The accidental killing of two Western hostages in a drone strike was what President Obama calls a "deadly mistake"—and despite protests from the ACLU and others, it appears to have been a legal one, experts say. "I don't initially see legal problems," an assistant professor of government at American University tells the AP. ''If the attacks were carried out against al-Qaeda, they were legitimate under US law." President Obama said yesterday that he took "full responsibility" for the CIA drone strikes in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region in January, which also killed two American al-Qaeda suspects. In other developments:
- American officials say weeks of surveillance of the compound hit by a drone strike did not reveal the presence of American hostage Warren Weinstein and Italian hostage Giovanni Lo Porto, the New York Times reports. It was only from analyzing communications in the weeks after the strike that the CIA realized six people, not four, had been killed and buried, the Times reports.
- One of the harshest critics of the operation has been Weinstein's congressman, Rep. John K. Delaney of Maryland, who calls it "a sobering national security and government failure," Politico reports. The Democrat says he is "determined to ensure that Warren's story is not forgotten, that we get to the bottom of why Warren wasn't found and how he was killed, and that we drive tangible improvements to our hostage response process from an intelligence and resources coordination perspective."
- Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director, tells the AP that "the US quite literally didn't know who it was killing." "Everybody understands that if you are going to use lethal force, there are going to be civilian casualties," he says. "When in strike after strike after strike there are civilian casualties, it's very hard to understand how that record can be squared with what the president described in 2013," when he said no strikes would happen without the "near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured."
- The New York Times has a profile of Adam Gadahn, the American al-Qaeda propagandist killed in what the US says was "probably a separate" strike to the one that killed US al-Qaeda suspect Ahmed Farouq and the two hostages. Gadahn, a 36-year-old convert to Islam, grew up on a goat farm in California and is believed to have moved to Pakistan and joined al-Qaeda in the late 1990s, eventually becoming a member of Osama bin Laden's inner circle. He started appearing in propaganda videos in 2004, one of them praising the 9/11 attackers. In 2006, he became the first US citizen charged with treason since 1952. Gadahn, known as "Azzam the American," called Obama "snakelike" in a 2010 video.
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