Warren Weinstein: US Aid Worker Held Hostage Pleads for Life

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: The White House issued a statement relating to al-Qaeda today. A spokesman said the Obama administration does not negotiate with the terror group, and will not do so regarding the case of American hostage Warren Weinstein. The 70-year-old American aid worker was kidnapped in Pakistan nine months ago. He surfaced in a two minute video posted by al-Qaeda yesterday. Weinstein's message was chilling.

Warren Weinstein: I'd like to talk to President Obama and ask and beg him that he please accept and respond to the demands of the Mujahideen. My life is in your hands, Mr. President. If you accept the demands, I live. If you don't accept the demands then I die.

Werman: At the time of his abduction Weinstein was Pakistan Country Director for JE Austin Associates, a development contractor that works with the US government. Bill Piatt is a friend and former colleague of Weinstein. They met when Weinstein was a country director for the Peace Corps in Togo, West Africa. Bill Piatt succeeded him in that post and full disclosure here, Bill Piatt was a Togo country director and my boss when I was a Peace Corps volunteer there. Piatt says his relationship with Warren Weinstein began in Togo, but deepened in the years that followed.

Bill Piatt: He actually served as a mentor to me. We worked very closely together all across Sub-Saharan Africa promoting small enterprise development as part of a big AID program that he was leading. I was frankly surprised that he's still working, though when you really know Warren, to think that he had an opportunity to face a challenge like that posed by what's happening in Pakistan, I can see how that would be something he could not resist.

Werman: Of course, you've known about his abduction since it happened last August. What do you know about the details?

Piatt: Well, all I know is that he had been to Islamabad and had said his goodbyes to everybody, that you know, probably the ministries that he was working with. And was within 48 hours of returning home to his family in the United States when some insurgents broke into his house and got his driver to open his bedroom door. And that's then how he was abducted.

Werman: Bill, since he was a mentor of sorts to you, tell us what sort of person he is. I mean specifically, what else you might be able to tell us about Warren Weinstein that might help us understand how he's coping with this abduction and being in detention.

Piatt: When I heard the newspaper reports that he had become fluent in Urdu I did not find that surprising at all. And when I heard that occasionally he would dress in the local dress, I did not find that surprising at all. Warren is a connoisseur of culture. I was constantly in awe of his linguistic abilities and his ability to get close to and work with local leaders at the grass roots level in the country. But what really impressed me about Warren more than anything else was he almost always seemed to be in trouble with Washington, DC. And it was because he was so focused on doing what was right for the people in the country that when the policies or the dictates that came down from Washington were inconsistent with that, he would often just ignore them and do what he thought was right. Whenever he rubbed anybody the wrong way it was always the bureaucrats in Washington that he rubbed the wrong way, and he did it for the benefit of the people in the country. You know, he ticked off the Peace Corps when he was in Togo because he was pushing all this stuff locally. And he drove us crazy as staff members, but it was because he wanted to do the right thing and didn't want to let anybody be complacent and he would push everybody as hard as possible. Then he went to USA ID and he did that huge private sector development project in Sub-Saharan Africa, and drove all the bureaucrats at ID crazy with it, but boy they had a huge impact.

Werman: Bill, thanks very much for telling us about Warren.

Piatt: Thank you, Marco.

Werman: Bill Piatt is a friend and former colleague of Warren Weinstein, an American contractor abducted in Pakistan.