President Barack Obama announced a retooled hostage policy aimed at correcting the sense many families have that the government has let them down, he said Wednesday.
The president said the families with loved ones held by terrorist networks told him they felt like a distraction to government agency officials and that they received information “begrudgingly.”
“This ends today,” he said. “These families are to be treated like what they are – our trusted partners, active partners in the recovery of their loved ones.”
Warren Weinstein, who was working for a Virginia-based consulting firm in Pakistan, was abducted in 2011 and held by members of al-Qaida until his death earlier this year.
In January, Weinstein and an Italian hostage were accidentally killed in a drone strike on what U.S. intelligence determined was an al-Qaida compound in Pakistan.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Weinstein’s wife Elaine reiterated her appeal to the government that it offer a coordinated and consistent approach to all hostages and their families.
“We hope to be the last family that fails to receive the level of coordinated government support that those who serve abroad deserve when trouble finds them. As Warren’s case makes painfully clear, the people who take American citizens working abroad as hostages do not discriminate based on their job or employer, and neither should our government.”
While calling the newly created Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell a “good idea” she said the person with sole responsibility for safe hostage recovery policies would be better positioned at the National Security Council “since that would not only give the position more inter-agency coordinating authority but also ensure that those debating counterterrorism activities and hostage recovery efforts were sitting in the same room.”
“This review will not bring Warren back,” she concluded. “It is our most sincere hope that it was conducted fully and frankly so the U.S. government can have an honest conversation about the areas where it falls short. Our benchmark for this review’s success will be the actions arising from it more than its specific findings.”
Weinstein would have turned 74 on July 3.
Read the administration’s full report on U.S. hostage policy.