Two aid workers — an American and an Italian — are dead because a drone strike hit a suspected terrorist compound.
U.S. intelligence did not know the men were inside the target area. Does this mean the air campaign using unmanned drones is a failure? No. It means that intelligence at times is incorrect.
President Obama expressed his support for the U.S. intelligence network during a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the melding of intelligence agencies into a single national intelligence department.
Walter Weinstein and Giovanni LoBianco were killed when a drone-launched missile hit the compound where al-Qaeda terrorists were holding them. President Obama has expressed regret and sorrow at the men’s deaths. But he stands behind the intelligence network.
Do they get everything right every single time? No. We’ve suffered through many intelligence failures over many years. Do you remember the intelligence that became the basis for launching the Iraq War in 2003? Do you remember the assurance that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein was preparing to use them? It didn’t pan out that way.
Obama said: “Our first job is to make sure that we protect the American people. But there’s not a person that I talk to that’s involved in the intelligence community that also doesn’t understand that we have to do so while upholding our values and our ideals, and our laws and our constitutions, and our commitment to democracy.”
No matter the scope of the failures involved in intelligence gathering, it’s always critical to remember that human beings analyze this data and that those analysts do make mistakes. Thankfully, it’s not often.
Does that lessen the tragedy that resulted in the deaths of the aid workers? No. It does require, as the president said, that the nation “review what happened. We’re going to identify the lessons that can be learned and any improvements and changes that can be made.”