Presidential Authority: Operation Geronimo Case Study

Operation Geronimo, which implied the killing of Osama bin Laden was a specific solution the U. S. Government accepted after the horrific events of September 11, 2001. To some people, the Operation was either authorized or did not have to follow the full range of rules to be undertaken. Others reckon that the decision was not legally authorized, and there is no place for self-willed decisions in the modern world where justice dominates. This paper states that President Obama had the legal authority to order Operation Geronimo and execute the plan.

Some details contribute to perceiving the Operation as a legally authorized one. First of all, Operation Geronimo is considered a beneficial event despite debates around it. To be more exact, “the assassination of Osama bin Laden was a significant victory for the U.S. government and the American people at large” (Marks, 2018). Moreover, Mr. Holder says that “Bin Laden’s killing was “not an assassination” but rather “an act of national self-defense” against an al-Qaeda leader who had acknowledged his role in the 9/11 attacks” (Lewis, 2011). Thus, the idea that nothing can be more critical than saving as many human lives as possible in cases of the world facing terrorism supports the President’s decision.

Although there were no laws to legalize the Operation directly and provide President Obama with a foundation for making this decision, it was inevitable because people’s lives depended on it. Additionally, the necessity to prove that the state is more potent than any non-governmental organization and can maintain safety was crucial. The longevity of preparation for the Operation doubts that the U. S. Government missed the opportunity to thoroughly examine the required procedures (Osborn & Lin, n. d.). Furthermore, most regulations were followed as, for example, “no one that is protected under the law of armed conflict” was hit (Crane, 2011). Therefore, the operation had some internationally legal foundation, but some people do not reckon this is enough.

Finally, the discussion on the legality of the Geronimo Operation exists because there is no serious terrorist threat to the world right now. Pezzi claims that “it would… be inappropriate to second-guess the… heat-of-battle determination by the Navy SEALs that there were reasonable grounds to believe that a peaceful surrender was not forthcoming” (2011). Consequently, it may be assumed that most people would agree if the dangerous terrorists and criminals were rendered harmless. The main reason for that is the priority humanity gives to saving the lives of innocent people.

However, assessing whether President Obama’s decision was legal or not requires understanding the cause of the debate’s appearance. First of all, the unwillingness of people to accept the legal authority of Operation Geronimo is based on Executive Order 12333 by President Reagan. The Order states that people acting on behalf of the U. S. Government do not have the right to assassinate people. Therefore, the case of Bin Laden contradicts the Order and thus causes the difference in the opinions on Operation Geronimo.

Moreover, international law sets borders for each country deciding on how to contradict the global-scale criminals. Mr. Sands, in an interview with BBC News, claims that “one country is not free to enter another country apparently without the authorization of that country and intervene” (Lewis, 2011). Generally, all the opinions against the Operation’s legality are based on formal rules and do not pay enough attention to the fear and danger people of the world faced. Therefore, these claims can be covered by the previously stated opinion for the Operation.

Overall, the decision of President Obama to neutralize Bin Laden as a participant of al-Qaeda and one of the organizers of the 9/11 events is still considered controversial. However, from a rational perspective, although it formally violates international law, it was a pressured decision. The value of numerous human lives was considered more critical by the U. S. Government than following required procedures to liquidate the criminal.


Crane, D. (2011). Legal arithmetic: Adding up the legality of operation Geronimo. Syracuse University. Web.

Lewis, A. (2011). Osama Bin Laden: Legality of killing questioned. BBC News. Web.

Marks, J. (2018). How SEAL team six took out Osama Bin Laden. History. Web.

Osborn, K. & Lin, H. (n. d.). The operation that took out Osama Bin Laden. Military. Web.

Pezzi, S. M. (2011). The legality of killing Osama Bin Laden. National Security Journal. Web.

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DemoEssays. "Presidential Authority: Operation Geronimo Case Study." July 28, 2023.