WASHINGTON–Maryland members of Congress expressed grief and outrage following President Barack Obama’s announcement Thursday that Warren Weinstein, an aid worker held hostage in Pakistan, was accidentally killed in a counterterrorism attack in January. Weinstein, 73, was a Rockville resident.
“I’m saddened, disappointed and outraged that our government was not able to bring Warren home,” said Rep. John Delaney, D-Potomac. “Today’s news is a personal tragedy for Warren’s family but also a sobering national security and government failure. As Warren’s representative, I feel like his country failed him in his greatest time of need.”
Weinstein was held captive near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border for three years, according to a White House statement. Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian aid worker held captive by al-Qaida since 2012, was also killed in the counterterrorism strike.
“As a husband and as a father, I cannot begin to imagine the anguish that the Weinstein and Lo Porto families are enduring today,” President Barack Obama said at a press conference Thursday. “I realize that there are no words that can ever equal their loss.”
Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski echoed his sentiments.
“I was truly heartbroken to learn of the news of Warren Weinstein’s death,” she said. “I, along with several of my colleagues in the Maryland delegation, have worked closely with the Weinstein family in an effort to find Dr. Weinstein and reunite him with his loved ones.”
Weinstein’s wife, Elaine Weinstein, expressed her gratitude toward Maryland Congressional leaders.
“I want to thank Congressman John Delaney, Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Sen. Ben Cardin – as well as specific officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation – for their relentless efforts to free my husband.” she said.
Weinstein worked as a development adviser for J.E. Austin Associates, a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Obama said Weinstein, a former Peace Corps volunteer, “lived the ideals of our country.”
Obama said that U.S. officials initially believed there were no civilians at the al-Qaida compound targeted by the counterterrorism attack. He added that he believes the operation did take out “dangerous members of al-Qaida.”
“It is a cruel and bitter truth that in the fog of war generally and our fight against terrorists specifically, mistakes, sometimes deadly mistakes, can occur,” Obama said. “But one of the things that sets America apart from many other nations, one of the things that makes us exceptional is our willingness to confront squarely our imperfections and to learn from our mistakes.”
Maryland congressional leaders including Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, are calling for further action.
“We must fully investigate the events that led to Warren’s death,” Van Hollen said. “Much effort was put into finding Warren and bringing him home, but it wasn’t enough.”
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville added that counterterrorism procedures should be reviewed.
“Intelligence is our best defense against terrorism, but it is not a perfect science,” he said. “Our efforts now should be in reviewing our processes and safeguards to make sure no more innocent lives are lost.”
Others said that it was a reminder of the work still to come for U.S. forces.
“[Weinstein’s] death shows how critical it is to win the war against al-Qaida, ISIS, Hamas, and any other Islamic extremist terrorists who are willing to target innocent civilians or take them hostage,” Rep. Andy Harris, R-Cockeysville, said.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, expressed his grief and highlighted the sacrifices aid workers make.
“This incident reminds us of the extraordinary contributions and sacrifices of diplomats and aid workers from our country and our allies who serve on the front lines every day, often at great personal risk,” Hoyer said. “They continue to deserve our respect and admiration as they carry out their important work.”
Cardin added that aid workers must be protected against terrorist threats.
“The United States and our allies must work to ensure that the men and women who dedicate their lives to international development are properly safeguarded against threats,” Cardin said.