White House to announce new hostage ransom policy

posted at 5:21 pm on June 23, 2015 by Jazz Shaw

After the disastrous deaths of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and Peter Kassig, the White House was forced to go back and take a fresh look at not only how they deal with potential hostage rescue scenarios, but how they interact with the families of hostages as well. That review is now complete and Foreign Policy reports that there will be some changes being announced this week.

President Barack Obama’s administration will reassure the families of Americans held by groups like the Islamic State that they can pay ransoms without fear of prosecution, the first tangible policy change to result from the deaths of an array of U.S. captives in recent months.

The shift, which has not previously been reported, will be detailed Wednesday as part of the administration’s long-awaited review of U.S. hostage policy, according to two government officials and others familiar with the matter. The White House launched the probe last year after coming under fierce criticism for failing to do more to bring back missing American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Peter Kassig, all three of whom were beheaded by the Islamic State. Three other Americans — journalist Luke Somers in Yemen, and aid workers Kayla Mueller in Syria and Warren Weinstein on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan — have since been killed while in militant custody.

It’s far from clear if the changes — which will also include the creation of a new government-wide hostage recovery fusion center at the FBI — will be enough to mollify the simmering anger many hostage families continue to feel towards the White House. People familiar with the matter said that only 24 of the 82 families the administration reached out to chose to participate in the review process, a clear sign of the lack of trust between the two sides. A spokesman for the Weinstein family said Monday that “hostage families are understandably skeptical about this review.”

Some of the detailed proposals covered in the article seem like solid and long overdue measures. Communications with the families have been beyond dismal at times and that needed to change. Assigning some point person with up to date, detailed knowledge of all intelligence which can be safely released and having them be available to the families at all times is a great start. That doesn’t get you any closer to having your loved one safely back home, but there is some comfort in being kept in the loop. Additionally, if the families are contacted and happen to get any information which could prove useful in effecting a rescue, they should be able to feed that up the chain without delay.

The question of ransom is a more complicated one. We’re still maintaining a policy of never negotiating with terrorists, but apparently we’re hinting, if not stating, that if families want to pay the terrorists a ransom, they won’t get in trouble. Sort of.

A second senior administration official said the White House wouldn’t seek to change the current laws, which explicitly say that anyone who “knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both, and, if the death of any person results, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.”

Instead, the official said the White House would publicly and privately point out that the Justice Department has never gone after families who paid ransoms to win the release of their relatives — and almost certainly wouldn’t do so in the future.

“There has been confusion in the past by family members of hostages about potential prosecutions,” the official said. “[The Justice Department] has never used the material support statute to prosecute a family member for paying a ransom for the safe return of their loved ones.”

Call me naive, but I somehow don’t think that ISIS much cares if their million dollars comes directly from the coffers of the government or from the private bank accounts of families of hostages. Similarly, one of the chief reasons given for this standing policy is that if you pay off the terrorists for one hostage you provide a huge incentive for them to take more. Is there really a difference between making it legal to pay ransoms or saying that it’s illegal but nobody will be pestered over it?

This is the toughest part of the whole question. If it’s your family member being held and tortured and threatened with beheading on the sand, you would likely do pretty much anything to get them back home safely. And being the government representative that says you’re not allowed to take those steps and try to get them home alive is almost unimaginable. I honestly don’t have an answer for that part, but clearly the White House seems to think they do.


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Comments

Number of Americans taken hostage soars, “unexpectedly”

NowIveSeenItAll on June 23, 2015 at 5:26 PM

We should find out who the kidnappers are and go after their families.

Oil Can on June 23, 2015 at 5:26 PM

People familiar with the matter said that only 24 of the 82 families the administration reached out to chose to participate in the review process, a clear sign of the lack of trust between the two sides.

Can you blame them?

And given this administration’s track record of “transparency”, I’d say 58 families were pretty perceptive.

GarandFan on June 23, 2015 at 5:27 PM

Whatever you think of the merits of letting families pay ransom, what in God’s name would posess someone to publicly announce that this will be allowed?

