Family of US captive killed by drone backs hostage czar

AP News
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Posted: May 06, 2015 3:11 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The family of an American captive killed in a drone strike said Wednesday it would welcome the creation of a hostage czar to coordinate government efforts to free those held.

Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., introduced legislation last week to set up a "czar," soon after President Barack Obama apologized for a drone strike in January that accidentally killed Warren Weinstein of Maryland and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian citizen. The strike targeted an al-Qaida compound along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

"Ordinary families like ours should have an official who can coordinate the efforts of government agencies and whose sole responsibility is to bring American hostages home," Weinstein's wife, Elaine, said in a statement in which she also thanked lawmakers for congressional resolutions honoring her husband's memory.

"We hope to be the last family that fails to receive the level of coordinated government support that those who serve abroad deserve when trouble finds them."

Weinstein, of Rockville, Maryland, was kidnapped on Aug. 13, 2011 by militants in Lahore, Pakistan, four days before his seven-year stint as an American aid worker was scheduled to end. He had been held for more than three years when he was killed.

Delaney's legislation would create a panel within the National Security Council headed by the czar, who would reach across government agencies and unify efforts to find and release hostages.

The White House has said the Obama administration is considering the creation of a fusion cell of the FBI, Pentagon, State Department and intelligence community to ensure close coordination.

The legislation comes amid a growing debate over ransom payments to terrorists. The United States maintains a ban on such practices although the White House has said federal officials helping to facilitate a payment is not the same as actually paying a ransom.