After mistakenly killing two hostages in a CIA drone strike last year, the Obama administration issued a rare public apology to the victim’s families and has reached a settlement with one of the families. According to U.S. officials, the family of the Italian hostage agreed to settle for nearly $3 million, while the family of the American hostage has yet to reach a settlement for the taking of their son’s life by his own government.
After weeks of reviewing intercepted cellphone conversations, drone feeds, satellite data, and informants’ reports, the CIA launched drones from a base in Afghanistan on January 15, 2015. The drones crossed the border into Pakistan and flew over the Shawal Valley to conduct a strike against four suspected al-Qaeda operatives. After the attack, surveillance video recorded six bodies being pulled from the debris instead of four.
Two of the bodies belonged to kidnapped aid workers, Dr. Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto. Abducted in 2011, Dr. Weinstein had lived in Maryland before moving to Pakistan to become director for a consulting firm working with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Lo Porto, an Italian national, was taken hostage in 2012 while attempting to perform humanitarian work in Pakistan.
Included amongst the rubble was the body of another American. Alleged al-Qaeda deputy leader, Ahmed Farouq also died in the strike. According to U.S. officials, Farouq was born in the United States and moved to Pakistan as a child.
Four months after the drone strike, President Obama publicly acknowledged their deaths and apologized to the families of Lo Porto and Weinstein. Senior legislators later disclosed that the CIA had detected a Western hostage held by al-Qaeda for months before the strike but chose not to conduct further surveillance on the hostage.
On Friday, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported that the U.S. government had signed an agreement earlier this summer to give Lo Porto’s family 1.18 million euros to compensate them for their loss. But U.S. officials recently stated the sum was closer to 2.6 million euros, or roughly $3 million.
“When we announced Mr. Lo Porto’s death in a U.S. Government counterterrorism operation last year, we affirmed that the United States would provide a condolence payment to his family,” Ned Price, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told The Washington Post. “We did so knowing that no dollar figure could ever bring back their loved ones.”
In a statement expressing sorrow for her son’s death, Lo Porto’s mother wrote, “I will not see my son at home with his smile. They took my precious son and they also killed me. Now all that remains for me is to wait until the last day of my life for divine, not earthly, justice.”
Although Lo Porto’s family agreed to a settlement with the U.S. government, the Weinstein family has yet to reach an adequate amount that would compensate them for their son’s needless death. Since the inception of the drone program, the CIA has killed at least eight U.S. citizens, including a hostage and an innocent 16-year-old boy, without due process.
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