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White House Signals Weakening of Hostage Ransom Stance

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest Thursday signaled a change in U.S. policy toward ransoming hostages of terrorist organizations, suggesting the United States government may soon tolerate people attempting to ransom their kidnapped family members and even help with the process, though government funds would not be used.

A review underway of U.S. hostage policy, ordered by President Obama, is expected to recommend that families be free to try to ransom loved ones who have been taken prisoner.

A report in the Wall Street Journal this week said that not only did the FBI in 2012 not prosecute family members for trying to ransom kidnapped aid worker Warren Weinstein, it offered logistical help abetting the ransom attempt. In the end, $250,000 was paid but Weinstein was not freed and was later killed accidentally in a U.S. drone strike.

Earnest, while not commenting directly on the case reported by the Journal, drew a line between ransom and abetting ransom, saying it was important to help the families of hostages.

Helping with a ransom payment, to use your word, is not tantamount to paying a ransom. And what we are trying to do is to aggressively enforce this policy — which we do — while also supporting these families that are relying on the expert advice and support of the FBI, other law enforcement agencies, and other national security officials that are trying to secure the safe return of their loved one . . .

And the question is how do you try to do everything you can to rescue an American that’s being held hostage and support their family that’s going through living hell at the same time? And that’s something that our law enforcement agencies, our intel community, our military, and our diplomats go to great lengths to try to do.

Earnest insisted that actual payments by the U.S. government for ransoms will not be made. But it’s unclear to me what the distinction really is. If you oppose ransoming hostages – for the very good reason that it spurs more taking of captives – than you should not in any way facilitate or condone ransoms.

Once the door is opened to helping families ransom hostages, it becomes very easy for officials to contrive new and expanding strategies for doing so, leading perhaps to the point where the government is doing everything to ransom hostages but coming up with the money.

Families of hostages deserves our empathy. And no doubt, working with them, federal officials become particularly sensitive to their plight. But this new policy could put the word out that the U.S. is effectively in the hostage ransom business. And then there will be many more captives taken and offered back for a price.

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27 Responses to White House Signals Weakening of Hostage Ransom Stance

  1. The two guys that died in the drone attack were snatched off the streets of Karachi/ not some Tribal Territories hit . Wait till they start snatching them off the streets of NYC .” Millions for defense , not a penny for tribute ” and that was back when the US Navy was a half dozen frigates but at least skippered by men not afraid to use them . Or at least bring back the ‘ punitive raid ‘ : poison the wells and slaughter every last goat and leave them the calling card of them what did it.

    • War on law enforcement and the rule of law. I saw a group of them surrounded by black banners — Disarm them — alldtessed in black with hoodies and some with masks — looking all the world like ISIS. At least the shots I saw.

    • Mob rule, now mob justice. Immediately the “peaceful protest” people started defying the curfew.

      What will happen to Baltimore if the mob doesn’t get exactly the justice they want? More riots by “kids”?

  2. He is giving carte blanche to the drug cartels to begin their brutal ‘kidnap for ransom’agenda on our side of the border. Ransom insurance is a HUGE business in Mexico!

    Is he nuts or something???

  3. If you get in trouble in a foreign country even for smuggling drugs or something, someone from the consulate meets with you–you are an Am citizen. To me, this admin has stirred up all this stuff and can at least help where they can–not of course using tax money.

  4. Not that it matters to our first black emperor but can this policy be changed without the tattered heap of what is laughingly called Congress?

  5. While my (alleged) heart goes out to the families of any American held hostage, what in the Sam Hill were they doing in places where they were ASKING to be grabbed by the Bad Guys (REALLY Bad Guys)! If the FAMILY wants to pay a ransom, FINE, let’ em. But our Government should have nothing to do with it because then, we ARE negotiating with terrorists!

    • Yes, that is one side of this. I am on the other side. Companies have insurance for ransoms–they have specialists to negotiate…but if you are not an employee of one of these, you have no one to contact? That seems wrong to me. The govt suddenly came up with some awful terrorists to trade for Bergdahl in lieu of bucks–and they KNEW he was a deserter, the fact that he had started out as a soldier. This is an extreme case of govt getting into it, don’t you agree? They do–and I think in some cases, they should. Mileage may vary…think if it were your relative, tho, and your own recourse were to try to reach out to some savages on Twitter.

  6. Do people really believe that Weinstein was killed accidentally? All of a sudden a drone strike at that location? There had to be intelligence about who was at that location. Administration likes drone killings. How disgusting and idiotic!

  7. It’s all about feelings to the Obama admin. I feel good giving a hostage back to the family. Therefore the God that I don’t believe in will protect me from the results of any action that I take in order to get that good, superior-to-the-cautious feeling.