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Meet Hillary Clinton’s Official Campaign Photographer

Barbara Kinney has been photographing Hillary Clinton for the past 20 years

It’s Sept. 28, 1995, and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat are getting ready to make history by signing the Oslo II Accord expanding Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank. Flanked by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, King Hussein of Jordan and U.S. President Bill Clinton, they wait in a hallway at the White House. One photographer, Barbary Kinney, is here to witness the scene. As four of the men adjust, in concert, their ties, she presses her shutter, capturing the incongruous behind-the-scenes ritual that will earn her, a few months later, a World Press Photo prize, one of the most prestigious photojournalism awards.

For the past 20 years, Kinney, an Indiana-born photographer who’s worked for USA Today, Reuters and the Seattle Times, has been following the Clintons — from Bill’s years in the White House, to Hillary’s 2008 presidential campaign, to Chelsea’s wedding. Along the way, she has gained unprecedented access to the leading family in Democratic politics.

Now, as Hillary Clinton embarks on her second presidential run — one that could make history — Kinney is back on the campaign trail as the candidate’s official photographer.

Earlier this month, Kinney joined Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire, where the candidate has been holding low-key events with small groups of voters. But when the campaign will be in full swing, the two will travel together at all times — from the first to the last event, Kinney tells TIME.

Kinney’s goal is twofold: she’s there to provide the campaign with the necessary photos to feed the various social-media channels that have come to play an important role in politics, and also to capture the off-the-cuff moments that could take on historical value in the coming months and years.

“[I want] to make great pictures that define the campaign and define Hillary,” she says. “Yes, I will have to do the pictures that the campaign will need, which, obviously, makes her look good and engaged. But I’m also looking to shoot those great documentary pictures that, to me, define a campaign even more.”

The key is access, and Kinney has it. And she’s built over two decades as a photographer.

When she was 13 years old, Kinney wanted to be an artist, but she readily admits that she lacked the skill to draw or paint. So she turned to a different medium. “I think photography became my creative outlet,” she says.

Kinney attended a couple of photography classes in high school before joining the student newspaper and yearbook. One day, her father sent to meet the editor of her hometown newspaper in Evansville, Ind. “I wanted to know what colleges would be good to study photojournalism,” she says. “He recommended Kansas, Missouri and Indiana, and I ended up at the University of Kansas.”

When she graduated with a degree in photojournalism and news writing, Kinney moved to Washington, D.C., thinking she would easily find a job. She was wrong. “I ended up working for a trade association for a couple of years,” she says. “[Until] a friend told me to apply to this new newspaper: USA Today.”

Kinney became a photography assistant, which allowed her to take pictures on a part-time basis for the paper. “I became known as the marathon photographer because I had shot one great image at the New York marathon once,” she says. She went to cover the Boston marathon five times.

After six years, she quit to become a freelance photographer. Then, in early 1992, she received a call from President Clinton’s new Administration. “They were staffing for his Inauguration,” Kinney says. “And a friend of mine, who had worked on the campaign, gave my name to the First Lady’s press secretary, Lisa Caputo.”

Kinney photographed the Inauguration and was quickly hired on a 30-day tryout period as one of the White House’s four staff photographers. Bob McNeely was head photographer — a position held by Pete Souza in President Barack Obama’s Administration — with three staff photographers working with him, including Kinney. In addition, “the Vice President had two photographers, and then we had a photo-editing staff,” she recalls. “Each day, we would alternate between working with the President and the First Lady.”

While most White House staff photographers live in the shadows, Kinney’s name made its mark in 1995 when she won the World Press Photo prize in the People in the News category for her Oslo II Accord image. Kinney spent six years in the White House before joining Reuters as an entertainment picture editor and then moving to Seattle where she worked for the Seattle Times, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Digital Railroad, a web hosting service for photographers.

In 2007, when Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for President, Kinney reconnected with her former colleagues. “I lobbied [for them] to bring me on as a photographer,” she says. “I just kept on calling and sending emails telling them that this was historical and it needed to be documented.”

Clinton’s staff finally got back to her in early 2008, inviting her to Iowa to cover the caucus — one their candidate would lose to Obama. “I was really depressed about that,” she tells TIME. “Plus, when I came back I learned that I had been laid off from Digital Railroad, [which went bust].”

