US will soften hostage ran­som pol­icy: re­port

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

U.S. of­fi­cials are ex­pected to stop pros­e­cut­ing fam­i­lies of Amer­i­can hostages who com­mu­ni­cate with kid­nap­pers abroad or raise funds and pay ran­soms, ABC news re­ported Sun­day.

A Na­tional Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Cen­ter ad­vi­sory group, or­dered by the White House, is ex­pected to rec­om­mend what would mark a rad­i­cal shift in U.S. hostage pol­icy, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

The NCTC in­ter­viewed fam­i­lies of hostages, in­clud­ing the par­ents of jour­nal­ist James Fo­ley, who was killed by Is­lamic State fighters.

Fo­ley’s mother Diane has said that of­fi­cials from Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion re­peat­edly told her fam­ily it was il­le­gal to try to raise a ran­som to free her son, and warned that her fam­ily could face pros­e­cu­tion for do­ing so.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has de­nied mak­ing any such threats.

“There will be ab­so­lutely zero chance of any fam­ily mem­ber of an Amer­i­can held hostage over­seas ever fac­ing jail them­selves, or even the threat of pros­e­cu­tion, for try­ing to free their loved ones,” a se­nior of­fi­cial told ABC News.

Mean­while, the fam­ily of U.S. con­trac­tor War­ren We­in­stein, who was snatched by al-Qaida in Pak­istan in 2011, con­firmed it had paid a ran­som to try to se­cure his re­lease.

CBS News re­ported the ran­som was for US$250,000 (NT$7.65 mil­lion).

A spokesman for the fam­ily said it had “made ev­ery ef­fort to en­gage with those hold­ing him or those with the power to find and res­cue him.”

“This is an or­di­nary Amer­i­can fam­ily and they are not familiar with how one man­ages a kid­nap­ping,” the spokesman added.

“As such, they took the ad­vice of those in gov­ern­ment who deal with such is­sues on a regular ba­sis and were dis­ap­pointed that their ef­forts were not ul­ti­mately suc­cess­ful.”

It was un­clear what sort of ad­vice the fam­ily re­ceived from U.S. gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

Diane Fo­ley wel­comed the po- ten­tial pol­icy shift, which of­fi­cials dis­cussed with her last week.

“There’s a lot that needs to be fixed,” she told ABC News.

She said the past threats were “the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was in­cred­i­ble.”

A num­ber of hostage fam­i­lies ex­pressed out­rage af­ter U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was freed by the Haqqani Net­work in Pak­istan a year ago in ex­change for the re­lease of five Tal­iban lead­ers held at the Guan­tanamo Bay mil­i­tary pri­son.

Army Lt. Gen. Bennet Sa­col­ick, who pre­vi­ously headed the elite Delta Force coun­tert­er­ror­ism unit, is head­ing the hostage pol­icy re­view team, along with his NCTC staff.

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