The report, which was originally classified secret and written by a Marine colonel, criticizes the analysts for failing to make sure the pilot understood that the gunfire was aimed away from the Marines. The analysts "should have been more assertive," it says, "and "should have persisted with their assessment until the crew either accepted or refuted the assessment."
The report also criticizes the Marine lieutenant who led the battle for lacking "a complete understanding" of where his forces were located, and the sergeant in charge of the element that included Smith and Rast for not giving clear reports during the fight.
The analysts in Indiana told investigators that they did not believe they should intervene to block an airstrike if U.S. troops were possibly in danger, even if they had doubts about the targets.
When U.S. troops were under fire, the analysts told investigators, "they were to adopt a non-interference role, unless they observed an imminent violation" of the laws of war or women and children were present, the report said.
The email chat system also contributed to the breakdown in communications, investigators said.
After the Afghan civilians were mistakenly targeted in early 2009, the Air Force began installing equipment so drone video analysts could talk directly with drone pilots. The new equipment was not in place at the Indiana base in April, however.
The investigation of the deaths of the Marine staff sergeant and Navy hospitalman was completed in May and the findings were presented to Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, who was in command in Afghanistan at the time. Military officers briefed Smith's father, Jerry, on Wednesday in Fort Worth and met with Rast's father, Robert, on Friday in South Bend, Ind.
"Everybody was convinced everybody knew where everybody else was — including Jeremy," Jerry Smith said in a telephone interview after he was briefed. "It was just a horrible set of circumstances."
Smith said he was briefed on the investigation for more than three hours by a Marine investigator and by Marine and Air Force officers. He said he has not yet read the report.
Smith was shown video images taken by the Predator, he said. He saw "three blobs in really dark shadows" — his son, Rast and the other Marine mistakenly identified by the Predator crew as Taliban. He said it was impossible to see uniforms or weapons.
"You couldn't even tell they were human beings — just blobs," he said.
Smith said he asked investigators about the reflective tags that U.S. forces wear on their uniforms to help identify them to friendly aircraft. He was told the tags didn't work in low-light conditions such as the shaded area where his son took cover.
Smith said he didn't blame anyone for his son's death, and did not want "scapegoats." He said he favored improved training and procedures to prevent future friendly fire attacks and counseling for those involved in the April 6 attack.
"I know whoever was at that [Predator] joystick is devastated," he said. "If I could meet them, I'd hug them and tell them I don't have any ill feelings toward them. I know their daddies are just as proud of them as I am of my son."
When Smith met his son's platoon and company commanders as the 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, returned to Houston this month, he said both men broke down and sobbed. He said he assured the officers he did not blame them.
"I'm sure everyone involved is second-guessing themselves worse than I ever could."