hi, there, i'm brianna keilar in for wolf blitzering. wherever you're watching from around the world, thank you for joining us. this is cnn breaking news. >> we begin with some breaking news and i will tell you right now, we are awaiting the white house press briefing set tabegin any moment now. we're talking today about the death of two innocent hostages in a u.s. counterterrorism operation in pakistan. one of those killed was american warren weinstein, who was kidnapped in august of 2011 in pakistan. the u.s. has not recovered weinstein's body.
it did not conduct a dna test. an italian hostage, geovonna lo porto was killed in that same operation. president obama takes full responsibility for the drone strike that killed the two hostages and he expressed sympathy to their families. >> as a husband and as a father i cannot begin to imagine the anguish that the weinstein and lo porto families are enduring today. i realize there are no words that can ever equal their loss. i know that there is nothing that i can ever say or do to ease their heart ache. and today i simply want to say this. as president and as commander in chief, i take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations, including the one that ined a inadvertently took the lives of warren and giovanni. i regret what happened. on behalf of the united states government i offer our deepest apologies to the families.
>> all right, we are currently the white house briefing has just begun. we're monitoring that. we'll bring that to you. we expect the press secretary will be talking about this. the administration has also revealed that an american al qaeda member was killed along with the two hostages. and then also american adam gadahn was killed in a separate strike later. i want to take you now to the white house where the briefing has just begun and josh earnest, no doubt, will be addressing this. >> to share as much information as possible with you and with the american people about what occurred. in pursuit of that effort i spent a decent portion of the last 24 hours talking with our national security team talking with the attorneys on our international security team to try to collect as much information as possible and to give you as much detail as possible so i could answer your questions on this matter. however, as you would expect in order to protect our availability to carry out counterterrorism operations there are some details,
including some very basic details that i will not be in a position to discuss. for example, i'm not going to be in a position to talk with precision about where this operation occurred. and i'm not going to be able to talk in much detail at all on how this operation was carried out. that all said we're not planning a background briefing here at the white house. i'm here at the president's instruction to answer as many questions and as much detail as i can on the record and in public. and as the president mentioned, our country and our government's willingness to face up to mistakes and redouble our efforts to review protocols and proernlss to prevent them from happening again is one of the things that makes our country so unique and contribute significantly to our strength. in that spirit josh let's get start would some questions. >> thanks josh. let's start with just some of the facts of what happened so you can discuss them. how many other people were killed in these two strikes?
either local civilians or militants militants? >> josh i won't be able to provide specific numbers on this. i can tell you that in the specific strike that resulted in the death of dr. weinstein and mr. lo porto, there was one other al qaeda leader who was among those who was killed. that is the ahmed farouq the american citizen al qaeda leader. this was a strike against an al qaeda compound. and the result was the death of at least one al qaeda leader. i can tell you that the assess assessment that we have right now does not raise questions about additional civilian loss of life. again, the reason for that is that the standard that was in
place and to the best of our knowledge, was closely followed by our counterterrorism professionals was to adhere to this near certainty standard. and that near certainty standard applied to two things. the first near certainty that this was an al qaeda compound that was used by al qaeda leaders that turned out to be true. that assessment did turn out to be correct. the other near certainty assessment would be that no civilians would be harmed if this operation was carried out. unfortunately, that was not correct. and the operation led to this tragic unintended consequence. >> and there's very little at this point that we know about the gadahn operation. who was the target of that operation and were others killed in that strike? >> josh i can tell you that mr. gadahn was not specifically targeted. but, in a fashion that was similar to the operation that we are discussing that resulted in
the death of dr. weinstein and mr. lo porto, the operation was against an al qaeda compound. again, this was a scenario where u.s. officials had determined with near certainty that an operation could be carried out against an al qaeda compound that was frequented or where at least one al qaeda leader was located. that operation did result in the death of mr. gadahn. >> are you saying basically, there was not specific individuals that were being targeted in that strike but more the u.s. knew this was a place al qaeda guys went and, so the u.s. struck there under - the presumption that they would be likely to get out and take out some al qaeda operatives by striking that location? >> yeah based on again, based on the intelligence assessment they could conclude with near certainty that this was an al qaeda compound that was frequented by al qaeda leaders
or at least an al qaeda leader. there is one other element of the near certainty standard that applied to the first operation. the one that resulted in the death of ahmed furouq and that is there were hundreds of hours of surveillance against that particular al qaeda compound. and this surveillance included near continuous surveillance in the days leading up to the operation. and that is what led to the near certain assessment that it was an al qaeda compound frequented by an al qaeda leader and did not include or that civilians would not be included in an operation against the compound. obviously, the latter assessment was incorrect. >> we know the strikes took place in january, but you said in your statement this morning that the u.s. recently confirmed what had happened and that these individuals had died.
