Lawyers, judges, law professors share their thoughts on death of terrorist

By Tom Kirvan and Jo Mathis

Legal News

Reaction from the Detroit area legal community to the death of Osama bin Laden was unanimously joyful.

But the sentiment in some cases was bittersweet.

Jennifer Grieco, president of the Oakland County Bar Association, lost her 35-year-old brother, Kevin, to a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in 2008. He left behind a wife and two children.

Grieco said Monday she had mixed emotions to the news.

"My brother reinlisted in the service right after 9/11 to stop bin Laden and to protect Americans," said Grieco, an attorney with Neuman Anderson in Southfield. "He had a picture of the World Trade Center hanging in his small hooch in Afghanistan to be a reminder of why he was there. I know that he is looking down with a big smile right now that we finally got enemy Number One."

She and her father, a career military man, couldn't help but have the "what if" conversation Monday morning: What if they had captured bin Laden at Tora Bora? What if U.S. leaders had kept their eye on Afghanistan instead of Iraq?

"I'm very proud of this military operation with no casualties, but it is hard not to go down that path and wonder if Kevin and hundreds more would still be alive today," she said. "Everyone who lived through 911 has a very natural feeling that this is, finally, just retribution for the person who planned those mass murders. At the same time, the veteran in me has a sense of foreboding for our soldiers in the period of retaliation that is now sure to ensue. Difficult times lie ahead for them."

She said she hopes bin Laden's death finally leads to the breakdown of al-Qaida and an end to the war.

"It would help to at least feel that Kevin's sacrifice was part of a greater goal that was accomplished to make the world a safer place and save future lives," she said. "He has friends that are currently serving and we will be worried about any backlash against the troops especially in Afghanistan."

Michael C.H. McDaniel, a professor in the Constitutional Law Department at Cooley Law School, was the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Homeland Defense Strategy, Prevention and Mission Assurance at the Pentagon before taking on his new role at Cooley.

McDaniel, a Brigadier General in the Michigan National Guard, said that U.S. efforts have limited al-Qaida senior leadership's ability to lead operations, but haven't necessarily limited their operations.

"There is no indication that by killing Osama bin Laden, we have decreased the likelihood of those attacks, and we may in fact have increased the likelihood of retaliatory acts," he said, noting attempted terrorist attacks in the past several years, including those in Detroit and Chicago.

The death of bin Laden is a huge symbolic victory, but the full impact won't be known for some time because bin Laden wasn't involved in daily operations, McDaniel said.

"It does not mean at all that the war against al-Qaida is over," he said. "It's most likely a step forward, but the operational and strategic impacts are really not known at this point. So celebrating in front of the north portico of the White House, I thought, was a little unnecessary and premature, frankly."

Globally, it was a huge political victory that shows the extent of U.S. military power, he said. He cited Jimmy Carter's failure to rescue the hostages in Iran as an example of how difficult this type of operation is.

He said it's not known to what extent elements of the Pakistani government participated in the attack.

"They've demonstrated a pragmatic approach in the past, in that they might be telling us now that they were involved in it right from the beginning, hip to hip with the U.S," he said. "And if they do so, that's great. The question is if in fact, that's true, and whether this could destabilize the Pakistani government."

Obama did not mention the Pakistani military or intelligence agency, both of which have elements that have been sympathetic to al-Qaida, he said.

McDonald said the shooting of bin Laden is consistent with international law.

When asked for his reaction to the death of bin Laden, Gerald E. Rosen, U.S. District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan, quoted Winston Churchill: "Those that have sown the wind, shall reap the whirlwind."

Rosen said he also thought of Churchill's words from his 1942 "End of the Beginning" speech, in which he said: "This was justice grimly reclaiming her rights."

"I agree with the President: Justice has been served," said Rosen, who serves in the U.S. Courthouse that has been the site of several high-profile terrorism cases, including that of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear while flying to Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009.

Other local reaction to the news:

"Everyone who lived through 911 has a very natural feeling that this is, finally, just retribution for the person who planned those mass murders. At the same time, the veteran in me has a sense of foreboding for our soldiers in the period of retaliation that is now sure to ensue. Difficult times lie ahead for them."

--Don Shelton, Chief Judge of the Washtenaw County Trial Court, served in the Judge Advocate General Corps in Germany, earning the Meritorious Service Medal in 1974.

"I echo President Obama's sentiments that this is a significant achievement in the effort to defeat al Queda and to achieve justice for Bin Laden's role in the despicable 9/11 attacks on the United States. In addition, the military and intelligence communities are to be commended for their successful efforts in targeting Bin Laden and executing what was certainly a difficult special operations mission. I am confident that the death of Bin Laden will lead to increased security for the U.S. "

--Jeffrey S. Kopp, attorney with Foley and Lardner LLP in Detroit, and an Iraq war veteran and U.S. Army reservist.

"I am relieved, not happy or pleased, but the war will go on without this leader. Marines and servicemen continue to die , like Lance Corporal Dominic Ciaramitaro of South Lyon, who was killed by an IED in Afghanistan on Saturday, April 23rd at the age of 19. Maybe the death of bin Laden will hasten the end of the war in Afghanistan and the return of our valiant men and women."

--Mike Schloff, a Marine vet who served in Vietnam, is a past president of the Oakland County Bar Association who has been very involved in helping send supplies to soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Published: Thu, May 5, 2011


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