Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. participated in a conference call with all U.S. attorneys this week to address the Justice Department's concern about potential retaliatory violence flowing from the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Holder disclosed the phone call today in testimony at a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing. Law enforcement agencies, he said, are facing a "short-term reality" in which there’s a heightened concern about acts of violence connected to the killing of bin Laden.
“In the short term, I think we have some serious concerns that we have to be ready to address,” Holder said. He said the Justice Department wants to make sure federal agencies are “on their toes.” Holder did not discuss the substance of his phone call with the U.S. attorneys.
Holder called the fatal shooting of bin Laden a lawful act “consistent with our values.” The attorney general said there was no indication that bin Laden was willing to surrender. The White House yesterday clarified early misinformation that bin Laden was armed at the time he was shot.
Holder described bin Laden as an “enemy commander in the field” who was a lawful military target. “It was a kill or capture mission,” Holder testified today. The soldiers who killed bin Laden “conducted themselves totally appropriately,” he said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) suggested a “hands up” surrender could have been fake and he said that it was unknown to U.S. forces whether bin Laden had explosives strapped to his body. Graham said it was appropriate for U.S. forces to consider bin Laden a “walking IED,” or improvised explosive device.
Holder's testimony today comes one day after he delivered remarks at a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing. Yesterday, Holder was grilled on a hypothetical trial for bin Laden.