Suddenly unemployed, Kinney called Clinton’s staff again, offering her services on a full-time basis. “When they came to Seattle in February of that year, I got on the plane and worked through June,” she says, recalling the unexpectedly long primary campaign of that year.

“It was hard,” she says. “I didn’t know whether we were going to win or not; I was just focusing on making the pictures. You go out in this campaign where, obviously, the people who show up are your supporters, and so there’s just so much emotion and excitement. We’d work all day, we’d do three events and we’d have one left in the evening. And you just want to be done and back in your hotel room. And then, you go into this auditorium full of people screaming and you’re just pumped up again. You’re energized again.”

And then, in the end, all those months of excitement translated into one last night of a different kind of energy, when Clinton made her concession speech after months of a razor-edge battle that Obama won. “That last event was very emotional,” she says. “I remember shooting pictures in tears, trying to focus.”

Now Kinney’s second stint as Clinton’s official campaign photographer promises to be, in some ways, even more trying. “Photography is so much more an important aspect of the ongoing campaign [than it used to be],” she explains. “It’s not an afterthought this time around because of social media. Today, they have all of these outlets — from Facebook to Twitter and Instagram. And the speed has definitely increased.”

In 2008 Kinney was able to file her images at the end of each day; this year, she’s sending her edit after each event, “just like a wire photographer would,” she says. And the response to Kinney’s work has also changed dramatically. “The reach has [expanded],” she says. “I got a little overwhelmed by the number of responses I got from people. I went to bed one night and I had to turn my phone off because I kept getting beeps for people adding me on their Twitter accounts. There’s so much attention.”

High expectations come with the job; “There are a lot of great photographers out there, from David Burnett and Stephen Crawley to Doug Mills, so there may be a higher standard that people are expecting,” she tells TIME. To meet those expectations, Kinney is banking on the access she’s secured over her years with the Clintons. “I’ve been around her enough that she’s comfortable having me there,” she says. “I’ve learned, over the years, when to go and when to leave. That’s how you get those great behind-the-scenes real moments, the unguarded moments that make for great photojournalism.”

And for great stories. Kinney says that a few years after she took that famous picture of the Oslo II Accord signees, King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan visited the White House. She learned from the Queen that the photo held a place of honor at the royal residence in Amman. As she was about to photograph the Royal couple with Bill and Hillary, Kinney recalls, “I said, ‘Mr. President, you need to straighten your tie a little bit. And he said, ‘Oh, Barbara, don’t you start again.’”

Barbara Kinney is a photographer based in Seattle.

Marisa Schwartz, who edited this photo essay, is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME.com. Follow her on Instagram and twitter.

TIME 2016 Election

Clinton Foundation Admits Missteps in Donor Disclosure

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton attends The Hillary Rodham Clinton Awards for Advancing Women in Peace and Security, in the Riggs Library at Georgetown University in Washington on Apr. 22, 2015.
Jacquelyn Martin—AP Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton attends The Hillary Rodham Clinton Awards for Advancing Women in Peace and Security, in the Riggs Library at Georgetown University in Washington on Apr. 22, 2015.

"Yes, we made mistakes, as many organizations of our size do, but we are acting quickly to remedy them," Clinton aide says

(WASHINGTON)—The acting chief executive of the Clinton Foundation is acknowledging the global philanthropy made mistakes in how it disclosed its donors amid growing scrutiny as Hillary Rodham Clinton opens her presidential campaign.

In a blog posting Sunday, Maura Pally defended the foundation’s work and reaffirmed its commitment to transparency, describing its policies on donor disclosure and contributions from foreign governments as “stronger than ever.”

Still, Pally said the foundation expected to refile some of its tax forms, following a voluntary external review, because it had “mistakenly combined” government grants and donations. She said the foundation would “remedy” any errors but stressed the total revenue was reported accurately and that grants were properly broken out on audited statements on its website.

“Yes, we made mistakes, as many organizations of our size do, but we are acting quickly to remedy them, and have taken steps to ensure they don’t happen in the future,” she said.

Pally also described the foundation’s work with the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership, which she said received funding from a separate organization in Canada. She said that partnership does not disclose its donors because under Canadian law they are not disclosed without prior permission from each donor.

“This is hardly an effort on our part to avoid transparency,” she said.

