The Cable

Why Won’t the White House Pay for Warren Weinstein’s Death?

Warren Weinstein's family is pressing the federal government to compensate them for his death.


The family of Warren Weinstein, the American contractor taken prisoner by al Qaeda in 2011 and killed by a U.S. drone strike last year, is on the offensive against the federal government.

First came a Feb. 11 piece in the New York Times magazine, detailing frayed relation between the Weinstein family and the White House over what the family considered poor communication with the FBI. Then, on Sunday evening, CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired an interview with his wife, Elaine, who said the federal government “did nothing” to rescue her husband. She paid al Qaeda $243,000 for her husband’s release over four years, but to no avail. It is U.S. policy not to pay terrorists ransoms for prisoners, but the FBI overlooked the payout.

“Do something. You’re the strongest country in the entire world. Do something,” she said in the interview that aired Sunday. “And they did nothing.”

Then, on Monday afternoon, Elaine, a family attorney, and the public relations firm working with the family, Levick, released a series of statements. The attorney, John Brownlee, had strong words for the administration.

“When President Obama announced that the U.S. government had killed Dr. Weinstein, he promised to compensate his widow. For over a year, the administration has stonewalled Mrs. Weinstein and refused to negotiate a reasonable settlement,” Brownlee said. “Most troubling, the administration has refused to use the compensation framework recently established by Congress for the Iranian hostages.”       

He’s referring to the compensation scheme created by Congress last year to compensate the 53 Americans, most of them government employees, who were taken hostage in the United States Embassy in Tehran in 1979. This law gives nearly all of those held prisoner $10,000 for each day in captivity, allowing for payments of up to $4.4 million.

The situation is obviously different, because Weinstein was killed, mistakenly, by his own government. But Weinstein’s family has suggested a compensation approach similar to the Iran hostages. So far, the White House hasn’t moved on payment. In a statement, a senior administration official said, “the United States would provide a condolence payment to the Weinstein family. We are continuing to work on this process and remain committed to providing this to the Weinstein family, though we recognize that no dollar figure can ever bring back their beloved husband and father.”

“We hope that by sharing our story, the administration will work hard to find better ways to rescue Americans like Warren and support the families back home,” Elaine said in Monday’s statement.  

Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan/Getty Images 

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola