Denis McDonough: White House admits President Barack Obama's chief of staff erred by naming Isis's US hostage

Woman's identity had not previously been revealed

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The White House has admitted President Barack Obama’s chief of staff made an error when he named on TV a US hostage being held by Isis.

In an interview at the weekend, Denis McDonough accidentally let slip the name of the last American citizen held hostage by Isis, a woman captured in August of 2013 during a humanitarian mission. The family had requested that her name not be publicly released in order to help facilitate her release.

The other aid workers are thought to have been set free, but ISIS demanded $6mn for the American woman’s release as recently as 2014. As part of the deal, Isis (also known as Islamic State) also demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani-born neuroscientist who was convicted in 2010 of trying to kill US officials and accused of planning the construction of dirty bombs.

During an appearance on ABC’s political show This Week, Mr McDonough mentioned the woman’s name while talking to presenter George Stephanopoulos.

“As it relates to our hostages, we are obviously continuing to work those matters very, very aggressively,” Mr McDonough told Mr Stephanopoulos. “We are sparing no expense and sparing no effort, both in trying to make sure that we know where they are and make sure that we're prepared to do anything we must to try to get them home.”

On Monday, a senior government official said Mr McDonough’s slip of of the tongue may not have been helpful. The woman's first name has not previously been released and security officials have requested for it to be redacted from reports on Mr McDonough’s interview.

“I think it’s fair to say that we do not believe that it helps for the names of individual hostages to be in public,” Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told journalists during a press briefing in India, according to The Hill. “I don’t want to speak for Denis, but, I mean, I think we’re being very forthright in saying that we don’t think that’s constructive to securing their release.”

Mr McDonough’s slip came as President Obama, currently on a three-day state visit to India, offered his condolences to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over the killing of a Japanese national by ISIS.