The death of a Rockville man accidentally killed in a U.S. drone strike against al-Qaida in Pakistan has prompted officials to seek answers about how his death could have been avoided.
“Moving forward, I have many questions about how this tragedy occurred, and I urge a comprehensive U.S. government review of the case as soon as possible,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, said on Thursday.
Rep. John Delaney, D-District 6,also called for an investigation Thursday into the death of Warren Weinstein, a contractor with the U.S. Agency for International Development who was held hostage by al-Qaida for 3½ years before being killed in a U.S. attack in January on an al-Qaida compound where he was being held. On Thursday, the White House announced his death and that of an Italian aid worker who was also a hostage.
“It is essential that the review of this tragic accident be a true investigation that focuses on the events surrounding Warren’s death and the intelligence efforts that were deployed to locate him,” Delaney said. “Our national security and intelligence response to hostages must improve and improve quickly.”
Delaney, who worked with Weinstein’s family with the hope of freeing him, said he was introducing legislation to improve how U.S. officials respond to hostage-taking, “in the hope that more families don’t suffer the same fate.”
President Barack Obama announced that two separate January attacks accidentally killed Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto. Obama said intelligence officials believed no hostages were present when the strikes targeted al-Qaida compounds in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Two other Americans who were al-Qaida members also were killed in the attacks. Obama said they were not targeted and were not known to be at the compounds either.
Weinstein’s family responded to the news with a statement criticizing the U.S. and Pakistani response to his captivity.
“We hope that my husband’s death and the others who have faced similar tragedies in recent months will finally prompt the U.S. Government to take its responsibilities seriously and establish a coordinated and consistent approach to supporting hostages and their families,” his wife, Elaine Weinstein, said in a statement.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said on Thursday that the Senate Intelligence Committee was already reviewing the attacks that led to the two civilians’ deaths.
“I agree with the president that, to the greatest extent possible, more information on U.S. counterterrorism operations should be made public,” she said. “I believe this should include an annual report on the number of deaths—both combatant and civilian—from U.S. strikes. We must be certain our counterterrorism strategy is aimed at defeating terrorist organizations and that counterterrorism operations, which I believe to be highly successful at removing individual terrorist targets, are furthering that goal.”
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, said he had “requested a full account of the events that led to Dr. Weinstein’s and Mr. Lo Porto’s deaths.”
Obama said he has ordered a “full review” of the strikes.