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Senior Obama administration officials confirmed Friday that an intelligence community inspector general is investigating the CIA drone strike that accidentally killed American aid worker Warren Weinstein and another Western hostage in Pakistan last January.
But administration sources pushed back on media reports suggesting the CIA may have dropped the ball months earlier on a possible drone sighting of a Westerner that could have been Weinstein. The Washington Post first reported the story on Thursday.
"This particular case in under investigation and we need to let investigators do their job and if, when they come back with what they found, if they found that there were gaps, if they found that there were mistakes, then we'll deal with that and we'll learn from that moving forward," State Department spokesman John Kirby said Thursday.
"I'd also say that nobody's better at self-assessment and self-correction than the United States government and we're pretty open about it and pretty candid about it," Kirby said. "When we make mistakes, we admit it and we move on."
Officials point out that the story indicates only the possibility of someone who may have been a hostage — and there is no hard evidence either of a hostage sighting or any identification of Weinstein.
"The idea that they pulled away and dropped a potential lead on a Western hostage, and an American no less, is absurd," the official told NBC News.
Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian aid worker, were killed when the CIA launched Hellfire missiles at an al Qaeda hideout in Pakistan — on faulty intelligence that a top terror leader was there.
President Obama apologized for the deadly mistake in April. Congressional intelligence committees have been briefed on the investigation.
This latest turn is part of the investigation into Weinstein's death — a process his family has said has proved infuriating. The family has felt frustrated by the Obama administration's handling of their case.
The families of Americans overseas held captive by terrorist organizations have said they have felt confused by what they see as conflicting government guidance about negotiating with terrorists to retrieve their loved ones.
Earlier this year the White House announced changes to the administration's hostage policy review, including no longer criminally prosecuting families of American hostages who pay ransom to get loved ones back from groups like ISIS.
"Our family was committed to doing everything in our power to bring Warren home. While some elements of the U.S. Government, including Congressman Delaney, Senators Mikulski and Cardin, and specific officials from the FBI were relentless in their efforts to provide information and support, other elements of the U.S. Government fell short," Elaine Weinstein, the wife of Warren Weinstein, said in a statement earlier this year. "The information we received over three and a half years was inconsistent at best and utterly disappointing."