Saturday, April 25, 2015

Obama Apologizes After Drone Kills American and Italian Held by Al Qaeda

Warren Weinstein: Kidnapped Government Contractor Asks U.S. To Negotiate With Al Qaeda For His Release

WASHINGTON — An American aid worker and another man held hostage by Al Qaeda were killed in an American drone strike in Pakistan in January, government officials disclosed on Thursday, underscoring the perils of a largely invisible, long-distance war waged through video screens, joysticks and sometimes incomplete intelligence.
Intending to wipe out a compound linked to the terrorist group, the Central Intelligence Agency authorized the attack with no idea that the hostages were being held there despite hundreds of hours of surveillance, the officials said. Even afterward, they said, the agency did not realize at first that it had killed an American it had long sought to rescue, with the wrenching news becoming clear over time.
The violent death of an American at the hands of his own government proved a searing moment in a drone war that has come to define the nation’s battle with Al Qaeda, especially since President Obama took office. Visibly upset, Mr. Obama came to the White House briefing room shortly after his staff issued a written statement announcing the deaths to make a rare personal apology.
“As president and as commander in chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations,” the grim-faced president told reporters as television cameras broadcast his words. “I profoundly regret what happened,” he added. “On behalf of the United States government, I offer our deepest apologies to the families.”
The government is conducting two reviews of the drone strike to determine what went wrong, and the episode could force a broader rethinking of Mr. Obama’s approach to fighting Al Qaeda. Under the president’s policy, drone strikes are to be authorized only when it can be concluded to a “near certainty” that there will not be civilian casualties.
The two hostages, Warren Weinstein, an American kidnapped in 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian seized in 2012, were killed Jan. 15 in a remote area in Pakistan known as a Qaeda sanctuary, officials said. An American affiliated with Al Qaeda, Ahmed Farouq, was killed in the same strike. Another American member of Al Qaeda, Adam Gadahn, was killed in a separate strike in the same region Jan. 19, according to the officials.
Just as the C.I.A. did not know the hostages were present, it also did not know that the American Qaeda members were at the strike targets and they had not been specifically targeted, officials said. Mr. Farouq was the deputy head of Al Qaeda’s relatively new branch in India and was not publicly identified as an American until Thursday. Mr. Gadahn was better known as a Qaeda spokesman.
Officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence operations said it took weeks to piece together what happened.

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