For about 12 years, Osama bin Laden reigned at the top of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. When his death was announced May 1, some turned their focus to who will take his title as the worst criminal.
“The United States wanted Osama more than anyone else. He was seen as the biggest threat,” said Richard Herrmann, the director of the Mershon Center for International Security Studies at Ohio State.
Though bin Laden’s picture is now covered with bold letters reading “DECEASED” on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted page, there are thousands of other candidates primed to take his spot, according to FBI.gov. But just because the No. 1 threat to U.S. security has been eliminated, it does not mean the No. 2 criminal automatically moves up.
“Any time one of the Ten Most Wanted fugitives comes off the list, there’s a lot of careful consideration of who would replace that individual,” FBI spokesman Paul Bresson told the New York Times. “I don’t expect it will be filled immediately.”
The FBI did not respond to requests for comment.
Some students were less concerned about who filled bin Laden’s spot than they were about the characteristics the next No. 1 criminal should have.
Josh Becker, a first-year in biochemistry, said the next Most Wanted criminal should be “someone that has proven to be dangerous in the past and is likely to continue to be dangerous.”
Although the FBI is busy considering who will be the next to top the list, Herrmann casts doubt on the importance of numerical order.
“Everyone on the wanted list is wanted. Does it matter (who’s No. 1)?” Herrmann said.
One of the differences between the people on the Most Wanted list is the price on their head, according to FBI.gov.
Although information leading to the direct arrest of bin Laden was worth $25 million, the majority of the fugitives are only valued at about $100,000. Information on the closest contender to bin Laden, James J. Bulger, is still priced at only $2 million, according to the website. Bulger is wanted for extortion, money laundering, 19 counts of murder, narcotic distribution and conspiracies to commit some of the aforementioned crimes.
For someone on the Most Wanted list to be removed without death or capture, one of two conditions must be met, according to the FBI’s website. Either the federal case against the individual is dismissed or the criminal no longer fits the criteria to be considered “most wanted.”
According to its website, to be placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, a fugitive must be particularly dangerous to society or have a lengthy record of serious crimes. The FBI must also believe that national publicity will help assist in capturing the fugitive.
But some experts believe the decision to place people on the list can be complicated.
“I think it’s a political decision, the person they’re putting the most effort after,” Herrmann said.