US to change hostage policy to allow families to pay ransoms

President Obama will announce today a change in policy with regard to hostages being held by terrorists. The government will no longer threaten prosecution of families who pay ransom for their loved ones - a change that families have been urging for years.

The Hill:

Obama will make the changes through an executive order and presidential directive, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday. 

The president will deliver a speech about the moves Wednesday and meet with families of hostages who participated in the review. 

Family members on Tuesday received a briefing on the details of the plan at the White House from senior administration officials. 

The White House will create a new office, known as a hostage recovery fusion cell, to coordinate response efforts with the families of American captives, according to The Wall Street Journal. The office will be housed in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The State Department will also name a special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, according toForeign Policy. The new official will help communicate with foreign governments involved in freeing U.S. hostages.

The administration has not yet selected individuals to lead the fusion cell or serve as special envoy, according to the report.

While the new policy still prevents the U.S. from making concessions to hostage-takers, it will allow families and government officials to communicate with terrorist groups or other third-parties to help secure the release of hostages held overseas.

The Obama administration began a review of its hostage policies last November, following ISIS’s beheading of captive American citizens.

Families of the slain Americans complained the federal government failed to communicate effectively with them while their relatives were held hostage.

The family of James Foley, the U.S. journalist killed by ISIS, said different agencies said different things with regard to paying a ransom and said the White House threatened them with prosecution if they decided to pay a ransom.

The family of Warren Weinstein, an American al Qaeda captive inadvertently killed in a drone strike earlier this year, praised the assistance they received from the FBI but said help from other elements of the U.S. government was “inconsistent and disappointing."

The FBI helped facilitate a ransom payment from the Weinstein family to al Qaeda in 2012, theJournal reported, but it was unsuccessful in leading to his release.

Therein lies the danger with this change in policy - it doesn't always work and with Islamic State, it has yet to be successful. Some of the western hostages were apparently captured by non-Islamic State terrorists and then sold to ISIS after a period of time. If the families could negotiate with the original kidnappers, in theory, more hostages might be returned.

But that is a largely untested hypothesis and some observers warn that paying ransoms will only encourage more hostage taking. As for Islamic State, nothing appears to move them - certainly not pity. A video was just released showing ISIS captives being drowned and blown up:

An ISIS video released Tuesday showed the jihadis murdering 16 men by drowning them in a cage, decapitating them with explosives and firing a rocket-propelled grenade into a car.

The video, apparently shot in Iraq's Nineveh province, was one of the most brutal yet in a series released by the jihadis of killings of opponents in areas under ISIS control.

ISIS has executed hundreds of people by gunfire, dozens by beheading, stoned some to death, thrown others from buildings and burned a captured Jordanian pilot alive.

Videos of the killings are a key propaganda tool of the jihadis, used to shock and terrify their enemies as well as to draw in new recruits seeking the most brutal and active militant group.

The men killed in the latest video are said to be "spies," with some of them making recorded "confessions."

First, the militants lead four men to a car and close the doors, after which one fires a rocket-propelled grenade under the vehicle, setting it alight.

A militant is later shown locking five men inside a metal cage, which is then lifted by a crane and submerged in what appears to be a dirty swimming pool.

Two cameras affixed to the outside of the cage show the men's deaths in the murky water.

The last killings show a militant looping blue detonating cord around the necks of seven kneeling men, after which the explosives are set off and some of the men are decapitated.

Appealing to Islamic State's humanity would appear to be worse than useless.

 

President Obama will announce today a change in policy with regard to hostages being held by terrorists. The government will no longer threaten prosecution of families who pay ransom for their loved ones - a change that families have been urging for years.

The Hill:

Obama will make the changes through an executive order and presidential directive, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday. 

The president will deliver a speech about the moves Wednesday and meet with families of hostages who participated in the review. 

Family members on Tuesday received a briefing on the details of the plan at the White House from senior administration officials. 

The White House will create a new office, known as a hostage recovery fusion cell, to coordinate response efforts with the families of American captives, according to The Wall Street Journal. The office will be housed in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The State Department will also name a special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, according toForeign Policy. The new official will help communicate with foreign governments involved in freeing U.S. hostages.

The administration has not yet selected individuals to lead the fusion cell or serve as special envoy, according to the report.

While the new policy still prevents the U.S. from making concessions to hostage-takers, it will allow families and government officials to communicate with terrorist groups or other third-parties to help secure the release of hostages held overseas.

The Obama administration began a review of its hostage policies last November, following ISIS’s beheading of captive American citizens.

Families of the slain Americans complained the federal government failed to communicate effectively with them while their relatives were held hostage.

The family of James Foley, the U.S. journalist killed by ISIS, said different agencies said different things with regard to paying a ransom and said the White House threatened them with prosecution if they decided to pay a ransom.

The family of Warren Weinstein, an American al Qaeda captive inadvertently killed in a drone strike earlier this year, praised the assistance they received from the FBI but said help from other elements of the U.S. government was “inconsistent and disappointing."

The FBI helped facilitate a ransom payment from the Weinstein family to al Qaeda in 2012, theJournal reported, but it was unsuccessful in leading to his release.

Therein lies the danger with this change in policy - it doesn't always work and with Islamic State, it has yet to be successful. Some of the western hostages were apparently captured by non-Islamic State terrorists and then sold to ISIS after a period of time. If the families could negotiate with the original kidnappers, in theory, more hostages might be returned.

But that is a largely untested hypothesis and some observers warn that paying ransoms will only encourage more hostage taking. As for Islamic State, nothing appears to move them - certainly not pity. A video was just released showing ISIS captives being drowned and blown up:

An ISIS video released Tuesday showed the jihadis murdering 16 men by drowning them in a cage, decapitating them with explosives and firing a rocket-propelled grenade into a car.

The video, apparently shot in Iraq's Nineveh province, was one of the most brutal yet in a series released by the jihadis of killings of opponents in areas under ISIS control.

ISIS has executed hundreds of people by gunfire, dozens by beheading, stoned some to death, thrown others from buildings and burned a captured Jordanian pilot alive.

Videos of the killings are a key propaganda tool of the jihadis, used to shock and terrify their enemies as well as to draw in new recruits seeking the most brutal and active militant group.

The men killed in the latest video are said to be "spies," with some of them making recorded "confessions."

First, the militants lead four men to a car and close the doors, after which one fires a rocket-propelled grenade under the vehicle, setting it alight.

A militant is later shown locking five men inside a metal cage, which is then lifted by a crane and submerged in what appears to be a dirty swimming pool.

Two cameras affixed to the outside of the cage show the men's deaths in the murky water.

The last killings show a militant looping blue detonating cord around the necks of seven kneeling men, after which the explosives are set off and some of the men are decapitated.

Appealing to Islamic State's humanity would appear to be worse than useless.