White House spokesman Jay Carney provided new details today on how the U.S. killed Osama bin Laden, explaining that the al-Qaeda leader was unarmed when U.S. forces found him upstairs in his compound and that he "resisted"--resisted how exactly, we don't know--before U.S. forces fatally shot him in the head and spirited away his body. The account differs from counterterrorism chief John Brennan's statement yesterday that bin Laden had a weapon, and fuels a spirited--if perhaps academic at this point--debate: Was it legal for the U.S. to kill bin Laden, both under U.S. law and international law? According to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the answer is yes. Here's why people are agreeing or disagreeing with him:
U.S. at War With Al-Qaeda: Many legal scholars claim the Navy SEALs and bin Laden were enemy combatants. At the Council on Foreign Relations, legal scholar John B. Bellinger III points out that a 2001 congressional act authorizes the U.S. president to use "all necessary and appropriate force" against nations, organizations, or individuals who had a hand in the 9/11 attacks (read bin Laden, among others). He adds that the White House will also argue that "the action was permissible under international law both as a permissible use of force in the U.S. armed conflict with al-Qaeda and as a legitimate action in self-defense, given that bin Laden was clearly planning additional attacks." Law professor Scott Silliman tells The Christian Science Monitor that the U.S. could have killed bin Laden "even if he was trying to run away."