Pelosi on hostage deaths: 'Something that should never happen'

Pelosi on hostage deaths: 'Something that should never happen'
© Greg Nash

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that the January killing of two Western hostages by U.S. anti-terror forces was a tragedy that should never have occurred.

The House minority leader said President Obama did the right thing by taking full responsibility for the incident, but she suggested the deaths were preventable.

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"Beyond collateral damage, it is something that should never happen," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. "And part of their legacy is for us to do better when it comes to fighting the fight and not losing the lives of those who are there in hostage situations."

At a press conference Thursday morning, Obama acknowledged that U.S. counterterrorism strikes against al Qaeda forces on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border killed a pair of aid workers held hostage by the group — an Italian and an American from Maryland.

"As president and as commander in chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations,” Obama said.

Pelosi characterized the two aid workers as "public servants trying to make the world a better place" and praised Obama's call to declassify the incident for the sake of the victims' families.

"I look forward to what he called for, the declassification of all the information related to the strike, so that the families will know the facts and so will the public," Pelosi said.

Pelosi, who was previously the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said she's also eager to see the intelligence reports that led U.S. forces to believe no hostages were in the vicinity of the strikes.

"I'd be interested to read all that I can about it from an intelligence standpoint and a public domain standpoint," she said. "My understanding is they believe they had what they needed to know that led them to believe that there was nobody there except their target."

The family of Warren Weinstein, the American aid worker, issued a statement Thursday saying they were "devastated" to learn Weinstein was killed by friendly fire.

"We were so hopeful that those in the U.S. and Pakistani governments with the power to take action and secure his release would have done everything possible to do so and there are no words to do justice to the disappointment and heartbreak we are going through," Elaine Weinstein, his wife, said.

Pelosi declined to weigh in on the family's reaction, emphasizing instead the "terrible situation" facing the U.S. in the fight against Islamic terrorists.

"No apology is enough, and as he [Obama] said, words are totally inadequate," she said. "It's a tragic, terrible, terrible day. There's no way to say anything less."