What's Holding Up U.S. Interrogation of Osama bin Laden's Wives?

Pakistan and the U.S. say they are still in dialogues over the U.S. "interviews" of Osama bin Laden's three wives. What's holding it up and why does Pakistan say it has not yet received a formal request for access?

My guess: The U.S. is not just asking for permission to interview the women in Pakistan. It wants to extradite them to the U.S. for interrogation. The State Department is now making statements about the women and the interview requests. Why would they be involved if extradition was not on the horizon? State Department Spokesman Mark Toner said yesterday: [More....]

The United States is interested in making "sure we have access to any information that could contribute to our common goal here, which is continuing our counterterrorism cooperation and making progress against extremists in Pakistan and elsewhere."

Pakistani officials have also hinted at extradition to the U.S. and noted that neither Saudi Arabia nor Yemen have requested the women be extradited back to their home countries.

Is the U.S. going to indict them for providing material support to a terrorist organization? Is cooking and cleaning for Osama bin Laden or their sons providing material support? That would be taking the already vague and overbroad law to an absurd new level.

Why would the U.S. want to obtain custody of the women (and maybe also some of the children?) Perhaps to keep their accounts of Hamza bin Laden being killed or captured from getting further exposure?

Where would we take them? Guantanamo? What then, if neither Saudi Arabia or Yemen wanted them back? I can't imagine the U.S. would indict them, unless it's the only way to get grounds to extradite them. If it did indict them, where would they bring charges? A military commission at Guantanamo or New York? New York would be some payback at Congress and New York officials who protested having the 9/11 trials there. Can you imagine the security nightmare and threats if the U.S. brought the wives to New York to face criminal charges?

Also, what concessions might Pakistan be seeking in exchange for allowing extradition of the wives to the U.S.? My guess: It wants the U.S. to resolve the Tahawwur Hussain Rana case before trial starts next week, to avoid Rana and David Headley's accusations that its intelligence agency, ISI, was involved in the Mumbai bombings and in bed with LeT. If Rana pleads to something, the U.S. can promise him he won't be extradited to India to face charges there. If he goes to trial and is either acquitted or convicted, India is going to seek his extradition. If Rana talks in India, India will have a much greater chance of identifying Headley's ISI handlers. That's not in Pakistan's interest.

If a plea deal is announced this week in the Rana case, I'd bet pressure from Pakistan had something to do with it.

Background on the wives and sons at the compound is here, here and here. Our Headley-Rana coverage is accessible here.)

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  • Display: Sort:
    You ask: (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by scribe on Wed May 11, 2011 at 12:22:50 PM EST
    "Is cooking and cleaning for Osama bin Laden or their sons providing material support?"

    If you take a moment to recall a few years back, when material support was a new thing in the law, there were a number of cases where DoJ was called on to argue just what constituted "material support".  I think they might have been some of the early detainee cases.  

    The DoJ lawyers argued that, yes, giving a suspected terrist a glass of water was material support and could yield a life sentence.  The DoJ lawyers argued that someone (a kindly grandmother, as I recall the hypothetical) who taught English to a terrist, not knowing he was a terrist, was guilty of material support and could be locked up for life.  

    And, more recently, when it was obvious to all with eyes that Kagan would be Obama's next S.Ct. pick, she herself argued to the S.Ct. (in her one argument) that being a lawyer for a terrist was material support, that teaching peace to alleged terrists was material support, and so on and so forth.

    So, yes, I suppose cooking and cleaning and bearing children for bin Laden can be charged as material support.

    As for where the women will be extradited, it'll be to Bagram, where they'll get the Siddiqui treatment.

    An International Mess (none / 0) (#1)
    by mmc9431 on Wed May 11, 2011 at 11:14:53 AM EST
    I can't image what information they could possibly provide that would outweight the international PR damage of dragging them off to Gitmo.

    I also doubt if Pakistan will want to deal with the reprocussions if they do surrender them.

    In the chauvinistic world that OBL lived, would a woman really be in the inner circle of things?

    No, but maybe (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Wed May 11, 2011 at 11:20:18 AM EST
    the U.S.thinks they know who came to dinner. Or the timeline of when they lived where.

    Doubt they have much info (none / 0) (#4)
    by gyrfalcon on Wed May 11, 2011 at 11:48:52 AM EST
    My guess is the U.S. just wants them not to be in custody of the Pakistanis when it talks to them.  They're not going to take them to Gitmo, more likely to some U.S. base or embassy somewhere abroad.  I really don't think they want them in the U.S. for the reasons you suggest, nor will they want to hang onto them for very long.

    Bagram Maybe? (none / 0) (#8)
    by denise k on Wed May 11, 2011 at 03:50:42 PM EST
    It would make more sense than bringing them to the US.  

    Something like that, although (none / 0) (#9)
    by gyrfalcon on Wed May 11, 2011 at 04:20:41 PM EST
    Bagram has a pretty horrible reputation, too.  If I were in charge, I'd stash them in close house arrest in really nice quarters at, say, the U.S. embassy in Paris.  I'm quite sure our embassies would have detention quarters built into them for various contingencies.

    I'd also, if I were in charge, stall on publicly saying where they were, keep them no more than a week, and then escort them to wherever they wanted to go and make sure they were put into the hands of their relatives or a friendly government or NGO or something.

    Actually, if I were in charge, I wouldn't even bother with all that unless I were quite certain they had some important info and that they'd be willing to give it up.  Otherwise, it's really not worth messing with the noncombatant wives of the guy you just assassinated.


    Are there facilities for women at Gitmo ? (none / 0) (#5)
    by msobel on Wed May 11, 2011 at 12:20:00 PM EST
    Brings to mind all the arguments against women in various workplaces (police, firefighters, etc)
    No separate bathroom facilities, not hair dryers, etc.

    Why would they be taken to Gitmo? (none / 0) (#10)
    by gyrfalcon on Wed May 11, 2011 at 04:21:31 PM EST
    More (none / 0) (#7)
    by jbindc on Wed May 11, 2011 at 12:28:22 PM EST