America's Drone Program Under Fire After Death of Two Hostages

President Obama commented on the drone program following a drone strike that killed two hostages being held by al-Qaeda. ABC News contributor, Steve Gomez, discusses the decision making on carrying out drone strikes.
9:05 | 04/24/15

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Transcript for America's Drone Program Under Fire After Death of Two Hostages
And today like all Americans are thoughts and prayers. Also continued to be with the families of doctor Warren Weinstein and Geronimo forked over. I'm not gonna repeat everything us it yesterday but I do want to make. One point again we're gonna review what happened. We're gonna identified a lessens the can be learned. And any improvements and changes the can be made. Under fire America's drone program in the cross hairs of scrutiny. President Obama responding to critics after the White House revealed the drone strike killed two instant hostages. Held by al-Qaeda earlier this year that's strike authorized by the White House Oakland Dan that's where in New York. Late this afternoon President Obama addressed members of the national intelligence community in Washington as a group that's familiar with these types of missions. Here's more of what the president had to say about those drone strikes. We all believed. Win. When we lose an American life. We all grieve. When any innocent life is taken. We don't take this work likely. And I know that each and every one of you. Understand. The magnitude of what we do. And the stakes involved. And these aren't abstractions and more not cavalier about what we do. And and we understand the solemn. Responsible there's that are given to us. And our first job. Is to make sure that we protect the American people. But there's not a person that I talked to that's involved the intelligence community that does also doesn't understand that. We have to do so. While upholding our values and ideals. And our laws and our constitution's. Bolivars two reports now ABC's Karen Travers and Washington Karen. Good afternoon Dan the White House. Is reviewing how the federal government works with the families of Americans who have been taken hostage. And today the president's spokesman said that the information that they get needs to be regular reliable and credit oak credible. And that is so crucial for these families but Dan it over recent weeks and months we've seen several of these families of Americans have been taken hostage. The very critical about the way the government has worked with them and it talked very much about their disappointments and frustrations. President Obama said today the US will learn from its fatal mistake. A drone strike they killed American Warren Weinstein an Italian Geovany report toe the self reflection. You know this willingness to examine ourselves. To make corrections. To do better. That's part of what makes us Americans learn Weinstein Stanley said the people who took him captive in Pakistan are ultimately responsible for his death. But yesterday they had strong words about the US government saying the assistance and support they received was inconsistent. And disappointing. Over the course of three and a half years. This Warren Weinstein in a video released at Christmas in 2013. Seems to have been totally. Today the White House faced a barrage of questions about whether that was true. He Obama administrations conducting a review of its hostage policy. And the president's spokesman said the principal focus is to look at how the federal government communicates with the hostages' families these thinly serenade terrible. Situation one big challenge he said is the number of federal agencies that are working to rescue American citizens being held hostage the effort is to try to. Streamlined. Those communications to make that communication. More effective and more sense it to need to these things. As part of this review the White House says it's reaching out for input from some of those families who have had people could become hostages. Reporting live from Washington Karen Travers seepage on fan. I can't thank you for that we appreciate it. Joining us now ABC news consultant and former head of the counter terrorism division for the FBI's Steve Gomez. Steve what do we know about any information officials had before a packed conducting these drone strikes. Well there's a lot of intelligence that it's being collected. Every day with regard to hostages. With regard to. Certain regions in the Middle East where terrorists are operating where they're based at. And so there's it's a constant updating of the information. And they're trying to determine their location we're hostages are potentially being held. And in order to figure out. Do they have potential it pleas to strike. But they're trying to do it in a way that it's not gonna injure Americans not injure. Innocent people. It's it's a very difficult balancing act and that's why intelligence that's been gathered on the ground. And through other means is very important for a intelligence officials and so let's talk about the two hostages that were killed. In this strike. How usual is at then given that that a pattern that we've seen that they would in fact be we get some of those top al-Qaeda officials. Well it's it's not to -- usual in the sense that these types of terrorists that are that are high level. That understand. Probably the way Americans I think and operate the they may want these hostages to be close to them. And knowing especially about the of the drone program and and how there's the potential that they could you know be be bombed. That may give Americans in their view a second thought as to whether they want to was of the Americans want to. Target them and that drop a bomb on them so it's something that they that they would consider independent dom be done he he's an American and so he's very familiar with the way. The US operates so that that's a consideration that has to be a taken into account. The White House is being criticized from some human rights groups for owning up to these American deaths. But not necessarily openly talking about the amount of civilians possibly killed by those drone strikes is the criticism justified. You know this this is difficult because what you have is up a potential. Ability to neutralize. Too high level terrorists. And again you're you're trying to figure out whether is is it worth it is there enough intelligence. That indicates that these terrorists are on the wrong that there won't be messages civilian casualties or or American hostages that era. That are put in peril. So they're gonna have to balance that. I don't you know this is there's one of those hindsight is 20/20 where you can look back and it's a well we probably should have done. This in and then maybe maybe we shouldn't have committed that tap a strike. It's very difficult and the the national security officials are weighing all of these bits of information and trying to come up with a right decision so. You know it's really hard to second guess after the fact because this is a very complex matter that they're dealing with. We will with these kind of policies in place that power back to you minimize the risk of civilians. Being casualties and strikes. Well he you got it from the very beginning he you gotta say okay for before Gannett and engage in a drone strikes. There are good there's going to be some collateral damage. There's just no doubt about that because this is as precise as. These these bombs can be the fact is you you're not on the ground at me sometimes we may have some personal on the ground there to give as good intelligence. But but other times at that may now be the case so it's a matter of trying to determine. How much information you have what is the value of that target. And debt and any deal with the risk you're you're mitigating risk in every one of these situations because you're trying to neutralize. A terrorist that's. That's basically you know guiding in the in the case of good Don he is he has been the propaganda leader. Four al-Qaeda for for about a decade. And it has been really causing problems you know for for all this time and so now we've got the chance to its neutralize him. Yeah is it was that worth it. That's something that the policy makers have probably considered from the very beginning of the pro the drone program. And now they've you know made the decision based on the information they have in hand. All right ABC news futurist if dumbest Steve thank you we appreciate it. You can give up with a stern real time download in the ABC news happened star and story for updates on the go. I'm down perhaps learning.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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