Wednesday, June 24 – President Barack Obama announced the results of the Hostage Policy Review.
After six months of reviewing the U.S. hostage policy, Obama announced that families of those held hostage by terrorists will not face criminal charges if they choose to pay ransom to the captors.
There are currently over thirty American citizens that are held hostage abroad. It is hostages like them, and their families, who have criticized the policy and Obama administration. In the wake of that criticism, the six month review of the existing policy began. President Obama felt that he had disappointed those families and their loved ones. He spoke out after a touching meeting with former hostages and their loved ones. He said:
“I acknowledged to them in private what I want to say publicly, that it is true that there have been times where our government, regardless of good intentions, has let them down. I promised them that we can do better.”
The government will continue to act in accordance with the policy. They will not pay ransom or concede/negotiate with terrorists or terrorists groups. They will, however, help families negotiate for the release of their loved ones.
Trepidation’s about the policy shift stem from the fact that ransom money could provide terrorists the funds they need to continue their dangerous activities. The worry is that giving them more money puts more Americans at risk.
John Boehner, House Speaker, states:
“We have had a policy in the United States for over 200 years of not paying ransom and not negotiating with terrorists. The concern that I have is that by lifting that long-held principle you could be endangering more Americans here and overseas.”
Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, Lisa Monaco, voices her concerns as well:
“There’s no doubt that the payment of ransoms fuels the very activity that we are trying to stop. At the same time we’ve got a responsibility to stand with families as they make the most difficult decisions we could ever imagine”
In defense of the policy change, White House officials point out the fact that negotiations between individuals and terrorists would look much different than negotiations between the government and terrorists. While terrorists might ask individuals for financial compromise, they could ask the government for military or foreign policy compromise. Therefore it’s much safer for private individuals to negotiate terms on their own behalf instead of the government fighting the front line for them.
Also implemented is a “Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell”. It will be an FBI based program that will help coordinate and facilitate family’s efforts to retrieve their loved ones that are held hostage. Assisting will be individuals from FBI, the Pentagon and the State Department. Obama wants to make sure that these families no longer feel lost, unseen and unheard. He stated:
“These families have already suffered enough and they should never feel ignored or victimized by their own government.”