can you tell us when exactly was that? are we talking days weeks, months ago? and how long did you wait after coming to those conclusions before informing the families of these hostages? >> josh this is a good question. and let me try to explain how this process works. when counterterrorism operation is carried out, it is followed by a battle damage assessment where our intelligence professionals evaluate the region or the area where the operation was carried out. to determine the results of the operation and whether or not, if any, civilian casualties occurred. and in the process of carrying out that battle damage assessment that draws on multiple sources of intel, there was some indication that dr. weinstein had been killed.
this was not in the early stages linked directly to the u.s. government operation. so as intelligence was collected that indicated or at least raised questions about whether or not dr. weinstein was still alive, the intelligence community that had been devoting significant resources to trying to find and rescue him began to explore more completely whether, in fact dr. weinstein was dead and to try to circumstances of his death. only in the last several days did the intelligence community reach a, an assessment with high with a high degree of confidence. that dr. weinstein had been killed in a u.s. government counterterrorism operation. the president was briefed by his national security team very soon after that high confidence assessment was completed.
upon receiving that assessment the president directed his team as i made reference to to declassify as much information as possible about this specific operation. for two reasons. one is to provide details to the families. and, two, is to be candid with the american public and with the world about what had happened. the president mentioned in his statement that he believes the united states derives important strength from having the confidence and courage to face up to mistakes when they are made. even when they are as serious as this. i guess he would say, particularly when they're as serious as this. let me say one other thing about our communication with the weinstein family. and that is that there was an open line of communication with the weinstein family. the weinstein family was very aware as they indicated in their statement today. the government was working diligently to try to find dr. weinstein. and when there was intelligence
indicating the possible death of dr. weinstein, that information oz alsowas also share would the family. but only after the high-confidence assessment was completed in the last several days was the family informed that the intelligence community does assess that dr. weinstein was killed in a u.s. government counterterrorism operation. >> and i know many of us have been reflecting as i'm sure you have on the 2013 speech that the president gave at national defense university laying out his kind of strategy and, in that speech the president was pretty firm about laying out this standard of near certainty that no civilians would be killed or injured in a strike. today, from this podium we heard, you know quite a different type of rhetoric. we heard the president talking about the fog of war and the
cruel truth that deadly mistakes can often happen when you're fighting terrorists. i'm wondering, has the president lived up to the principles that he set out for himself when he gave that speech? >> the president has absolutely lived up to the principles that were laid out in that speech. prior to giving that speech there was not a lot of clear guidance. there was not clear or at least the protocols were not as clear as they were today about how these kind of counterterrorism operations should be carried out. and because of the diligent work of the president and his national security team and our national security professionals, there is much greater clarity about how the, our counterterrorism officials can both use our significant capabilities to protect the american people while also living up to the very high standards and values that are
that the president expects. and, so that is what that is what the goal of those protocols and those reforms that the president laid out in the speech. what's also clear and what i would also readily admit to you is that in the aftermath of a situation like this it raises legitimate questions about whether additional changes need to be made to those protocols. again, to put it more bluntly, we have national security professionals who diligently follow those protocols based on everything we know so far. they follow those protocols and yet it still resulted in this unintended but very tragic consequence. that's why the president has directed his team to conduct a review of this particular operation. to see if there are lessons learned and reforms we can implement to this process. what i can also let you know is that there is an ongoing inspector general review of this matter. so, that there will have an
opportunity for someone to take an independent look at this particular operation and also offer up recommendations for changes that could be made that could do more to prevent these kinds of again, tragic unintended consequences from occurring in the future. >> lastly on this issue of reviewing what happened. there's been a flurry of statements this morning from members of congress you know not only joining the president and offering condolences, but promising rigorous oversight from some of the relevant congressional committees. does the white house feel that congress has a role to play in figuring out what went wrong here and how to possibly prevent it from happening again? >> well, josh i can tell you that the president believes that congress does have a very important oversight rule over these kinds of programs. that's why in the president's national defense university speech that he delivered a couple of years ago, he made clear that when these kinds of counterterrorism operations are carried out the relative members of congress are briefed about each operation. that is an indication of the
seriousness with which the administration pursues cooperating with legitimate congressional oversight. and i can tell you that as these intelligence assessments about the death of dr. weinstein and the ultimate high confidence assessment assessment that information was also shared with relevant members of congress. >> okay. all right. jeff? >> josh will the u.s. government provide compensation to the families of the two hostages that were killed? >> yes. >> can you give any details about that or not much? >> i'm not aware of what the details of that compensation is. but i can tell you that compensation will be provided to both families. to both dr. weinstein and the family of mr. lo porto. >> how will this incident affect specifically the u.s. policy government policy on usage of drones? >> well jeff there are certain
aspects of the specific operation that i'm not going to be able to discuss, including how the specific operation was carried out. but i can say a couple things as a general matter. the first is the president and i had an opportunity to talk about this with him today, believes that his top priority is keeping the american people safe. and in this particular incident it is particularly painful and tragic that in the course of carrying out an operation that was aimed at trying to protect the american public that american citizen, innocent american citizen lost his life. and it highlights the challenge that our counterterrorism professionals confront every day in terms of balancing the need to use our significant capabilities to protect the american people with the need to carry out these operations consistent with the values that we hold dear in this country.
