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Barack Obama In 2008: I Won't Make Osama Bin Laden A Martyr

The President didn't want to martyr the 9/11 mastermind in 2008. He's now attacking Romney a 2007 remark downplaying the terror leader's importance. [Update]

Posted on April 27, 2012, at 11:44 a.m. ET

The Democrats have a new attack on Mitt Romney: Obama killed Osama Bin Laden, and we don’t know what Mitt Romney would have done, as Joe Biden put it Thursday.

The Obama campaign is drawing in particular on a 2007 comment Romney made to the AP, saying “It’s not worth moving heaven and earth, spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.”

But in 2008 Obama likewise thought killing the 9/11 mastermind wasn't a necessity saying the United States would have to be careful Bin Laden didn't become a "martyr."

“What would be important would be for us to do it in a way that allows the entire world to understand the murderous acts that he's engaged in and not to make him into a martyr, and to assure that the United States government is abiding by basic conventions that would strengthen our hand in the broader battle against terrorism," Obama said as he unveiled his new national security team in June 2008.

Obama later concluded that killing Bin Laden, and dumping his body at sea, were the best ways to deprive his followers of a focal point. But the comments reflect a possible flaw in attacking Mitt Romney’s statement on Bin Laden. While there is a degree of uncertainty to what Romney would have done, the same could be said for candidate Obama in 2008.

Update. An Obama spokesperson sends over this quote from a 2008 general election debate with John McCain in which Obama said killing Bin Laden would be a priority and he would act unilaterally if the Pakistani government was uncooperative.

“If we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden; we will crush Al Qaida. That has to be our biggest national security priority," Obama said.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.