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.”…

Bowden describes Situation Room meetings where the team presented the president with wildly varying odds. “People don’t have differences because they have different intel,” Morell, who had been personally involved in the flawed analysis of Saddam’s weapons capability, explains. “We are all looking at the same things. I think it depends more on your past experience.” He continues: “If we had a human source who had told us directly that bin Laden was living in that compound, I still wouldn’t be above 60 percent. And I’m telling you, the case for W.M.D. wasn’t just stronger—it was much stronger.” As Bowden reports, Obama’s conclusion was that the odds were 50-50. “This is a flip of the coin. You guys, I can’t base this decision on the notion that we have any greater certainty than that,” the president said.