Since announcing her run for president, Clinton has sought to dismiss questions about financial support of her family charity and allegations of undue influence as “distractions and attacks” by Republicans seeking to discredit her. The philanthropy was started in 2001 by former President Bill Clinton.

Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea will be starting a nine-day trip to Africa on Wednesday to highlight the group’s work on issues such as economic growth and empowerment, climate change and empowering women and girls.

TIME White House

Watch Obama Perfectly Nail a Key and Peele Skit at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

He got some help from Luther, his anger translator

The highlight of President Obama’s speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday was when Keegan-Michael Key of Comedy Central’s Key & Peele made a surprise appearance as Luther, the President’s anger translator.

Playing a character he originated on the sketch comedy show, Key “translated” Obama’s mild-mannered speech into an angry rant, warning the audience to “hold on to your lily-white butts.”

At one point, when Obama was discussing Hillary Clinton’s 2016 candidacy, Key interjected, “Khaleesi is coming to Westeros.”

But by the time he started talking about climate change, Obama let himself get riled up. That was Luther’s cue: “With all due respect sir, you don’t need an anger translator, you need counseling.”

On his way out, he shared a moment with Michelle Obama, during which they seemed to agree the President was “crazy.”

TIME White House

Watch the Funniest Jokes From the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

President Obama and Cecily Strong crack wise in Washington

For 364 days of the year, Washington, D.C. is about as funny as daytime C-SPAN.

But for just one night, the White House and the journalists who cover it put aside their differences, put on their tuxes and gowns, and come together for the White House Correspondent’s Dinner.

Celebrities, journalists, and politicians gathered Saturday night for the annual dinner sometimes known as “nerd prom”—an event so popular there’s even a documentary on Washington’s biggest night.

It’s a chance for the President to relax and crack a few jokes of his own. And in case they fall flat, he is followed by a bit from an actual comedian (this year it was Saturday Night Live cast member Cecily Strong, in the past it’s been other big names like Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers.) And Keegan-Michael Key made a surprise appearance as Luther, Obama’s anger translator, a character from his Comedy Central show Key & Peele.

Here are the funniest moments from the night.

Obama’s best jokes:

1) On Joe Biden: “The fact is, I feel more loose and relaxed than ever. Those Joe Biden shoulder massages are like magic. You should try one. … Oh, you have?”

2) “Advisers asked me, ‘do you have a bucket list?’ And I said, well, I have something that rhymes with ‘bucket list.’ … Take executive action on immigration? Bucket. New Climate regulations? Bucket.”

3) On how tough it is to be president: “It’s no wonder people keep pointing out how the presidency has aged me… John Boehner’s already invited Netanyahu to speak at my funeral.”

4) On Obamacare: “Today, thanks to Obamacare, you no longer have to worry about losing your insurance if you lose your job. You’re welcome, Senate Democrats.”

5) On the Republicans: “Dick Cheney says I’m the worst president of his life time. Which is interesting, because I think Dick Cheney is the worst president of my lifetime. What a coincidence.”

6) On Hillary Clinton: “I have one friend—just a few weeks ago, she was making millions of dollars a year, and now she’s living out of a van in Iowa.”

7) On his bro-mance with Biden: “We’ve gotten so close that in some places in Indiana they won’t serve us pizza anymore”

8) On the weather and the media: “The polar vortex caused so many record lows they named it MSNBC.”

9) On the possibility of a Bernie Sanders campaign: “Apparently some people want to see a pot-smoking socialist in the White House. We could get a third Obama term after all.”

10) Luther, Obama’s anger translator (played by Keegan-Michael Key) on Hillary Clinton’s campaign: “Khaleesi is coming to Westeros”

Cecily Strong’s best jokes:

1) On the mood in the room: This is “a chance for all of you to unwind, relax, and laugh as soon as you notice someone slightly more powerful than you is laughing.”

2) On C-SPAN: “To some viewers watching at home on C-SPAN, hello! To most viewers watching at home on c-span: meow!”

3) On the location: “‘It is great to be here at the Washington Hilton’—is something a prostitute might say to a congressman.”

4) On the media guest list: “BuzzFeed is here, but I can give you a listicle of 17 reasons why they shouldn’t be.”

5) On Brian Williams: “What can I say about Brian Williams? Nothing, because I work for NBC.”