>> can you address the issue of drones in any way? i take it you don't want to confirm that that is what was used on this particular strike? >> i'm not in the position to talk about how the operation was carried out. >> can you talk to them about the future review of drone strategy more generally? >> what i can say is that these counterterrorism operations that are critical to the national security of the united states and critical to the safety of the american people continue. at the same time there is an ongoing review both by our national security infustructure and by inspector general to review what occurred in this particular operation. and to make recommendations about some reforms to the protocols and policies that are in place that would make it less likely that an unintended consequence like this would crop up, again. and, that is not, these kinds of
reviews are not unusual. the security professionals after every operation try to ereview what had occurred even when it's successful. particularly when it's successful to derive lessons learned and look for other ways or changes that could be put in place to strengthen our protocols, both in terms of their capabilities and ensuring that they're living up to the values that are so important to our country. >> mr. weinstein said today she hoped her husband death would prompt the u.s. government to take its responsibility seriously and establish a coordinated and consistent approach to supporting hostages and their families. do you hear that criticism and can or should the united states government be doing more to support hostages and their families? >> well jeff i probably should have said this earlier, but it's the president had the opportunity to do that this morning. but let me use this opportunity to convey our condolences to the
weinstein family for the death of dr. weinstein. and the weinstein family right now is enduring something that's unthinkable. to contemplate the loss of their loved one in this particular manner. and our thoughts and prayers of everybody here at the white house is with the weinstein family. so an expression, given those circumstances an expression along the lines of what you just read from her statement is of course understandable. and what she also noted in her statement is her appreciation for u.s. counterterrorism and national security professionals that had gone through great lengths to try to rescue her husband and to do their best to keep the family informed. but we have heard from other families who have been in this terrible situation about the need for improved communication with the federal government. when they're in the midst of these circumstances. and the president has ordered a review of the way in which the
government and our national security apparatus communicates with families that are in this terrible position. and, so the president is familiar with that frustration that is understandable and is articulated in her statement. and the goal of the op going review is to try to address those frustrations. i don't have any announcements to make in terms of the timing for that review but i would anticipate that that review would be done relatively soon. mike? >> thanks josh. two things. following up on what jeff asked, is there, can you say that the use of counterterrorism operations like the one that was used in this incident have been reduced because of the review that's op going? in other words, are things happening less often? are those strikes happening less often because this review is under way? has a spigot been turned off? >> let me try is to answer your question this way which is that
the united states retains significant capabilities to protect the american people. and the expectation that the president has, and this is mentioned in the national defense university speech is that when these operations are carried out that they follow very specific protocols and procedures. that balance the need to protect the american people with the need to adhere to very high standards in terms of preventing civilian casualties. consistent with those protocols, our counterterrorism operations continue. and if there are reforms that are derived from the review that can strengthen those protocols or make those protocols more likely to result in successful counterterrorism operations then the administration will have to quickly to implement those reforms. >> second i appreciate your
trying to give us a timeline of when you learned what you guys learned. but there's almost no times in the timeline. so let's just real quickly, what day did this happen? did the strikes happen? >> i'm not able to say. >> you said where or how? that's a when. >> the when is in that same category. unfortunately, that was not an exhaustive list i am not able to disclose. the president, what we have indicated is that these, both of these strikes that were mentioned in my written statement this morning occurred in january. but precisely when -- >> early, late -- >> i'm not able to say precisely when in january. >> can you say then can you give us some sense of when you, when the government first learned or first suspected that mr. weinstein was perhaps dead not yet known that it was at the hands of the u.s., but is that february early february late
february? i mean give us a sense of the time when that happened. >> i would say that in the weeks after the strike there were and in the weeks after the operation, there were there started to be some intelligence that indicated the possible death of dr. weinstein. and it was in the course of following up on those intelligence leads and developing intelligence from a wide variety of sources that the intelligence community was able to assess with high confidence that dr. weinstein had been killed. >> an initial assessment would have been in february if it was weeks because the strikes, the operations happened in january. so in february some time you guys had that initial assessment that they might be dead. >> i don't think that the intelligence community actually reached an assessment in february. i think -- >> they started hearing things. >> and at that point in february they also communicated to the
