As the White House clams up, Osama's family is telling their side of the story.
The White House said Wednesday that it will go into no further detail about the covert operation that killed Osama bin Laden, an operation whose narrative has been changed several times in various important ways (all of which you can read about here). But that doesn't mean other people are going to stop talking about it, and Bin Laden's 12-year-old daughter, Safia, reportedly has a lot to say.
Citing Pakistani security officials in custody of Safia, Arabic news network Al-Arabiya reported yesterday that the girl says her father was taken into Navy SEAL custody alive before being shot execution style in front of her and her family. She says his corpse was then dragged into a helicopter and taken away, never to be seen again.
Safia's accusations differ substantially from the Obama administration's accounting of what happened that night in Abbottabad, though, as we said before, in the past few days the administration's story has changed almost literally from hour to hour as the "fog of war" clears. At first they said Bin Laden may have been armed and used his wife as a human shield, but both of those things were later said to be false. What the White House will admit is that Bin Laden was unarmed when he was killed.
Because the Osama mission has twice been called a "kill mission" by anonymous U.S. officials, and because it was led by the CIA, which isn't beholden to the same rules of engagement as the military, it's very possible it was legal for SEALs to shoot Bin Laden in custody. From what White House spokesperson Jay Carney has said, "unless [Bin Laden] offered to surrender," the commandos were allowed to kill him, and even then they only had to accept his surrender "if the team could do so safely." In other words, even if Bin Laden was willingly waving the white flag, if the SEALs for some reason considered it unsafe to take him alive, they could kill him.
In essence, regardless of what happened to Osama that night, it wouldn't have been murder by the government's lights. End of story.