The White House said emphatically Wednesday that Osama bin Laden’s death was “fully consistent with the laws of war.”
As questions swirl about what happened inside the Pakistani compound where bin Laden was killed on Sunday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the U.S. personnel involved were instructed and prepared to take bin Laden into custody if he surrendered.
“The team had the authority to kill Osama bin Laden unless he offered to surrender, in which case the team was required to accept his surrender if the team could do so safely,” Carney said.
“The operation was conducted in a manner fully consistent with the laws of war. The operation was planned so that the team was prepared and had the means to take bin Laden into custody.”
He said the administration had “gotten to the point where we cannot cross lines because of the necessity for — to preserving the methods and operational techniques and — and capabilities of the kinds of forces that were used in this case.”
“We've gone to the limit of our abilities to do that and still maintain some of the things we need to maintain and be kept secret,” Carney said.
Carney’s defense of U.S. actions come as some Pakistani officials have criticized Obama for ignoring their country’s sovereignty in ordering a squad to enter Pakistan to take out bin Laden. Obama said he would authorize such action as a candidate.
“There is simply no question that this operation was lawful,” Carney said. “Bin Laden was the head of al Qaeda, the organization that conducted the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. And al Qaeda and bin Laden himself had continued to plot attacks against the United States. We acted in the nation's self-defense. The operation was conducted in a way designed to minimize and avoid altogether, if possible, civilian casualties, and if I might add, that was done at great risk to Americans.”