U.S. intelligence agency is conducting internal investigation to determine whether aid worker killing could have been prevented.
The CIA is looking at whether it missed an opportunity to run drone surveillance on an apparent Western hostage in Pakistan, who later was killed in a U.S. strike, the Washington Post reported.
The U.S. intelligence agency now believes that a heavily guarded figure spotted in drone footage may have been veteran aid worker Warren Weinstein, who was killed inadvertently in a U.S. strike against an Al Qaeda compound near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in January.
Weinstein, 73, was killed along with Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto, 39, in a drone attack that U.S. President Barack Obama subsequently apologized for.
In a story Thursday, the Washington Post said the CIA is conducting an internal investigation into whether the failure to keep the apparent hostage under surveillance was a lapse. The CIA spotted the hostage months before the deadly drone attack, which also killed Ahmed Farouq, the deputy leader of Al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent.
U.S. officials stressed to the newspaper that the drone footage was inconclusive and it’s still not clear if the figure was indeed Weinstein. Obama administration officials told the Post that those saying the agency failed to identify Weinstein have the benefit of hindsight.
But senior members of the Senate Intelligence Committee were dismayed the CIA didn’t continue surveillance of the hostage or try to track him, the Post reported.
Obama has said the CIA appeared to have followed guidelines he’d established to avoid killing civilians, and officials told the Post there was no evidence the agency had strayed from these rules.
Widow Elaine Weinstein said she was “horrified” at the news. “We believed the president when he told us that rescuing American hostages was his highest priority,” she said in a statement. “They told us for three years that ‘everything possible’ was being done to find and rescue Warren. We now feel deceived.”
Obama’s acknowledgement that the drone attack killed two hostages prompted fresh questions about the limits and risks of America’s “targeted killing” campaign.
Since taking office in 2009, Obama has relied heavily on drone raids to hunt down Al Qaeda leaders and other Islamist extremists from Pakistan’s tribal areas to Somalia and Yemen.
Weinstein was snatched after gunmen tricked their way into his home in Lahore on Aug. 13, 2011 shortly before he was due to return home after seven years working in Pakistan.