Saturday, September 13, 2014

Global Impact: Obama Administration Intimidating US Hostage Families Re: Ransom Payments

According to Reuters, the family of murdered US journalist James Foley says it was threatened by a US official who warned that family members could be charged with supporting terrorism if they paid a ransom to his Islamist captors, ABC News reported on Friday (September 12).

The White House reportedly refused to discuss conversations that the family had with officials, but said they involved people from different government branches, including the White House, the FBI, the intelligence agencies and the Defense Department.

ABC News quoted Foley's mother and brother as saying a military officer working for President Barack Obama's National Security Council (NSC) had told them several times that they could face criminal charges if they paid a ransom.

"I'm not going to get into who said what in the context of these individual conversations," spokesman Josh Earnest said, but he reaffirmed the US policy not to pay ransoms because it can encourage further abductions.

COMMENT: At the time that I retired from the US Department of State on April 30, 2006, where I held a senior-level position, I knew of NO US government policy that precluded private US citizens from paying ransom as at that time as it was commonly known that US multinational executives worldwide routinely paid ransom to rebels, extremists and bandits.

I emphasize the above statement in that very rarely does the US Government investigate crimes occurring against private US citizens abroad. I stand ready to support this assertion with examples.
Foley's mother, Diane, told ABC NEWS they were told several times of the possibility of charges if a ransom were paid. "We took it as a threat and it was appalling," she said. ABC NEWS did not identify the official she was referring to.
"Three times he intimidated us with that message. We were horrified he would say that. He just told us we would be prosecuted. We knew we had to save our son, we had to try," Diane Foley said in an ABC NEWS interview.
ABC NEWS quoted a spokeswoman for the National Security Council (NSC) as saying that the Foley family was informed of US laws banning terrorism financing, but denied telling the family they could face charges if they made a ransom payment.
Secretary of State John Kerry said he was "taken aback" by the report. "I am totally unaware and would not condone anybody that I know of within the US State Department making such statements," he told reporters during a visit to Istanbul to discuss international action against IS. 
A video of the beheading of James Foley by an IS militant was posted on the Web on August 19. Two weeks later a similar video showed another American journalist, Steven Sotloff, being beheaded.
IS is still holding a number of hostages from Western nations.