The use of drones to take out terror targets has always been controversial, but it became tragically so with the news that an American hostage and an Italian hostage were killed in January during a U.S. drone attack on an al Qaeda compound in Pakistan. American intelligence apparently didn't know the two hostages were there.
"It is a cruel and bitter truth that in the fog of war generally and our fight against terrorists specifically, mistakes, sometimes deadly mistakes, can occur," President Barack Obama said.
The two aid workers held by al Qaeda died in that fog of war. American Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto were accidentally killed in a January 14 strike by a CIA drone. The attack targeted al Qaeda operatives in a camp on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"Based on the intelligence that we had obtained at the time, including hundreds of hours of surveillance, we believed that this was an al Qaeda compound, that no civilians were present," Obama said.
Two American al Qaeda members were killed. Ahmed Farouq, an al-Qaeda leader from Pennsylvania, was taken out in the strike that killed Weinstein and Lo Porto. And in a separate drone operation, Adam Gadahn was killed. He was a California native who served as a spokesman for the terror group. The White House said Thursday that Gadahn and Farouq were not the intended targets.
"I am saying that these two al-Qaeda leaders were frequenting an al-Qaeda compound. And the United States carried out a counter terrorism operation against those compounds with the intent of taking al-Qaeda fighters and leaders off of the battlefield," said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.
A yellow ribbon was at the Weinstein home in Maryland where the hostage's widow says she looks forward to the results of the official investigation. But Elaine Weinstein says those who took Warren captive over three years ago bear ultimate responsibility, and she says he would still be alive and well if they had allowed him to return home after his time abroad working to help the people of Pakistan.
Weinstein was 73 when he died. He was taken hostage in August 2011 while working with the U.S. Agency for International Development, abducted a few days before his seven-year assignment was to end. One of his daughters lived and worked in Chicago during the time he was held captive and, unbeknownst to her, when he was killed.
Weinstein's daughter Alisa - living and working in Chicago at the time - was a passionate crusader for her father's release. From the day he was taken captive by al Qaeda in 2011, Alisa, her sister and their mother believed the U.S. Government would somehow gain Weinstein's freedom.
"I have been cut off from my family, my wife who is over 70, my two daughters, my two grandchildren," said Warren Weinstein, while he was held hostage.
When Weinstein made this video he had been in captivity for a year and a half; the humanitarian and American aid worker was held by al Qaeda in Pakistan.
During it all, his daughter Alisa was living here in Chicago and working at the IIT Graduate School of Design, and at the same time, making appearances around the world with her mother and sister pressuring Washington and al Qaeda for her father's freedom from a captivity they couldn't explain.
"My father was so well liked in Pakistan. He had so many friends there. He had become such a part of the everyday life there-the society-so it's very hard for us to understand who would have targeted him," said Alisa Weinstein.
"Unless you continue to try to get President Obama and his administration to actively pursue my release we may never see each other again," Warren Weinstein said in December 2013.
On Thursday, President Barack Obama admitted that Weinstein was mistakenly killed by a drone, dashing Alisa's hopes on social media - the touching birthday wishes, a picture of a street sign that she saw as a good omen. But her wish for a final conversation with her dad will never come.
"I would just tell him how much I miss him. I would just tell him that I love him and that I think about him every day," Alisa Weinstein said in December 2013.
Weinstein and her family put out a written statement Thursday praising the help of the FBI, but critical of other parts of the U.S. Government as inconsistent and disappointing. The family also called out Pakistani government and military officials, who they say treated Weinstein's captivity as "an annoyance."