family hey, we think he might be dead. >> i don't have a specific time frame for that. but what i can tell you is that as the intelligence community began to develop information pointed to the death of dr. weinstein. that information was briefed to the president and that information was share would the weinstein family. >> you don't have the information because you don't have it or because -- what would the security risks boof ss be of telling us with more precision of when some of these things happen? >> as it relates to it is hard for me. >> i guess the strike itself but be more precise about this seems to be in the interest of what the president just promised the american public about transparency. >> there's no doubt that we are having a rather detailed conversation about a previously classified operation. and that is consistent with the spirit of what the president talked about in the statement this morning. i do think that for me to talk
about specific time frames when we learned a piece of information through intelligence could compromise sources and methods. and that's something that we obviously, are very mindful of when talking about these kinds of matters. >> josh was the president the one yesterday who first communicated the wine teen family that warren weinstein was dead? >> no he was not the first person to convey that information to them. there are members of the national security apparatus that had been in regular touch with the wine teen familyeinstein family to try to rescue him. >> was yesterday the first time they were told of confirmation that he was dead? >> yes, the first time they were informed eded that dr. weinstein had been killed in the context of a u.s. government counterterrorism operation. >> did the president sign off on either of these strikes specifically or keeping with the policy because the presumption that there were no americans there and part of policy that these strikes would continue
with his official signing off on these specific operations? >> the president did not specifically sign off on these two operations. there are policies and protocols in place for our counterterrorism professionals to make decisions about carrying out these kinds of operations based on a wide variety of things including an assessment of near certainty that the target is an al qaeda target. and that civilians would not be harmed if the operation were carried out. and that is a decision that is -- that is a policy that the president and his team have put in place that as far as we know followed by counterterrorism professionals. let me conclude the answer by saying that the president was very direct up here today when he indicated that he while he did not sign off on the specific operation, he does take full responsibility as the commander in chief for the unintended
tragic consequences that resulted from the operation. >> adam gadahn although he wasn't the specific target of the second of two strikes, was he a target that the u.s. was trying to find and would they knowing that he was there, pursued that strike against adam? >> the thing you know about mr. gadahn indicted for treason in 2006. that is an indication that he is somewhat somebody who presented a danger to the united states and our interests. and he is somebody that the united states was very interested in finding. >> would have the president have said go forward, would the president have wanted to go forward with said strike if he knew adam gadahn was there? >> well it's hard for me to entertain a hypothetical like that. >> were you pursuing strikes? >> he was not classified as an htc, but he was, obviously, somebody who was wanted by the u.s. government because he was indicted for treason.
there is a procedure and a policy again, one that the president put in place for carrying out counterterrorism operations against american citizens where necessary. but in this case mr. gadahn was not targeted. what was targeted was the al qaeda compound that he frequented. that strike did succeed in taking some al qaeda leaders off the battlefield. >> put out a short statement these new disclosures raise troubling questions about the intelligence that the government is relying on to drone strikes and the u.s. quite literally didn't know who it was killing. these and recent strikes in which civilians were killed made clear a significant gap between the stringent standard the government says it's using and the standards that are actually being used. what is the white house's response to that? >> well i strenuously disagree e. there is no evidence at this point to indicate that our
counterterrorism professionals deviated from the established protocols. but it also is important for us to step back here and recognize the situation that we're confronting. we're talking about the afghanistan/pakistan region. this is a region of the world that is exceedingly remote. the president talked about this in his speech back in may of 2013 that al qaeda figures hide out in these areas because they're remote. they hide out in these areas because they know that local forces don't, in some cases, don't have the will. in some cases don't have the capacity to go after them. and when you're talking about a circumstance like that and the other thing that they know because it's so remote, that the possibility of putting u.s. boots on the ground to go after them is just not feasible. and what that means is that when we're talking about an environment like this absolute certainty is not just not possible.
