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Lawyers Were on Standby in Case Bin Laden Was Captured Alive

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. | Last updated on

Unless you happen to be working as counsel for the Department of Homeland Security or for the CIA, a legal career does not usually intersect with national security issues.

Americans were recently reminded of the intersection between the law and international affairs, as apparently, a select few attorneys were ready to lay their lawyering skills down on Osama Bin Laden if he was captured alive.

Senior officials in the Obama administration revealed that there two teams of specialists ready and on-hand during the Pakistan raid. The first was a team of specialists to bury Bin Laden if he was killed. A second, a team of lawyers, interrogators and translators in case he was captured alive, reports The New York Times.

The second scenario would have had Bin Laden transported onto a Navy ship in the North Arabian Sea to avoid jurisdiction issues. There, Bin Laden would have been questioned, according to The New York Times.

Administration officials, however, noted that the raid was always more focused on the "killing" of Bin Laden. They had considered it a possibility that Bin Laden would either be armed, or wearing an explosive vest.

In fact, new details about the raid indicate that the President had increased the number of troops entering into Pakistani borders. If U.S. troops encountered resistance, he wanted them to be able to fight their way out, reports The New York Times.

"Their instructions were to avoid any confrontation if at all possible. But if they had to return fire to get out, they were authorized to do it," said a senior member of the Obama administration to The New York Times.

The role of the standby lawyers remains unclear. Though, the U.S. had wanted interrogators to question Bin Laden about future attacks or identify other al-Qaeda leaders if he was captured alive.

Perhaps the attorneys were meant to advise Bin Laden about his rights? Or, ensure that whatever interrogation methods were used were compliant with the law? In either case, it is an interesting reminder of the flexibility and wide application of legal skills.

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