It took a bullet to the head and a burial at sea, but the U.S. government has dismissed the 13-year-old federal court case against Osama bin Laden.
U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan in New York on Friday granted a request from prosecutors to drop the terrorism counts against the slain al-Qaeda leader. Bin Laden had been charged in a series of indictments between 1998 and 2000. They accused him of plotting to attack the United States and kill U.S. citizens and committing various crimes related to the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
The filing from prosecutors in the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara lacked the drama of the daring raid in which U.S. Special Operations Forces shot and killed bin Laden in a compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad in the early hours of May 2 local time (afternoon of May 1 in Washington). The U.S. Navy later buried bin Laden at an undisclosed location in the northern Arabian Sea.
The government filing lists bin Laden’s alleged crimes, and then states: “On or about May 1, 2011, while this case was still pending, defendant Usama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in the course of an operation conducted by the United States.’’
It also contains a declaration from George Z. Toscas, deputy assistant attorney general for counterterrorism and counterespionage in the Justice Department’s National Security Division. He certifies that the CIA and U.S. military personnel confirmed bin Laden’s death through DNA tests, facial recognition analysis and an identification of the body by one of his wives.
The dismissal marked a quiet end to one phase of a long-standing debate over whether bin Laden and other terrorism suspects should be tried in federal courts or before the military.