Targeted Killing

We Hear from Mary Ellen O'Connell

By Benjamin Wittes
Wednesday, May 4, 2011, 9:09 AM

Lawfare reader Matthew Ing writes in with the following:

I've been a dedicated reader of the Lawfare Blog since its inception.  I recently read with interest your Lawfare post, "What Would Mary Ellen O’Connell Do?" Apparently, she has a post at Opinio Juris repeating the view as she previously expressed in the Politico story you quote. One of the commenters on that post points to this page, which contains a transcript of a Brian Williams interview with Leon Panetta. That page includes this money quote:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Did the President's order read capture or kill or both or just one of those?

LEON PANETTA: The authorities we have on Bin Laden are to kill him. And that was made clear. But it was also, as part of their rules of engagement, if he suddenly put up his hands and offered to be captured, then--they would have the opportunity, obviously, to capture him. But that opportunity never developed.

I may be reading too much into Panetta's statement, but his words don't really seem consistent with O'Connell's view that "The operation, far from a battle zone, followed law enforcement standards, including the attempt to capture . . . ."

That or else O'Connell has a particularly expansive view of conventional law enforcement standards!