U.S. may allow hostages' families to pay ransom demands

But after Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was freed by the Haqqani Network in Pakistan a year ago for five Taliban leaders incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay’s military prison, many hostage families later cried foul over no swaps being offered for their loved ones. The White House responded that Bergdahl, who now faces life in prison if convicted of desertion, was considered a prisoner of war and therefore his case was different.

The hostage policy review team is headed by Army Lt. Gen. Bennet Sacolick, a former commander of the elite Delta Force counter-terrorism unit, and his NCTC staff. He told the Daily Beast last week that “we can do better” at informing hostage families about developments in their cases, which has been another criticism by the Foleys who complained they were kept in the dark during their son’s captivity.

Experts say that threatening hostages’ families with prosecution who already are suffering excruciating pain — which eventually was subsumed by grief when their loved ones were murdered by ISIS — was not only reprehensible, but sticking to a cookie-cutter policy of outlawing ransom negotiations or payments also mistakenly restricted options rather than risked encouraging more kidnappings.

“They should be allowed to do whatever they can as a civilian to get their victim or family member out of harm’s way,” former FBI agent Jack Cloonan, who has been involved in hostage negotiations, told ABC News last week.