WASHINGTON – The CIA's inspector general is examining whether an agency drone picked up an image of an American hostage in Pakistan months before he was accidentially killed by a CIA drone strike — and whether the agency therefore missed a chance to save him, U.S. officials briefed on the matter say.
Analysts are examining drone footage taken in 2014 that some believe could be a Western hostage, possibly Warren Weinstein, 73, of Rockville, Maryland, officials said. Other officials are convinced that the imagery does not depict Weinstein. Despite significant analysis, no conclusive determination has been made, officials say.
Investigators are trying to determine why the CIA lost track of the possible captive and whether it followed up on the imagery, the officials say. They would not be quoted because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the case, which was first reported Thursday by The Washington Post.
Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, a 39-year-old Italian aid worker, were killed when the CIA launched Hellfire missiles at an al-Qaida compound in Pakistan in January, targeting a senior militant. President Barack Obama announced the deaths in April with a public apology, saying the CIA did not know that the two hostages were present at the compound until afterward.
Weinstein and Lo Porto had spent years in captivity.
CIA officials discussed the matter in hearings of the Senate Intelligence Committee, where some lawmakers expressed concern, officials said.
Weinstein's widow, Elaine Weinstein, expressed outrage in a statement Thursday.
"They told us for three years that 'everything possible' was being done to find and rescue Warren. We now feel deceived," she said. "I cannot imagine any justification for the CIA not trying to rescue my husband - or even continue to track him - once they found a hostage who could have been him in Pakistan. How do I explain to my grandkids that the government could have saved their grandpa but decided not to?"
White House spokesman Ned Price declined to comment on the probe into the image of the possible hostage.
"As President Obama said in April, we take full responsibility for the counterterrorism operation that resulted in the unintended and tragic deaths of Dr. Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto," he said. "We have declassified as much information as possible about this operation, but there are still some specific operational details we cannot disclose consistent with national security interests."