what we can do instead, though leverage intelligence assets to for example in this case actually conduct extensive surveillance of a particular compound. and as i mentioned, hundreds of thundershower hours of surveillance was conducted against this particular compound. we know that near continuous surveillance of this compound was conducted in the days leading up to the operation. and based on that surveillance and other forms of intelligence intelligence communities did assess with near certainty that this is an al qaeda compound frequented by al qaeda leaders. that assessment turned out to pea correct. based on that that no civilianed with be at risk if the operation were carried out. now, what we also know is that al qaeda considers these kinds of hostages to be extraordinarily valuable. and they go to tremendous lengths to try to conceal the
location of these hostages. and that is why, unfortunately, that near certainty assessment was wrong. and that is why the president has directed a review to determine if the are any changes that we can make to determine or to make it less likely that these kinds of unintended consequences would occur again. >> al qaeda make a trade and the u.s. making a similar trade that they made for bowe bergdahl for the life of warren weinstein and was one ever offered? >> peter, the u.s. government went to great lengths to try to rescue dr. weinstein. that there was significant resources dedicated to trying to determine his whereabouts. >> did we offer a trade? >> we have been very clear about the policy of the united states as painful as it is. it is a policy that prevents the united states from negotiating with terrorists.
and that policy was in place in the course of our efforts to try to secure the rescue of dr. weinstein. and, again, this is a policy that particularly to the weinstein family is a very difficult one. and i think, frankly, i think it's a pretty difficult policy even for just the average human being. but the analysis is a reasonable one. which is that to engage in the practice of negotiating with terrorist groups to try to secure the release of innocent americans would only put at risk more innocent americans. okay. john? >> josh you won't even tell us that this was a drone strike or these were drone strikes? >> despite the extensive information i am able to provide about a previously classified operation, i'm not able to discuss precisely how this operation was carried out. >> so you tell us that adam gadahn and farouq was not the targets. does the president regret those two were killed in those
strikes? >> those two individuals were leaders in al qaeda. they had prominent positions. we know mr. farouq was a leader of aqis and that he was playing a prominent role in leading that network's operations in planning in that region of the world. we know that mr. gadahn had styled himself as a prominent spokesperson for al qaeda. and for that and other reasons that he was indicted by the u.s. government for treason. >> so the administration's policy on the justified killing of american citizens in these counterterrorism strikes, according to the attorney general, is that they represent an imminent threat of violent attack against the united states and that capture was not feasible feasible. are you saying that adam gadahn and ahmed farouq -- that under
your policy justified killing of an american. >> i'm saying these two al qaeda leaders were frequenting an al qaeda compound that had been identified by the united states. and the united states carried out a counterterrorism operation against those compounds with the intent of taking al qaeda fighters and al qaeda leaders off the battlefield. we do that because we know that the al qaeda organization is actively planning and plotting against american citizens. we have as encapsulated to use military force, the united states is at war with al qaeda and its affiliates pause of the way in which these affiliates are plotting and actively planning against the citizens. >> did they represent an imminent threat of violent attack against the united states, which is the words of the attorney general as to what would qualify as a justified killing of an american? >> what i can share with you
from here is that these two individuals were not targeted in this specific counterterrorism operation, but we know that they were hit in this counterterrorism operation. and they were killed in this counterterrorism operation because they were leaders of al qaeda and we know al qaeda is an organization that is actively plotting and planning against the united states. >> is it legal under the guidelines that this administration put in place, is it legal to kill american citizens who do not represent an imminent threat of violent attack against the united states? >> what is permissible under international law and in the protocol that the president has established is for the united states to carry out strikes to carry out operations against al qaeda compound that we can assess with near certainty are al qaeda compound that are frequentlied by al qaeda leaders. and that is the operation that
took place. and that operation did result in the death of al qaeda fighters and al qaeda leaders who were in this al qaeda compound. >> but would it have been illegal for you to intentionally target those two men? >> there is a separate procedure and protocol for specifically targeting american citizens. and this is the protocol that was followed in the targeted operation against anwar in yemen. so there is a separate procedure and protocol for doing exactly that. >> so if it was not adam gadahn that was being targeted in one strike and ahmed farouq in the other strike. who was being targeted? >> what was targeted was what the intelligence community assessed with near certainty was an al qaeda compound that we assessed with near certainty was being frequentlied by al qaeda
members, al qaeda fighters and, in this case al qaeda leaders. >> there was no who? there was no specific al qaeda leader or leaders being targeted? it was a compound. >> what was being targeted was this specific al qaeda compound. >> in both cases. >> in both cases. >> no names attached to that. we didn't have a list of -- >> that's correct. what we were targeting specifically was this al qaeda compound that was based on this near certain assessment that this is a compound that was maintained by al qaeda and frequented by al qaeda leaders. >> another story i wanted to get you on quickly. revelations regarding donations to the clinton foundation and actions taken by the united states government. i want to take -- >> all right. we are jumping out of the white house briefing here which has been dominated by talk over these drone strikes that have killed two hostages. one of whom is an american, as well as two americans who are al qaeda leaders.
