Wife of dead hostage: U.S. should have done more

Elaine Weinstein, whose husband was killed in a U.S. drone strike, speaks out in an unseen clip from 60 Minutes -- and Senator James Risch responds

CBS All Access
This video is available on Paramount+

This week, 60 Minutes reports on the tragic death of Warren Weinstein, an American aid worker in Pakistan, who was abducted from his home in Lahore in 2011 and ultimately killed accidentally in a U.S. drone strike.

In the previously unaired clip above, his wife Elaine tells Lesley Stahl the U.S. government should have done more to help her husband. "They kept saying they were doing everything possible," she says. "But if they went within their rules, then there was nothing possible."

dronesotfd.jpg
Warren Weinstein and his wife, Elaine

When Elaine, who lives in Rockville, Maryland, was contacted by her husband's captors, they demanded $4 million for his release. She says she was willing to do whatever it took to bring her husband home. "As far as I was concerned, give them the money," she tells Stahl. "Let's get this over with. Give them the money."

But the FBI and a private firm she hired to help with the negotiations warned her that the captors might keep upping the price. They told her she needed to demand proof that Warren was alive and carefully orchestrate the ransom exchange. Her negotiations with the captors dragged on for months, and they eventually agreed to accept $243,000 for his release. Yet when she gave them the money, they didn't return him.

The U.S. government has a policy of not negotiating with terrorists, which has left many families of hostages feeling abandoned. Elaine met with top U.S. officials including Secretary of State John Kerry and Deputy National Security Advisor Lisa Monaco. She says she told Monaco about another concern: The FBI suspected Warren was being held in North Waziristan, a prime target for U.S. drone strikes, and she worried he could be killed.

The following year, those fears were realized. Warren and an Italian aid worker were accidentally killed in a U.S. drone strike targeting terrorists in January 2015. "It was like, 'I told you so,'" Elaine tells Stahl. "I was worried about it from the first day."

60 Minutes interviewed Senator James Risch (R-Idaho) of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is tasked with overseeing the secret drone program, about what went wrong. In the unaired clip below, he says the government takes these operations very seriously. He himself reviewed "all the evidence that was available" after the strike, he says, and found nothing amiss.

Senator James Risch of the Senate Intelligenc... 01:09

"You saw nothing that indicated that anything but a terrorist was in that compound?" Stahl asks him.

"That is correct," he says. "And I can tell you that had there been a scintilla of evidence, I am absolutely convinced that the operation would not have taken place."

Stahl also asked Senator Risch about media reports that there have been hundreds of civilian casualties due to drone strikes in Pakistan alone. In the clip below, Risch says the numbers are "wildly exaggerated," but he can't comment on the actual numbers because the drone program is classified. Independent groups that monitor the drone strikes, like the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, refute the U.S. government's claims that these strikes are very precise with minimal casualties.

Lesley Stahl asks Senator James Risch of the ... 02:13

Stahl points out that if the numbers are, in fact, exaggerated, the government would benefit from revealing them. Risch agrees. "But that is not my call to make," he says. "Sixteen blocks up Pennsylvania Avenue, there's someone who you can talk to about that."

In reporting this story, 60 Minutes obtained never-before-seen call recordings, chat messages and video, including the video below, which was sent by Warren's captors to Elaine in 2012 during the ransom negotiations.

Warren Weinstein, an American kidnapped in Pa... 01:40

The private hostage negotiation firm working with Elaine called it a "typical hurry up pressure tactic" in a log reviewed by 60 Minutes. In the video, a haggard-looking Warren urges Elaine to pay the ransom.

"I know that you find it difficult, but I think we have to trust them," Warren tells his wife. "I believe they're going to free me and they'll keep their word."