on his compound in Abbottabad.

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.”

Does Barack Obama learn from experience? AG Holder’s attempt to put 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on trial in New York backfired very badly. That attempt was one of the few things that united Republicans and Democrats, in opposition to it. New York Mayor Bloomberg came out against it. Police Commissioner Kelly came out against the plan. Sen. Chuck Schumer came out against it. The security was unworkable, and the prospect of allowing a major terrorist figure to abuse the court system to grandstand and mock the entire proceeding came across as just a stunningly awful possibility.

KSM’s civilian trial was eventually canned and he is standing trial in a military tribunal at Gitmo.

Evidently, Barack Obama did not learn a single thing from all that. Astonishing.

Thankfully, Obama and Holder never had to make the call on this.