WASHINGTON -- Congressional leaders expressed their condolences in the wake of President Barack Obama announcing that two innocent hostages, one a U.S. citizen, were killed by American drone strikes in January. “Let me begin by expressing our condolences,” House Speaker John Boehner said, speaking on behalf of the Congress.
Boehner, R-Ohio, who would not say how much he knew of the attack beforehand but did say he was briefed before the public, said he agreed with Obama’s call for an independent investigation into the killings. “As President Obama indicated, this is not a time for excuses. The president announced that an independent review is underway, and I think that is entirely appropriate,” Boehner said Thursday at his weekly press conference. “We need all the facts – for the families and so that we can make sure nothing like this ever happens again in our efforts to keep Americans safe.”
Earlier Thursday, Obama announced that two aid workers -- American Dr. Warren Weinstein and Italian national Giovanni Lo Porto -- had been killed in a U.S.-led attack while being held captive by al Qaeda fighters at a compound on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. American officials did not know that Weinstein and Lo Porto were being held at that location, Obama said.
Boehner said he expected the House Armed Services and Intelligence committees also to look into what prevented U.S. intelligence from knowing the two men were in the compound. “We’ll wait to see what the review board develops,” Boehner said.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., said Congress should participate in reviewing the strike that killed the hostages. “We must take all possible steps to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again, and the Congress should play an active role in this oversight,” he said in a statement.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., also expressed a desire for Congress to monitor the counterterrorism program that led to the killings. "In our grief, though, we should remember that al Qaeda is merciless in their capture and continued detainment of hostages who have selflessly sought to serve others, and they bear the ultimate responsibility for these deaths," he said in a statement. "Congress will continue to conduct vigorous oversight of our nation’s counterterrorism operations. "
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also expressed condolences during her weekly meeting with reporters. She emphasized that the president “took full responsibility” for the deaths. “I look forward to what he called for was the declassification of the information related to the strikes so the families will know,” Pelosi said. She praised both men as “public servants trying to make the world a better place.”