RINO in Name Only on June 23, 2015 at 5:27 PM

What these families need to understand is that the Islamic State will still kill your loved one. Remember, the Jordanian pilot that was captured was used as a bargaining chip with Jordan, until Jordan demanded proof that the pilot was still alive. Of course, the Islamic State was caught in its lie and instead decided to release a propaganda video showing the burning of the pilot alive.

chrisbolts on June 23, 2015 at 5:28 PM

Call me naive, but I somehow don’t think that ISIS much cares if their million dollars comes directly from the coffers of the government or from the private bank accounts of families of hostages.

I’ve reached the point where I view this as an attempt to fund the caliphate. The caliphate is the natural state for the middle east, not Westphalian nation states imposed by western imperial powers.

rbj on June 23, 2015 at 5:29 PM

So the Obama Administration screws up, again, with their dismal handling of anything as simple as keeping the families in the loop of hostage negotiations (hint: they didn’t and don’t care) and create a new agency that will report to the same idiots but who are tasked with acting as “customer support”.

And, again, the Obama Administration will just fail to execute laws they don’t like.

But dang if they aren’t on the ball with confederate flags…

I just see a whole lot of kabuki do-nothing theater here and nothing will actually change except the process for the same failure – another page out of the Chavez playbook.

Skywise on June 23, 2015 at 5:29 PM

Next up…

Cartel kidnappings in USA increase exponentially.

workingclass artist on June 23, 2015 at 5:30 PM

How many of them do you think ISIS would trade for Hopey? I see that as a win-win.

cornbred on June 23, 2015 at 5:32 PM

I wonder if we will hear an announcement in the coming days of some fresh hostages…

djl130 on June 23, 2015 at 5:33 PM

ISIS Command to all ISIS … proceed with hostage taking. American hostages have priority.

——- end message ———-

darwin on June 23, 2015 at 5:35 PM

If only there was some flag we could ban to stop this!

Axeman on June 23, 2015 at 5:36 PM

obama wants to enrich his bros.

Only fools believe him to be for America, freedom and decency in ‘humanity/civilization’.

Iran and ISO rejoice today and every day.

Schadenfreude on June 23, 2015 at 5:38 PM

obama furthers the ISO financing.

Every single American is now more endangered, the world over.

Schadenfreude on June 23, 2015 at 5:38 PM

Or, to borrow a page from the HotAir Stylebook:

Alternative Headline: “Americans Now Permitted To Subsidize ISIS Strategies”

Blaise on June 23, 2015 at 5:39 PM

Whatever you think of the merits of letting families pay ransom, what in God’s name would posess someone to publicly announce that this will be allowed?

RINO in Name Only on June 23, 2015 at 5:27 PM

Looks to me like he wants more opportunities to provide funding to our enemies.

dentarthurdent on June 23, 2015 at 5:39 PM

Terrible idea.
This all comes down to Bush. If he wasn’t that incompetent Obama wouldn’t have been president

weedisgood on June 23, 2015 at 5:40 PM

So the Obama Administration screws up, again, ….
Skywise on June 23, 2015 at 5:29 PM

He didn’t ‘screw up’. He WANTS his Brothers to have the money. He supports their goal of a Global Caliphate.

And the chance to once again show America the middle finger is just ‘icing on the cake’ to him.

LegendHasIt on June 23, 2015 at 5:40 PM

I honestly don’t have an answer for that part, but clearly the White House seems to think they do.

Name one reason why you should trust this WH.

Name 10 items why you think that obama furthers ISO.

Schadenfreude on June 23, 2015 at 5:40 PM

Seems like a really easy legal (or not illegal) way to funnel money to a terrorist organization. Just have them “kidnap” your sister/brother/aunt/uncle/son/daughter then send them a check for a million bucks. No prosecution, but there was never any real fear any harm would come to your relative.

DWSC on June 23, 2015 at 5:43 PM

We are so screwed as a nation.

This … is what we served for?