6) On Serial and The Jinx: “Sarah Koenig must be so pissed about the Jinx—its like Serial, but with an ending.”

7) On the President’s absence from Paris after the Charlie Hebdo attack: “Paris is so beautiful—Mr. President, you should really think about going there sometime.”

8) On Sen. Tom Cotton: “Tom Cotton is a Senator, and not a rabbit from an old racist Disney cartoon.”

9) On the 2016 Republican race: “Marco Rubio makes Mitt Romney seem relaxed on the air. I just hope he gets comfortable in front of a camera before he has to go on to endorse Jeb Bush.”

10) On Rand Paul: “Rand Paul announced he’s taking over the family’s not-being-president business.”

11) On Obama’s graying hair: “Your hair is so white now, it can talk back to the police.”

12) On what Obama and Madonna have in common: “You’ve both given this country so much, but in a year-and-a-half you gotta stop.”

TIME White House

President Obama Attends the Annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Cecily Strong from Saturday Night Live hosts this year

President Obama was joined on Saturday night by a cadre of celebrities and journalists for the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. It’s the 101st year of the dinner, and the President was sure to crack some wise ones. Cecily Strong of Saturday Night Live was hosting the evening.

It’s a night for the President to make fun of his staunchest rivals, and take some heat himself from the host. Last year, he made fun of House Speaker John Boehner’s tan, the gridlock in Congress and Fox News.

“The Koch brothers bought a table here this evening but they used a shadowy right-wing organization as a front. Good evening, Fox News,” Obama joked last year.

Read more: Comedian-in-Chief Barack Obama Hosts White House Dinner

This year, expect anything from the Republican presidential candidates to the media to be fair game for friendly mockery.

TIME White House

Obama Defends U.S. Intelligence After Hostage Deaths

US President Barack Obama speaks at a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the formation for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, at it's headquarters in McClean, Va., on Apr. 24, 2015.
Kevin Dietsch—Pool/Getty Images Obama speaks at a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the formation for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, at its headquarters in McClean, Va., on Apr. 24, 2015.

"We don't take this work lightly"

(MCLEAN, Va.)—A day after revealing an intelligence failure that cost the lives of two al-Qaeda hostages, President Obama on Friday praised the nation’s spying operations as the most capable in the world while promising a review aimed at preventing future mistakes.

“We all bleed when we lose an American life,” Obama said in a speech at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to mark its 10th anniversary. “We all grieve when any innocent life is taken. We don’t take this work lightly. 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 we’re not cavalier about what we do.”

Obama said he knows the U.S. intelligence community has faced criticism but they can take great pride that their work has made America more secure. “You do an outstanding job,” he said.

“The world doesn’t always see your successes, the threats that you prevent or the terrorist attacks you thwart, or the lives that you save,” Obama told a couple hundred intelligence officials gathered in an auditorium at the sprawling gray building outside Washington. He said their intelligence helped take out Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders, showed that Syria had chemical weapons, revealed Russian aggression in Ukraine and supported nuclear negotiations with Iran.

“It’s been 10 long and challenging years, but when we look back on those 10 years, the American people have been a whole lot safer,” Obama said.

Obama’s praise came one day after the announcement that a counterterrorism operation in January against an al-Qaeda compound accidentally killed two aid workers being held hostage — American Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto. Obama said the U.S. was unaware the hostages were in the targeted position, despite hundreds of hours of surveillance of the compound.

The White House said the attack also killed two American al-Qaeda leaders, Ahmed Farouq and Adam Gadahn, without the U.S. knowing in advance they were there. Targeting an American with a drone strike would have triggered a more intense review in consideration of constitutional due process protections.

“We’re going to review what happened,” Obama said Friday. “We’re going to identify the lessons that can be learned and any improvements and changes that can be made. And I know those of you who are here share our determination to continue doing everything we can to prevent the loss of innocent lives.

“This self-reflection, this willingness to examine ourselves, to make corrections, to do better, that’s part of what makes us Americans. It’s part of what sets us apart from other nations,” Obama said.

“The United States is the most professional, most capable, most cutting-edge intelligence community in the world,” he said, adding that they are sharing more intelligence than ever with partners around the world while tapping new technologies and satellites.

