Obama goes soft on kidnappers: copy the Israelis and bind the nation
President Obama wants to stop the law that prosecutes families of American hostages for paying ransoms. He said:
“These families have already suffered enough and they should never feel ignored or victimised by their own government.”
A good move?
John Boehner, a senior Republican Congressman is unsure:
“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.”
Diane Foley, mother of journalist James Foley who was murdered by ISIL in 2014, adds:
“We really feel that our government needs to have a clearer policy and be more upfront about what they can and cannot do, or will and will not do. We felt like we were in the dark a lot.”
Although the US Government has made enormous efforts to secure the release of its citizens kidnapped in the Middle East, it failed to communicate these effectively to the next-of-kin. Relatives were given confusing and sometimes contradictory information from different arms of govt… The adoption of a single ‘fusion centre’ inside the FBI as a point of contact for families brings the US closer into line with Britain, where the FCO’s Counter Terrorism Dept takes the lead on all overseas kidnap cases.
David Forsmark and Timothy Imholt ask: “Did Obama Reopen Middle Eastern Slave Markets by Executive Order?”
No. But carry on…
In real life, no American family has ever been prosecuted for paying ransom; but apparently the president wants to make sure that the terrorists know for sure, and that they can get their money without that nasty FBI getting in the way…
Let’s cut Obama a break and suppose that he is doing this out of a misplaced humanitarian impulse. It is easy to understand where his heart is — if you don’t live in the real world.
Somehow he thinks this makes hostage families feel better. If their loved one is taken, and the asking price is $2,000,000 and they can write that check, why shouldn’t they be allowed to? This is a free country after all!
…anyone who knows how government works know that this is a first step on the pathway to the U.S. entering into full-on blackmail payments by Uncle Sam.
Daily Beast: “Can Obama’s New Plan Save 30 American Hostages?”
No. It’s saves time if you answer all questions as headlines with ‘no’.
The British don’t pay kidnappers.
The brother of the taxi driver Alan Henning has said the family were “gagged by the government” until shortly before his death, and the parents of the murdered US photographer James Foley say they believe the US and UK governments are “condemning their citizens to death” by ruling out ransom payments.
He told the BBC:
“You’re not going to find them by dropping a few bombs in Iraq. We need send ground forces in to find out where these monsters are – the sooner we do it, the sooner the killing stops.”
Mr Henning said the family had been “gagged by the government and the Foreign Office” over the kidnapping. “It’s been a living nightmare, keeping it quiet for nine months,” he said. Mr Henning added: “I’ve hardly slept, I’ve felt physically sick. We’ve seen the campaign… if this was done, say, six months ago it could have done more good.” … Mr Henning said it was “disgusting” the family had not been allowed to speak until recently.
They were the parents of five Americans who had been kidnapped in Syria. The Federal Bureau of Investigation had warned the families not to talk publicly about their missing children—and the captors had threatened to kill their hostages if word leaked out—so each family had been going to work and to church month after month and reassuring colleagues and neighbors and relatives that nothing was wrong, only to come home and face new threats and ransom demands. After hiding the truth for so long, the families were heartened to learn that others were going through the same ordeal, and they hoped that by working together they might bring their children home.
The families had mixed feelings about ransoms. The Foleys were already seeking pledges (and eventually obtained nearly a million dollars’ worth). The Kassigs stayed up late worrying over the morality of giving money to a terrorist group—yet their only child’s life was at stake, and ISIS was already rich. “If we had been able to come up with any ransom, it would have been much smaller than what they were getting daily from the oil fields,” Paula observed. Carl Mueller felt that the government was putting its precious policy ahead of their daughter’s life; Marsha, however, didn’t want ISIS to receive another cent, and didn’t think that Kayla would, either. The Sotloffs were considering a ransom. Barfi privately thought the practice misguided. “You’re funding terrorism,” Barfi told me. “What happens if ISIS uses the money to fund an attack?”
This was the logic behind U.S. policy, and yet the government has paid ransoms to criminal organizations, such as drug cartels. Every Federal Reserve branch in the U.S. maintains a stash of bills to be used to pay ransoms. Corporations routinely take out ransom insurance for employees stationed abroad, and the F.B.I. even facilitates such payments. It’s only when the kidnappers are part of an acknowledged terrorist group that payments become illegal.
The UK government says it will not pay ransoms to organisations that have been proscribed by the Home Office, as to do so would be unlawful, and may also breach UN sanctions. There are additional concerns that terrorist groups would use the money to fund their activities, and that payments could create a market that would result in more British citizens being kidnapped.
Last year the Home Office reported that kidnapping for ransom was an increasingly common terrorist tactic. More than 150 people, including 13 UK nationals, had been seized by Islamist groups over the previous five years, and al-Qaida affiliates and other organisations were estimated to have been paid at least $60m (£37m).
The Foreign Office has been attempting to build an international consensus in favour of refusing to pay ransoms to terrorists.
A third British hostage held by Isil extremists has said in a video that he has been “abandoned” by Britain as he appeals for the government to “negotiate” with his captors. The hostage says in the footage that he has been held for two years and that his “fate lies in the hands of the Islamic State”.
He says that that he will be making a series of “programmes” in which he seeks expose the “truth behind Islamic State” and how the West is embroiled in “yet another unwinnable conflict”.
The Telegraph looks at two other approahes:
The French, Italian and Spanish governments, along with others in Continental Europe, have a long record of directly paying ransoms. These deals have secured the freedom of at least nine captives in Syria alone. Considerable sums are involved: al-Qaeda has made at least $125 million (£75 million) from ransoms since 2008, according to a New York Times investigation. Much of this will have come from European governments. In particular, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in North Africa has probably raised most of its funding by selling captives to European countries.
The approach taken by Israel’s government is unique. On the one hand, it will bargain for the release of citizens and make extraordinary concessions: no less than 1,027 Palestinian prisoners were exchanged for one Israeli corporal, Gilad Shalit, in 2011. Israel will even make deals to recover the remains of soldiers killed in battle. But there is a vital qualification. Regardless of any deal, Israel will relentlessly hunt down and kill anyone who abducts its citizens. Its forces may also kill or rearrest the prisoners released in the bargain. On Thursday, a Hamas commander involved in Shalit’s abduction was killed in Gaza.
The Israeli policy seems sound. You know where you stand. But, then, the whole nation needs to buy into it.