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Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told a Senate committee Wednesday that the shooting of Osama bin Laden was “justified as an act of national self-defense.”
Responding to questions from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Holder said the killing of the Al Qaeda leader, who according to U.S. officials was unarmed, was “lawful.”
“He was the head of Al Qaeda, an organization that had conducted the attacks of September the 11th. He admitted his involvement,” Holder said. “It’s lawful to target an enemy commander in the field.”
Holder said there was “no indication” that Bin Laden wanted to surrender. “Therefore, his killing was appropriate.”
Graham suggested that even if Bin Laden had appeared to have wanted to surrender to the Navy SEAL team conducting the raid at the compound north of Islamabad, Pakistan that was hiding Bin Laden, accepting such a surrender was fraught with risk. “The moment they saw Bin Laden, they had to consider him a threat,” said Graham, a former member of the Judge Advocate General corps, who called Bin Laden a possible “walking IED.”
“Exactly,” Holder said.
“So to those out there who question what happened here, the intelligence and the statements from the man himself said he would never be taken alive, that he had bombs strapped to himself,” Graham said. “I think the Navy SEAL team had to believe that the moment they encountered Bin Laden, whether he raised his hands or not, that could be a fake surrender, that they were well within their rights.”
In his testimony, the attorney general reiterated that Bin Laden’s death could led to retaliatory terror attacks on American targets, saying he had held a conference call this week with U.S. attorneys nationwide to ensure “federal investigative agencies were on their toes.”
Holder called on Congress to reauthorize three provisions of the USA Patriot Act that expire at the end of May, including a controversial section that allows national security agents to obtain business records and records for internet service providers.
“Now, more than ever, we need access to the crucial authorities in the Patriot Act, and I call on Congress to reauthorize them for a substantial period of time before they expire at the end of this month,” Holder told the committee