The White House said Obama’s speech was planned long before the drone revelation to mark the office’s anniversary. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence was created by President George W. Bush after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to coordinate the vast amounts of intelligence produced by 17 different government organizations, including the CIA, Pentagon, Cabinet departments and law enforcement agencies.

Obama said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is one of the people he wakes up to every morning, as Clapper delivers the intelligence report known as the President’s Daily Brief. “He gives me his honest assessment, free of politics, free of spin. I trust his integrity and I can’t tell you how invaluable that is in the job that he has,” Obama said.

Obama said his only complaint is Clapper’s habit of leaving paper clips all over the Oval Office when he shuffles through papers. The president then held up a see-through jar of paper clips and said he was returning them. “This will be available to you. DNI’s budget’s always a little tight,” Obama said.

TIME technology

Cable’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year

At this time last year, the powerful cable industry seemed to be at the top of its game.

An appeals court, in January 2014, had chucked out the Federal Communications Commission’s latest attempt to establish net neutrality rules, and a month later, in February, the two biggest cable companies in the country, Comcast and Time Warner Cable, announced a massive, $45.2 billion merger.

Meanwhile, the industry’s powerful influence machine, led in part by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, was working overtime in the nation’s capital. In 2013-2014, the industry spent $33 million on lobbying alone—more than it spent in the entire previous decade—and divvied out millions more in campaign contributions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In 2013, Comcast alone spent more on lobbying than any other company in the U.S. except Northrop Grumman, the defense contractor that makes the B-2 bomber.

And it wasn’t just money. The cable industry also enjoyed a Rolodex of almost comically well-connected friends: the president of the NCTA was a former FCC chairman, and the current FCC chairman was a former president of the NCTA—and President Obama’s golfing buddy, to boot.

With those sorts of connections—judicial, monetary, and personal—what could go wrong?

A lot, it turns out. And almost anything that could, did.

Things started getting bad for the industry in late summer, when an unprecedented 4 million people wrote into the FCC to comment on the agency’s proposed net neutrality rules. The vast majority opposed what they saw as an anemic attempt to protect the Internet from manipulation by large cable and telecom companies. Much of the public debate centered on whether a large Internet service provider, like Comcast, should be allowed to collect fees from web companies, such as Netflix, to deliver its content, like “House of Cards,” more quickly and in higher quality to customers.

Obama, who had campaigned 2008 against so-called fast lanes on the Internet, had only hinted that he would prefer to see stronger net neutrality provisions. But by mid-fall, the White House was ready to go to the mat. When Comcast heard rumors that Obama was considering calling for stronger rules, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts pulled out all the stops, calling up Obama’s senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, and making it clear that Comcast opposed the move, according to the Wall Street Journal. It was no use. A few days later, Obama all but demanded that the FCC propose the strongest possible rules on net neutrality, and three months later, it was done.

Consumer and public interest organizations, and Internet advocates celebrated the FCC’s decision, calling it not only a blow to the cable lobby, but a staggering success for grassroots organizing power.

And the cable industry’s bad year wasn’t over yet. Last week, FCC and Justice Department officials began whispering about major objections to the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal, which would tie the two largest cable company in the country and give one company control over roughly 60% of all broadband Internet connections nationwide. On Wednesday this week, officials held a private meeting with Comcast and Time Warner Cable executives to express doubt that the deal was “in the public interest,” according to sources briefed about the meeting, and this morning, the companies formally announced that the deal is off.

Again, consumer and public interest organizations, and Internet advocates celebrated the decision as victory for grassroots organizing power. “Big Cable learned the hard way that their lobbyists can’t silence the voice of the people,” crowed Todd O’Boyle, a program director at Common Cause. “Once again this year, grassroots activists spoke out and Washington regulators listened. Comcast’s insider politics can’t beat us when we stand together.”

David Segal of Demand Progress said the strong net neutrality rules, combined with collapse of the merger, “underscores the importance of an engaged public.”

“We like to identify with the underdog,” he added, cheekily, in a statement, “and Comcast’s recent losing streak almost has us feeling sorry for them.”