Terrible idea.
This all comes down to Bush. If he wasn’t that incompetent Obama wouldn’t have been president

weedisgood on June 23, 2015 at 5:40 PM

Reduced to troll status never with a point. All obama, the worst president in US History.

hawkdriver on June 23, 2015 at 5:43 PM

Hostage already a casualty. Send big bomb.

Tzetzes on June 23, 2015 at 5:43 PM

weed is bad for small brains and for the environment.

Schadenfreude on June 23, 2015 at 5:45 PM

This all comes down to Bush. If he wasn’t that incompetent Obama wouldn’t have been president

Cheech Wizard on June 23, 2015 at 5:40 PM

Tell us again how Bush was so incompetent he stole the 2000 Presidential election…and tell us again how Bush’s job approval soared to 90% after he let 9/11 happen on his watch…and how he brainwashed all of the Democrats, including the current and incumbent Secretaries of State, into voting for his Fake War.

That’s not incompetence, it’s pure unadulterated genius, except on your planet!

Del Dolemonte on June 23, 2015 at 5:49 PM

Whatever you think of the merits of letting families pay ransom, what in God’s name would posess someone to publicly announce that this will be allowed?

RINO in Name Only on June 23, 2015 at 5:27 PM

I agree…making it public is insane. But, this WH is more concerned with winning PR points than the consequences of encouraging kidnappings by announcing this. Criminal.

changer1701 on June 23, 2015 at 5:52 PM

How about all of the ‘sorta hostages’. The thousands of Americans that have gone over to fight for ISIS. I can see the families sending money to ‘bring their kids home’ too.

Anyone with a relative in ISIS occupied lands can send money over to ISIS and claim it is a hostage payoff.

nemo on June 23, 2015 at 5:52 PM

Terrible idea.
This all comes down to Bush. If he wasn’t that incompetent Obama wouldn’t have been president

weedisgood on June 23, 2015 at 5:40 PM

^^^

A mind on drugs

darwin on June 23, 2015 at 5:53 PM

How’s this for a policy:

We will do everything possible to launch hostage rescue raids to recover our citizens held abroad. However, if those efforts are unsuccessful, or if they are deemed likely to fail, we will not leave our hostages out there. Instead we will aim to destroy via drone-fired missiles any building suspected of housing them, their captors, their captors’ families or anyone thought to be complicit in their capture or the capture of any other Americans. We fully expect that such raids will kill some American hostages, but our aim is to make an American hostage such a radioactive commodity that nobody will allow them to be held in their neighborhood.

Would that increase or decrease the safety of being an American abroad? And frankly, if I ever found myself in that unfortunate situation, I’d much rather be killed in an instant by my own country’s missile than be drugged and decapitated for a propaganda video.

SoRight on June 23, 2015 at 5:57 PM

If it’s me the hostage, the last thing I want to see is my and my captors looking up saying “what is that noi….”

right2bright on June 23, 2015 at 5:57 PM

Here’s another novel idea…don’t place yourself in a situation where you could be kidnapped. A good amount of these people placed themselves in dangerous environments, some almost even sympathizing with those same groups that ended up kidnapping them and turning them over for $.

These weren’t Americans kidnapped walking down Boise, or even Paris or another large western city. You place yourself in a dangerous situation, there’s a chance it could bite you in the butt.

It’s a horrible situation, but no way can we let them be paid. It will only resort in more people taken.

nextgen_repub on June 23, 2015 at 5:58 PM

Obama is the Muslim Terrorists best fundraiser.

portlandon on June 23, 2015 at 6:01 PM

Would that increase or decrease the safety of being an American abroad? And frankly, if I ever found myself in that unfortunate situation, I’d much rather be killed in an instant by my own country’s missile than be drugged and decapitated for a propaganda video.

SoRight on June 23, 2015 at 5:57 PM

Same page with you…If it was my son or daughter, God forbid, I would expect the state to do everything possible to release them to return them, except give them what they want if it is unreasonable. Can’t negotiate.

