Obama defends intelligence after hostage deaths
A day after revealing an intelligence failure that cost the lives of two al- Qaida hostages, U. S President Barack Obama on Friday praised his spying operations as the most capable in the world while promising a review aimed at preventing future mistakes.
“We all bleed when we lose an American life,” Obama said in a speech at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to mark its 10th anniversary. “We all grieve when any innocent life is taken. We don’t take this work lightly. And I know that each and every one of you understand the magni- tude of what we do and the stakes involved. And these aren’t abstractions and we’re not cavalier about what we do.”
Obama said he knows that the U.S. intelligence community has faced criticism but argued that the world doesn’t always see their successes that have prevented attacks and saved lives. He said he could not do his job without their insights and analysis and they can take great pride in their work.
“We’re more secure because of your service,” Obama said. “It’s been 10 long and challenging years, but when we look back on those 10 years the American people have been a whole lot safer.”
Obama was speaking one day after making the surprise announcement that a counterterrorism operation in January against an al-Qaida compound accidentally killed two aid workers being held hostage — American Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto. Obama said that despite hundreds of hours of surveillance of the compound, the U.S. was unaware the hostages were in the targeted position.
The White House said the attack also killed two American al-Qaida leaders, Ahmed Farouq and Adam Gadahn, without the U.S. knowing in advance they were there. Targeting an American with a drone strike would have triggered a more intense review in consideration of constitutional due process protections.
“We’re going to review what happened,” Obama said Friday. “We’re going to identify the lessons that can be learned and any improvements and changes that can be made. And I know those of you who are here share our determination to continue doing everything we can to prevent the loss of innocent lives.”
The American president said the willingness of his administration to review the circumstances behind the deaths and make corrections sets the U.S. apart from other nations.