POTUS Communications Privilege Protects Legal Memos on bin Laden Raid

On May 1, 2011, Navy SEAL Team Six entered Pakastani airspace, raided Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound, killed the mastermind of the September 11 Attacks, and buried his body at sea.  For a discussion about the raid, watch this interview with the primary trigger man, Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill.

President Obama authorized the military mission and watched the raid unfold via monitors in the White House Situation Room.  But before the president made the decision, he relied upon a variety of legal opinions about the mission, including five memoranda on violation of Pakastani sovereignty, raiding with an intention to kill bin Laden, duty to alert congressional leaders, plans for bin Laden in the event of his capture, and burial options.  Lawyers for the Pentagon, CIA, NSC, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff authored these memoranda.

Judicial Watch, which describes itself as “a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation” that “promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law,” made a FOIA request to the DoD and CIA seeking documents and communications from government lawyers regarding the authority, analysis, opinions, and conclusions for the raid and killing of Osama bin Laden. More…