I would cry my eyes out, curse the captors the day they were born, and expect my country to do what they could…but not set it up so countless other families would have to endure the same, time and time again…

I would say, with determination, it would happen once or twice, than never again.

right2bright on June 23, 2015 at 6:01 PM

Terrible idea.
This all comes down to Bush. If he wasn’t that incompetent Obama wouldn’t have been president

weedisgood on June 23, 2015 at 5:40 PM

Good call, Spicoli.

antipc on June 23, 2015 at 6:04 PM

families never should have been told they could not take care of it themselves.
we allow ship owners and insurance companies to pay ransom for somali pirates hijacking ship and holding crew hostage.
the alabama maersk was unusual situation where navy could be used, usually this is not the case.
so our policy is to allow a business to pay a ransom to get equipment and people back but we would not allow a family to do same thing.
allowing a family to pay it is not the same as the US paying or negotiating.

dmacleo on June 23, 2015 at 6:10 PM

Terrible idea.
This all comes down to Bush. If he wasn’t that incompetent Obama wouldn’t have been president

weedisgood on June 23, 2015 at 5:40 PM

You’re right. Thanks for pre-labeling your terrible idea.

Axeman on June 23, 2015 at 6:13 PM

White House to announce new hostage ransom policy

Just Tell Us What You Want, So I Can Get Back To The Links

Who the hell do you think?

BlaxPac on June 23, 2015 at 6:14 PM

Why not just send taxpayer money? The caliphate gets it’s money and there will be no ugly American death stories messing up the NEWS cycle. Both are high priority Obama administration goals.

#Win_Win!

.

ROCnPhilly on June 23, 2015 at 6:17 PM

Terrible idea.
This all comes down to Bush. If he wasn’t that incompetent Obama wouldn’t have been president

weedisgood on June 23, 2015 at 5:40 PM

:smh:

No.

Weed ISN’T good for you, after all.

Thanks for the buzzkill, Cheech.

BlaxPac on June 23, 2015 at 6:20 PM

Yet another wealth redistribution scheme.

Star Bird on June 23, 2015 at 6:23 PM

Somebody tell me in what way has Barack Obama not overseen the rise of ISIS?

Oh, you mean he talks smack about ISIS?

Meanwhile, when they cross the desert, the military conducts 0-1 bombing raids.

We bomb them for show, though. I will give you that.

Axeman on June 23, 2015 at 6:30 PM

Worst president ever.

EVER.

pedestrian on June 23, 2015 at 6:35 PM

I know that history is under constant revision by the socialist/librul/progressives, but didn’t I read somewhere that there once was a country that said, concerning muslims, millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute. That must have been a fairy tale with unicorns. I know, I must be imagining things again. If anyone can remember the name ofthat forgotten country, let me know.

Old Country Boy on June 23, 2015 at 6:43 PM

and if Obama had never been prez, “weed” all be better off.

Senator Philip Bluster on June 23, 2015 at 6:45 PM

Terrible idea.
This all comes down to Bush. If he wasn’t that incompetent Obama wouldn’t have been president

weedisgood on June 23, 2015 at 5:40 PM

What’s the matter – afraid some Christians might escape getting their heads chopped off?

Gator Country on June 23, 2015 at 6:49 PM

obama: ‘Pay the muzzies! Pay the muzzies! Death to America! Pay the muzzies!’

Pork-Chop on June 23, 2015 at 6:52 PM

Lawlessness fits this president’s MO.

Count to 10 on June 23, 2015 at 7:19 PM

I’d say The One and his sycophants have lost their marbles, but I’ve never believed they had any to begin with.

As of now, the best thing any unbiased historian will be able to say about The One a century from now is that he somehow managed to make Jimmy Carter look lucid, and make Neville Chamberlain look resolute.

He will however go down in Islamic history as being equal to the “facilitators” who betrayed Constantinople to the Turkish Sultan Mehmed in 1453.

After entering the city, ordering the Hagia Sofia reconsecrated as a mosque, and praying there, he thanked the “facilitators” for their cooperation. Then had them beheaded, and ordered the city sacked.