so i want to bring in our chief political analyst gloria bordure to talk about this. one of the interesting things is that we have learned today that this strike that killed these two hostages warren weinstein and also an italian man and that the administration wasn't aware that they were at this site. this happened in january and you've learned that a review of this has been going on for some time. and the administration didn't actually know in january that these two men had been killed. >> i was talking to a senior administration official as to naumg knowledge of this investigation that the review of this drone strike which happened in january has been going on for quite some time. and i was told that when the italian prime minister renzi was here one of the people killed as you know is italian. that the president did not know who had been identified in that
strike definitively. the conclusion of the identification process just happened this week. obviously, as josh earnest pointed out, this is a remote place without a lot of access for us. and i was told that the concern at the white house is about that this is a colossal tragedy. what we heard from josh earnest today i think goes beyond that brianna. what he said is that this does raise questions about whether changes need to be made to these protocols. i was told that this was "done by the book." what earnest seemed to be saying and i think reflecting the president is well if it was done by the book how did we make this mistake? and you now hear republicans like house member duncan hunter raising questions about whether there was, there needs to be more interagency coordination on things like this. >> let's pose this question, gloria to california gementic
congressman adam shift. he is the ranking member on the house intelligence committee. that was fascinating to hear this during this briefing, congressman, that this was an operation carried out by the book. protocols were followed and, yet, as we now know, two hostages warren weinstein and geovonna lo porto now dead. what does that tell you about the protocols? >> initially, if the protocols were followed that is one of the questions we will have to analyze on the intelligence committees. that is certainly the initial understanding of the administration. if they were followed then you know we'll still have to ask the hard questions. does that mean that the protocols are not enough or does it mean that we're never going to get to an absolute certainty and even though we had a terrible tragic outcome here it's not indicative of a need to make any systemic change. and i don't want to prejudge the outcome of that review. but i think it's a very
important one to have. it's one, frankly, that we have continually continually, as you know and as you've been describing. different kinds of counterterrorism operations. some where you know the identity of the target. a high-value target and others where you know there are members of al qaeda and important members but you don't know who the identity of those members are and the latter is, obviously, been a subject of far more scrutiny and concern over the years. >> and that is the case in this. we understand and that's what some of the questions in the briefing we're getting at. was perhaps the target here is discriminating as it should have been. you know when we think about, in particular this american warren weinstein. what can you tell us about where the search for him was? because we heard from josh earnest that the administration had put in a lot of effort to finding him, but still other reports we're hearing say that
perhaps that wasn't the case here in recent months and recent years, especially following the trade for bowe bergdahl. that the president took a political hit on. >> well i can't tell you what getting into specifics into the search of dr. weinstein. that this is a top priority for the intelligence community. certainly for the administration and the president whenever there is american held hostage to do everything possible to locate them to figure out if there is a safe way to rescue them. it's often very difficult and these hostages were held for a long time and the fact that this compound was under surveillance for as long as it was without any indication that hostages were present gives you an indication of just the kind of operational trade craft that al qaeda uses. they know that these are valuable hostages for them. they know we're looking for them. they know we'll try to rescue them. so, they take a lot of precautions. the other point i would make and this is something that you
alluded to earlier and that is that there were al qaeda opruptives at this compound. it's not a situation where this was a compound that was a group of civilians living here. had no connection to al qaeda. so the intelligence community got it right that these were al qaeda figures. and, in fact a senior al qaeda figure was present, but they obviously, tragically got it wrong that there weren't other people also present and that is what we're going to precisely what we have to look at. >> do you think that might be bad intelligence? do you think that's just limitations to intelligence? >> i don't know that this is a case where we got bad intelligence. for example, we relied on intelligence that we got from a sister agency and flawed intelligence or some malicious purpose involved. it probably was just the absence of complete intelligence. and as the white house indicated, we're never going to get to an absolute certainty. we will look at the quality and
quantity of intelligence that we have here and be asking ourselves a tough question. was that enough or was the fact that innocent lives were lost in itself proof that it wasn't enough and, therefore, need to yet, again, raise the bar and how would we do that? >> but you're not, when i listen to you, congressman, you're not necessarily taking the administration's word at this point that protocols were followed to the tee. >> you know i think as an oversight committee, we have to greet everything with a certain level of skepticism. i worked enough with people in the intelligence community to know that these are hard-working patriotic people but like all people they are capable of mistakes. i think we owe it to the families and we owe it to the american public not to take anything as an article of faith. so we will review this. we should review this. we should look at it objectively and that's exactly what i expect
we will do. >> the president during his administration has come under fire particularly from his own party for the great expansion of using drone strikes to fight terrorism. certainly that's been curtailed, especially in pakistan over the years. but do you think that what happened in january is going to change the administration's drone policy? >> well i can't comment specifically on some of the aspects of your question but i can say that we're going to look at this counterterrorism operation and it will inform us in the continuing oversight that we do of these counterterrorism operations particularly when it involves targets where we don't know the identity of the target. and we will ask ourselves what were the circumstances here and should this inform us of any broader issues with respect to the policy on counterterrorism operations? so, we're going to be asking
ourselves those questions and, you know, i think you can appreciate how there are times where you'll have very good intelligence. you'll follow fran for example, who is planting a roadside bomb and follow them to a known al qaeda compound and there is no question that this person is an al qaeda operative and he is taking action to try to injure maim or kill our troops. we may not know the identity of that person and i think most americans would agree that we can take action to defend our troops against that person. but, obviously, that's one of the end of the spectrum. on the other send of the spectrum spectrum. critics will argue that the intelligence community is presuming people that are of military age in a war zone or therefore combatants. that's not the case but, obviously, we have to make sure that we're doing vigorous oversight and that when there are these operations where we don't know the precise identity that we have full and complete and good intelligence that these folks are involved in terrorist
activities meant to injure americans. >> congressman schiff thanks so much if joining us. really appreciate it. this operation against al qaeda that left two hostages dead. one an american, one an tail ianl italian. we have much more ahead. you total your brand new car. nobody's hurt,but there will still be pain. it comes when your insurance company says they'll only pay three-quarters of what it takes to replace it. what are you supposed to do, drive three-quarters of a car? now if you
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dead. american warren weinstein and italian national giovanni. joining me now, we have bob baher. he's a former cia operative, we have retired lieutenant james reese, cnn global affairs analysis and here with me peter burgen cnn national security analyst. so peter, you have warren weinstein who had been kidnapped in 2011. this has been some time. i know a lot of people are now asking the administration could they have done more to try to rescue him? is this the way this had to end? >> i think the sort answer is no. this was a huge mistake. u.s. and pakistani officials about the case, for the americans, it was complicated by the fact that he was held by al qaeda. pakistanis did reach out to the people in the area he was held without success. but you know there were other americans being held today by groups in this area.
and i think there's a lesson here which is we need to work and put more pressure on the pakistani government who do have kind of relationships with some of these militant groups to basically get these americans, canadian husband, joshua boyle. they have had a kid probably in captivity. they're still out there. let's, as well as examining the mistakes that happened in this case let's learn lessons for the next case. >> and there may be a next kies colonel reese, you look at this one, is this an embarrassment for the u.s. military? >> brianna, no it's not. i've watched this all morning now, it's tragic is what it is. very very difficult, but it's not an embarrassment. this is very difficult operations. and you've got men and women that spend 24/7 day in and day out, trying to hunt al qaeda throughout the world, especially when you have the teams that are flying these drones and the predators and everything else and they're pumping this information into these joint
operation centers around and you're trying to get this persistent isr going, whether it's from drones personnel on the ground all the different intelligence aspects we have. it's hard. and i guarantee that you that people that pull the trigger on this feel horrible at the end of the day, this is the collateral damage that comes with trying to fight and destroy al qaeda and do a counterterrorism operations. >> okay so bob, that's what the colonel's saying this is part of the collateral damage that is part of this but, we heard a lot in that white house briefing, questions about whether the targets need to be a little more specific. we heard from josh ernest that the target was known to be al qaeda, but they didn't know exactly who it was, would that have helped in this situation? >> well there's a couple problems and one is the triable areas of pakistan. we can't put operatives on the ground neither military nor cia. there's no way to confirm the intelligence. as colonel reese will tell you, we preferably like to have
americans eyes on a target before you hit it. in this case it was not possible. if you can blame anybody, it's the policy of using signature strikes. you can't identify the target by name but yet you go ahead and fire a missile, simply because they look like they're al qaeda, and their certain cell intercepts but you can't put the name on it. a tragedy is inevitable nobody's really at fault. you could cut drone strikes back to nothing, if you demanded a name precise information, truly actionable intelligence but there was a policy made under the push administration to go ahead with these drone strikes. even though they were the information wasn't all that good. >> yeah and a number of these strikes are successful. this is the first time something like this has happened. important to know but still horribly tragic as the administration looks at what may need to change in the future. bob, colonel reese, thanks to all of you.
