A review of hostage policy may recommend Obama does not persecute the families of those held captive from paying ransoms
Families and friends of Americans held hostage by terrorist organizations may now be able to pay the ransom for their loved ones without fear of persecution.
A new study conducted by the National Counterterrorism Center has recommended that government not block payments that civilians make in an attempt to release American captives. Currently, such attempts are considered providing material aid to known terror organizations. Obama ordered a study into possible policy changes after ISIS killed James Foley.
“We were told very clearly three times that it was illegal for us to try to ransom our son out and that we had the possibility of being prosecuted,” said Diane Foley, James Foley’s mother in an interview on ABC News.
“Without getting into the details of our private discussions with families, the law is clear that ransom payments to designated individuals or entities, such as ISIL, are prohibited,” said a representative of President Obama’s National Security Council in a statement to ABC News last year. “It is also a matter of long standing policy that the U.S. does not grant concessions to hostage takers. Doing so would only put more Americans at risk of being taken captive,”
At the heart of these debate is the question of whether paying ransoms, either with civilian money or government support, will result in more hostages be taken.
“I don’t think this is going to lead to more kidnappings at all,” said Chris Voss, former chief FBI hostage negotiator.
“If you say that we’ll pay them, there’ll be many more hostages,” said Richard A. Clarke, a former U.S. counterterrorism official.
This debate will not be solved any time soon. In the mean time, senior officials conducting the review have advised the president not to persecute families trying to save their loved ones.
“There will be absolutely zero chance of any family member of an American held hostage overseas ever facing jail themselves, or even the threat of prosecution, for trying to free their loved ones,” said one official familiar with the ongoing review of hostage policy.