TIME

Morning Must Reads: April 24

Capitol
Mark Wilson—Getty Images The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

Armenia Massacre Marks Century

The Presidents of Russia and France joined other leaders on Friday at ceremonies commemorating the massacre 100 years ago of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks, an event which remains a diplomatic sore point for both sides

Petraeus Avoids Prison

Former CIA Director David Petraeus was sentenced to two years of probation and fined $100,000 for giving his mistress classified material

Clinton Makes First GOP Attacks

The Democratic candidate aimed the first big attacks of her run at GOP policies on immigration, health care and the delayed Attorney General process

Obama Apologizes Over Hostages Killed in Drone Strike

President Barack Obama took “full responsibility” for the death of two hostages held by al-Qaeda in a drone strike in January. The two were killed in a counterterrorism operation on an al-Qaeda compound in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan

The Next Fast and Furious Film Gets a Release Date

One of the film’s stars, Vin Diesel, made the announcement at CinemaCon on Thursday in Las Vegas. It will arrive as a follow-up to this month’sFurious 7, which, since its April 3 opening, has grossed more than $1 billion worldwide

Amazon Web Services Is a $5 Billion Business

Amazon broke out Amazon Web Services sales and revenue for the very first time on its first quarter earnings call. For the quarter, AWS logged $1.57 billion in revenue, up 49% from the year-ago period. It also logged operating income of $265 million for the quarter

Ash Piles Up From Eruption of Chile’s Calbuco Volcano

Twin blasts from the Calbuco volcano in southern Chile sent vast clouds of ash into the sky, covering this small town with thick soot and raising concerns on Thursday that the dust could contaminate water, cause respiratory illnesses and ground more flights

Loretta Lynch Confirmed as Attorney General

New York U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch was confirmed as the next Attorney General, the first African-American woman to hold the position. President Obama said the country will be “better off” now that Lynch has “finally” been confirmed

Scientists Sequence Woolly Mammoth Genome

An international team of scientists has sequenced the whole genome of the woolly mammoth, a breakthrough that could help our understanding of why these hairy cousins of the elephant went extinct

Three More Women Accuse Bill Cosby of Sexual Assault

At a news conference on Thursday, civil rights attorney Gloria Allred, who is representing the accusers, said they are speaking out now against Cosby because the comedian still refuses to “acknowledge and take responsibility for his conduct towards women”

The Internet Is Begging Indonesia to Spare a Filipina’s Life

As the executions of 10 drug convicts loom in Indonesia, a massive social-media campaign has kicked off in support of Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina maid set to face the firing squad. The hashtag #MaryJane is the No. 2 trending topic on Indonesia’s Twittersphere

Cobie Smulders Opens Up About Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis

How I Met Your Mother actress Cobie Smulders revealed publicly for the first time that she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 25. “I had tumors on both ovaries and the cancer had spread into my lymph nodes and surrounding tissues,” Smulders said

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TIME National Security

Widow of American Captive Killed in Strike Criticizes U.S. Hostage Support

The wife of Warren Weinstein joins a number of families calling for more centralized support and communication

The wife of an American captive of al-Qaeda who after more than three years was killed during a counterterrorism operation in January, the Obama administration acknowledged Thursday, called on the government to improve the “inconsistent and disappointing” help it offers the families of hostages.

“We hope that my husband’s death and the others who have faced similar tragedies in recent months will finally prompt the U.S. government to take its responsibilities seriously and establish a coordinated and consistent approach to supporting hostages and their families,” Elaine Weinstein, now the widow of Warren Weinstein, said in a statement, according to McClatchyDC. Her husband, who was held alongside Italian hostage Giovanni Lo Porto, also killed in the operation, was working as a development adviser in Pakistan when he was captured in 2011.

Weinstein’s comments echo calls from a number of families of U.S. captives for more frequent communication from the government, more centralized negotiation efforts—no single person is in charge of trying to free hostages—as well as a more case-by-case approach to freeing captives. Some families, including those of journalist James Foley and aid worker Kayla Mueller, have also criticized the U.S. ban on paying ransoms, which State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said would remain in place.

The Obama administration began an internal review of its hostage policies last summer, she told reporters, and has reached out to 82 families involved in hostage situations as far back as 2001.

“These families have gone through the worst thing they will ever have to go through, and I think you hear a lot of different statements from them. We’ve heard people talk about how supportive the U.S. government has been,” Harf said. “But we know this is an incredibly challenging issue. That’s why we’re doing a review of how we deal with all of these issues.”

[McClatchyDC]

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