“It’s not anyone’s fault,” Diane Foley says about the lack of support her family received during James Foley’s abduction by ISIS and eventual murder, “it’s just a lack of discussion around it.” CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewed the mother of the first American journalist beheaded by ISIS last month, who expresses her frustration over a lack of communication as well as a lack of action from the Obama administration during his time as a hostage:

In part, Foley criticizes the conflicting policies between Western nations on paying ransoms, a point which has been noted repeatedly of late. The US and UK will not pay ransoms nor allow others to do so for hostages, while other Western nations are more free with their cash. Their willingness to do so has caused a rapid escalation in ransom demands, so much so that private citizens can’t possibly raise enough cash to act on behalf of their family members — and even if they wanted to do so, they could get prosecuted for it. In fact, Diane Foley said her family was threatened with prosecution if they tried to do that themselves:

CNN released a partial transcript last night (via TWS):

DIANE FOLEY: As an American I was embarrassed and appalled… I think our efforts to get Jim freed were an annoyance you know…

ANDERSON: an annoyance to the government?

DIANE FOLEY: Yes, and it wasn’t — didn’t seem to be in our strategic interest if you will… I was appalled as an American. Jim would have been saddened – Jim believed ’til the end that his country would come to their aid.

DIANE FOLEY: We were, you know asked to not go to the media – to just trust that it would be taken care of. We were told that we could not raise ransom, that it was illegal, we might be prosecuted …

ANDERSON: You were told you would actually be prosecuted?

DIANE FOLEY: Yes that that was a real possibility, told that many times. We were told that our government would not exchange prisoners, would not do a military action … so we were just told to trust that he would be, be freed somehow miraculously, and he wasn’t, was he? And we’re dealing with very difficult people when we talk about ISIS. Their hate for us is great and yet some of our response to them has only increased the hate. So I feel there’s a need for debate, discussion. I, I pray that our government will be willing to learn from the mistakes that were made and to acknowledge that there are better ways for American citizens to be treated.


Susan Rice responded later to rebut Foley’s other allegations, that the Obama administration didn’t prioritize Foley’s case and didn’t put much effort into helping them. Rice used the unsuccessful raid attempt to free Foley and other hostages as proof that the White House prioritized the hostage situations, but there have been questions raised about the reluctance of Barack Obama to approve the raid, and whether that contributed to the failure of it.

Another guest later rebutted the idea that ransoming hostages from ISIS would be a workable strategy. First, ISIS now makes more than a million dollars a day selling oil on the black market, and don’t really need the cash like other terrorist groups might. More importantly, those groups that do need cash specifically target citizens from those countries that pay ransoms, which means that payments make the abduction risk higher:

Addendum: It’s also worth noting that those nations which do pay ransoms are in violation of a G-8 agreement in doing so. It’s not as though the discussion hasn’t taken place — it has. It’s just that these nations aren’t very reliable when they give their word after those discussions.