Kayla Mueller's father accuses US of putting policy before citizen's lives

In a preview of an interview airing this morning on the Today show, the father of murdered ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller accused the United States government of putting policy before the welfare and lives of its citizens when it comes to the question of paying ransoms and negotiating for the release of kidnapping victims. His comments are actually delivered in a fairly even handed tone considering the loss his family has suffered.

Slain ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller’s father has accused the Obama administration of putting its policy of not paying ransoms “in front of American citizens’ lives.”

In an exclusive interview with TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie, Carl Mueller said he had mixed feelings about the government’s refusal to negotiate with terrorist groups who kidnapped foreigners. Other Western countries are known to have paid millions to secure the release of their nationals.

“We understand the policy about not paying ransom,” he said. “But on the other hand, any parents out there would understand that you would want anything and everything done to bring your child home. And we tried. And we asked. But they put policy in front of American citizens’ lives.”

Right off the bat I just want to say that I’m not here to side with the Mueller family if they are advocating for a change in policy. (Which isn’t exactly clear from the preview. I’ll need to see the entire interview for that.) Paying millions of dollars to terrorists is just a self-defeating policy and gives them the real leverage they need to pay and support their fighters and continue their reign of terror. We simply can’t do it. And while I understand the natural impulse of a parent to want to do anything, including moving Heaven and Earth to get their child back, the government can’t simply sit back and allow wealthy Americans to send them that sort of cash.

But with that said, we shouldn’t assume that the Obama administration is doing a bang up job on these hostage situations and that there’s no room for improvement. (Did that even need to be said?) There have been too many complaints from the families about how there was little or no communication with them during such a critical time of crisis. Also, while there are understandable limits on what can be done based on gaps in intelligence resources, we need to be making sure that every aggressive attempt possible is made to effect a rescue and to communicate these activities to the families as fully and rapidly as intelligence constraints will allow. There have also been too many complaints on that front after the fact.

For the moment, at least to the best of our knowledge, there are no more American hostages being held by ISIS. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen again, particularly if we continue to falter on our response to the threat. And when it does, we need to have better answers as to how to respond.

Here’s a preview of the interview which gives a good sense of the measured tone the family is taking. I think even if you disagree with their take on the policy, you have to admire their restraint because you could hardly blame them if they’d been hysterical after losing their daughter.