Prime Minister David Cameron told the public this week that British aid worker Linda Norgrove may have been accidentally killed by U.S. forces during a rescue mission in Afghanistan. He attributed the death to the possible use of a grenade by U.S. forces in the rescue effort.
Cameron emphasized that the rescue mission had his full support and that of the family since they believed that Norgrove was in “grave danger”.
There is an investigation pending.
We discussed such cases in class recently and how, under the common law, such alleged mistakes do not result in liability under the public necessity privilege. Even when countries waive sovereign immunity (which in our country originated in the English rule that “the King can do no wrong”), public necessity normally does not create a duty to compensate. The case of the bombing of Coventry is often cited in this area. In that case, the British declined to warn Coventry of a planned bombing attack to hide the fact that the English and Americans had broken the German Enigma-based code under Operation Ultra. Later claims were denied by English courts.
The tragedy of Norgrove’s death (particularly at the hands of our own forces) is incredible. She was clearly a wonderful person who cared more about others than herself. She was a force for love and charity — a force that was destroyed by extremists who viewed her as little more than an object in their hateful crusade. If this report is true, it is important to keep in mind that every U.S. soldier in this operation was willing to lay down his own life for Norgrove in participating in this mission. It is of course little solace for this family who lost an angel and an inspiration to the whole world.