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British Inquiry Continues in 'Friendly Fire' Case

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

In Britain, people are riveted by this case. On Friday, there will be a hearing by a coroner. Skeptics have criticized the American pilots and the U.S. military's investigation, and they accused the British Ministry of Defense of lying about the existence of the video in the first place.

NPR's Rob Gifford joins us now from London. And Rob, the U.S. military investigation is over, finding that the American pilots did nothing wrong but apparently, that's not the view in Britain.

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ROB GIFFORD: The British inquiry found very differently that the U.S. pilots had not followed the proper rules of engagement. It said, quote, "there are examples of non-standard procedures, a lack of situational awareness that these two U.S. pilots, in fact, did not have a clear idea of where they were and where the enemy was."

And this has, as you've suggested, caused a lot of anger here in Britain. Of course, the tabloids, the British tabloids, love to pick up stories like this. As you know, the war is very unpopular here. And so, there have been all sorts of editorials and articles about these U.S. cowboys in the sky who came down and didn't even check whether these were friendly forces on the ground and just fired these weapons at our boys. So it has been quite a, a sort of emotive couple of weeks leading up to this hearing.

BRAND: And is it fair to say, Rob, that had the Sun Newspaper not gotten hold of this video and released its contents, that this would not have been a big story in Britain.

GIFFORD: I think that's certainly been a major part of it. But one of the reasons that the inquest is still going on now, four years after Lance Corporal Hull's death, is because his widow was so insistent that there must be some kind of videotape. She was told by the British Ministry of Defense, that this tape did not exist. But she would not accept that answer, and she has continued to fight the Ministry of Defense for these four years.

And so finally, somebody leaked the video to the Sun Newspaper. It was put onto the Web, and now, the U.S. military has said, it can be used in the inquest, which after his hearing on Friday, will then begin next month.

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BRAND: NPR's Rob Gifford in London. Thank you.

GIFFORD: Thanks very much, Madeleine.

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BRAND: NPR's DAY TO DAY continues. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.