Thanks to The One, they may get to do it to Washington, D.C. yet.

clear ether

eon

eon on June 23, 2015 at 8:10 PM

Must see video on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VX1gdpEFAzg

NoPain on June 23, 2015 at 8:46 PM

NoPain on June 23, 2015 at 8:46 PM

.
Absolutely excellent !: )

listens2glenn on June 23, 2015 at 10:54 PM

This is the toughest part of the whole question. If it’s your family member being held and tortured and threatened with beheading on the sand, you would likely do pretty much anything to get them back home safely. And being the government representative that says you’re not allowed to take those steps and try to get them home alive is almost unimaginable. I honestly don’t have an answer for that part, but clearly the White House seems to think they do.

I certainly understand the family of the hostage wanting to pay any price to get that hostage back.

Even so, it should not be allowed, even if the family members have to be prosecuted for trying to do it.

The reason is simple. Paying a ransom puts a target on the back of more hostages. Trying to get your family member back is not a good enough reason to put others in danger. It should be illegal, prosecuted, and punished.

There Goes the Neighborhood on June 24, 2015 at 1:56 AM

Terrible idea.
This all comes down to Bush. If he wasn’t that incompetent Obama wouldn’t have been president

weedisgood on June 23, 2015 at 5:40 PM

Boooosh!!

Are we sure this is not a parody account? I mean, I know trolls can be stupid, but to be this stupid this consistently….

There Goes the Neighborhood on June 24, 2015 at 2:02 AM

The question of ransom is a more complicated one.

No, it’s not, actually.

farsighted on June 24, 2015 at 6:29 AM

Did he make this announcement at the WH Iftar dinner Monday night?

Kissmygrits on June 24, 2015 at 8:14 AM

Can’t wait to see the sequel to Air Force One.

Of course we’ll have to replace Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman with, I don’t know, The Rock and Benedict Cumberbatch (although more likely in this Hollywood mindset, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill or something dumb like that). But I can see it now:

“We don’t negotiate with terrorists. But we tacitly permit private US citizens to negotiate with terrorists, which totally is not the same thing.”

“If the families of the plane’s crew agree to compensate you for time and materials, would it be amenable to you to get off my plane? Please?”

This all comes down to Bush. If he wasn’t that incompetent Obama wouldn’t have been president

weedisgood on June 23, 2015 at 5:40 PM

Gotta give points for an original argument: Obama (suddenly) is horrible at foreign policy, and the fact that he was even elected is Bush’s fault.

The Schaef on June 24, 2015 at 9:47 AM

The President is establishing a new policy for beheadings as if he was a card carrying ISIS member.

If that is the case he policy must focus on the manner in which beheadings take place. First the Koran does not condone using any other type of sword to perform a beheading of infidels with any thing other than a Scimitar sword, Using a knife used for hand to hand combat is not proper and inhumane.

Let Pres. Obama set them straight, or does he think the Scimitar is more appropropriate as a bayonet?

MSGTAS on June 24, 2015 at 10:08 AM

B.O. just provided the savages with another cash stream.

JackM on June 24, 2015 at 10:22 AM

B.O. : “My fellow Americans, I am dedicated to keeping you safe from the savages. Now, please, I’ll do nothing to that will harm any savage, anywhere, that I promise. But if a loved one is captured by these savages, you may now pay whatever amount of American dollars you deem necessary, and Wha-lah, you get your loved one back, hopefully with his/her head still attached.”

“Thank you very much.”

“And I apologize for using the term ‘savage'”.

JackM on June 24, 2015 at 10:30 AM

The B.O. Administration is now a state sponsor of terrorism.

JackM on June 24, 2015 at 10:32 AM

B.O.:

“Issis can have the Sudetenland.”

JackM on June 24, 2015 at 10:35 AM

i am late to the party but WTF was the idiot LYING MUSLIM doing telling the world that our citizens are now open game for hostage taking.i’m hopeful that the muslim thugs infesting Europe decide they need 3 more brides for their fighting men in the middle east and see how much ransom the LYING MUSLIM is willing to pay to get his family back.

bilker on June 24, 2015 at 2:53 PM