let's to the other big story. after a series of breaches at the white house, the secret service is under scrutiny again, this time it involves the houston home of former president george h.w. bush. an investigation conducted by the department of homeland security revealed that the house was not protected by a working alarm for at least 13 months more than a year. the secret service did put one agent in a robing post to secure the resident and no breaches were detected but i want to bring i want to bring in the republican congressman to talk about this. he chairs the house oversight committee, which is charged with overseeing the secret service. congressman, thanks for being with us. i want to read to you this statement that we have from the bush family spokesman. he says george and barbara bush have total confidence in the men and women of the secret service. their trust in them is as unshakable as it is unbreakable. okay. so they have confidence. but i would say this isn't that unusual. when there have been breaches, we hear president obama stands by the secret service.
these are, after all, the men and women protecting him. there's loyalty, and certainly you don't want to upset the people responsible for your safety. you're in this oversight position. what do you think? >> i've known about this for months. there are literally millions of dollars of technical problems that now have been rectified. i didn't want to talk about it until they had been solved. want idea that for more than a year a former president is in a residence that doesn't have the basic alarm in place is totally unacceptable. i do appreciate director clancy -- now, he's new to this but i think he is kind of taking charge and grabbing the helm here and trying to make the right changes. this is an important part of the process. i don't think the setcret service for more than a decade had meaningful oversight. but i think what we're doing is having an effect. glad to see that change. but you can't leave someone with that degree of vulnerability for that long period of time. it's much more expensive to have
to have an extra body there than it was to fix the alarm system in the first place. >> how did this happen first of all? how was there this lapse where there was an alarm and maybe it was turned off, and then also you have this discovered by a dhs investigation. if you can tell us shed a little light on that investigation as well. >> well i think what you find for most of the president, the former presidents to one degree or another, they had security problems because they did not have 100% operable systems. even the current vice president biden had a problem at his residence in delaware. the secret service will tell you that the alarm system was fully functionable but they didn't have a camera out on the road out front. now, they do now. they've got some cameras you can't see to have some visible. when we had shots fired outside his residents a few months ago, there was no video footage. i mean that's just, to me security 101. and there are problems at other
facilities as well. but again, i think now that they fixed this. but months ago, the ig was bringing this up. we were talking about it behind the scenes. this is basic law enforcement and protection 101. >> i want to ask you about -- we have so many issues when it comes to security and when it comes to the secret service. the officials who are guarding not just the white house but the capital. i know that you received a briefing yesterday from the police chief of the u.s. capital and also from secret service director clancy on this gyrocopter incident last week. the pilot who managed to fly 30 miles into restricted air space and land right there on the west lawn of the capital, like in your backyard basically. so what was the conclusion there? >> well unfortunately, the faa and the park police elected not to come brief congress. we had four committees represented there. bipartisan behind the scenes. and to not have norad, the faa
and the park police say and refuse to come brief congress that's wholly unacceptable. we have noticed a hearing for next wednesday, 10:00 a.m. that's not optional. they will be there. and we're going to get a much more full and complete story. i was very satisfied with the secret service and their role and what they told us. it is primarily u.s. capitol police as well as the sergeant of arms. there was human error. there was a lack of communication. and post-9/11, we can't make these mistakes. one of the results of 9/11 the conclusion was that you have lots of different agencies. they have to communicate and collaborate. there clearly was human error in this. the gentleman who flew this gyrocopter he's lucky to be alive. certainly, they had the authority and the ability and almost took him out of the sky. it's a tough, difficult judgment call by the men and women who
serve us and protect the capital. but i'm telling you, he was just a moment or were to away from actually being taken out. >> sure was. chairman thanks so much for covering all these topics with us. appreciate it. that is it for me. for our international views "amanpour" is next. for our viewers in north america, "newsroom" with brooke baldwin starts right now. i'm jim schuto live in washington for cnn's special coverage of breaking news. two hostages including an american accidently killed along with two american al qaeda operatives by u.s. drone strikes. >> we've got that covered. and good afternoon. i'm brooke baldwin live here in baltimore. city hall behind me. very shortly we're anticipating in the thousands, that's what we're hearing, thousands of protesters expected to rally over the death of 25-year-old freddie gray who died in police custody. you'll see it live. first, jim,