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According to sources in the Justice Department, the Obama Administration is pushing for the reversal of charges levied against purported al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden is under indictment from U.S. courts for his roles in the bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, as well as the September 11, 2001 attacks.
This move comes as new Attorney General Eric Holder is promising a more "fair and open" Justice Department. Holder is the first African-American Attorney General and is a close confidant of the President.
According to a draft report circulating at the DOJ, Holder has asked that the charges against bin Laden and deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri be "suspended" until the time of their capture or death. Effectively, this would drop all charges against the two.
It is unknown if the President himself has pushed for these changes, but it is noted that such a public reversal could not happen without the White House's explicit approval.
The cause for this change of policy is not clear, but aligns closely with the changes that the Obama Administration has taken to reverse Bush-era "mistakes." It is speculated that the changes could be used to lessen international disapproval of American actions in Afghanistan. In addition, this could lead to a permanent suspension of the charges if bin Laden were to promise not to engage in terrorism.
It has been argued that if the charges are dropped against the al Qaeda members, then the United States technically has no right to apprehend or harm the two if they were ever found. James Fortright, a Constitutional scholar at George Washington University states that as long as there is no warrant for an arrest, the government is almost powerless.
"Without a warrant, you have to catch them in the act." Fortright stated in an email interview, "This would mean that if we located them, we could not touch them until a terrorist attack was already underway."
These changes are under the jurisdiction of the White House once approved by the Attorney General. When these actions will take place is unknown, but will likely be done by the end of the year.
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