“Two senior Pakistani security officials, citing their investigation, said there was no firefight because the inhabitants never fired back…
“‘It was cold-blooded,’ said the second official when asked if there was any exchange of fire during the operation which, U.S. officials said lasted nearly 40 minutes.”
“The operation to kill bin Laden might have violated one specific — and very touchy — executive order: the one banning assassination…
“The problem, as with Title 10 and Title 50, is with definitions. ‘No one defines assassination,’ lamented Mark Quarterman, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies…
“Paperwork aside, bin Laden’s status is a matter of perspective — which is relative. If the men who attacked the Al Qaeda chief were soldiers, it may be easier to consider him a soldier, too. But if they were CIA agents — Title 50 folks — bin Laden could look like the victim of political murder. Just like the leaders of Chile, Congo and Vietnam, whom everyone — including Congress — agreed were targets of U.S. assassination attempts.
“There is also the issue of Pakistan’s sovereignty. ‘It’s against international law to carry out operations like this in another country,’ Quarterman said, ‘except when those countries consent.’ But the Pakistanis were not informed until the Americans had departed with bin Laden’s body. They consented only after the fact.”
“Even the legal questions were nothing next to the security consequences of taking bin Laden alive.
“His survival enhanced his image as an outlaw-hero who had outwitted the West. When an anonymous solider or worker at Bagram snapped a cellphone picture of Osama, smiling and flashing a V sign, the image appeared on Web sites around the world and on posters in dozens of cities, with supporters chanting: ‘The sheik lives!’…
“On Christmas Eve, the president — forced by political pressure to cancel his own Hawaii vacation — gathered his inner circle in the Oval Office for a cheerless Christmas toast. ‘Any wishes for the holidays?’ someone asked.
“‘Yes, actually,’ Obama said. ‘I wish someone had pushed that bastard out of the helicopter seven months ago.'”