From tears of joy when a hostage is released to tears of anguish when a hostage is killed, people witnessed many different outcomes this year as kidnappings have been reported from from Somalia to Syria and beyond. The various fates of those being held, along with the pain felt by their families, has led to a review of U.S. policy over how it reacts to hostage takers and their captives. CCTV America’s Nathan King reported this story from Washington D.C.
US reviews response policy on American kidnappingsFrom tears of joy when a hostage is released to tears of anguish when a hostage is killed, people witnessed many different outcomes this year as kidnappings have been reported from from Somalia to Syria and beyond. The various fates of those being held, along with the pain felt by their families, has led to a review of U.S. policy over how it reacts to hostage takers and their captives. CCTV America's Nathan King reported this story from Washington D.C.
The White House said it will no longer pay ransoms for hostages.
“Providing ransoms to terrorist organizations only gives those terrorist organizations more funds and resources. It also makes American citizens more likely targets of terrorist organizations knowing that they could eventually hold them for ransom,” said Josh Earnest, White House press secretary.
Other countries continue to pay ransoms. While European governments such as France deny they do it, research suggests otherwise. An in-depth study by the New York Times chronicled ransoms collected by terrorist groups since 2008.
Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb received $91.5 million from ransoms, of which nearly $30 million went to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and more than $5 million to Somalia-based terror group al-Shabaab.
Dorothee Moisan, author of “Ransom, A look into the business of hostage taking,” said while governments deny it, there is evidence they have paid ransoms in the past.
“The French president, of course, can’t tell the truth. He can’t say that France has paid a ransom. Maybe France has paid a ransom, maybe not,” she said.
That has led some experts to conclude that there needs to be a more open conversation between the U.S. and Europe over ransom payments and their effect on the market for hostages.
“Obviously, the administration does not like Europeans shelling out all this money. It is directly financing these groups, a lot of which are the worst of the worst. In addition to that, it is creating a market for hostages, a fact that these massive payments being made give them a huge financial incentive to further kidnap westerners,” Garthenstein-Ross said.
Aside from the issue of ransoms, there are other ways to improve the U.S. policy on hostages such as having closer coordination between government departments and better communication with the families of those being held.
James Foley was an American beheaded by Islamic fighters. His family members said they were kept out of the loop when it came to efforts to free their son. His family found out about his death from a journalist and said no one in the U.S. government reached out to them.
Meanwhile the family of Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. detained soldier swapped in Afghanistan for Taliban prisoners, said they were closely involved in negotiations.
“So there is a very different way in which families of hostages are treated, and that certainly doesn’t make those families who feel like they are on the outside looking in happy. There are a lot of different areas for critiquing the policy,” Daveed Garthenstein-Ross a senior fellow from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies said.
There is even talk of creating a hostage task force that could handle each crisis. While the fate of U.S. hostages may differ, many believe a clearer approach to dealing with their families and the captives is needed as more hostages are being taken.
Douglas Smith of US Department of Homeland Security discusses U.S. hostage policy
CCTV America interviewed Douglas Smith, the former assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security about his experience helping the family of James Foley communicate with the U.S. government.