Friday, June 26, 2015

HOSTAGES - President Obama and an Insider's View

"Shifting policy, Obama pledges U.S. will ‘stand by’ families of hostages" PBS NewsHour 6/24/2015


SUMMARY:  As the number of American hostage deaths have surged in the past year, some families have spoken out about being threatened with prosecution for considering paying ransom and feeling stonewalled by the government.  Judy Woodruff reports on the White House’s efforts today to change the policy for families.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  After coming under fire over the handling of American hostage cases abroad, President Obama today announced a change in policy.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  We’re not going to abandon you.  We will stand by you.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  The President’s pledge to hostage families follows a surge in deaths in the past 12 months.  Six Americans have died in captivity in Syria, Yemen and Pakistan since last summer.  Three of them were beheaded by Islamic State militants in Syria.

Some of the families say they were threatened with prosecution if they had tried to pay ransoms, but Mr. Obama promised today that will change.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  The last thing that we should ever do is to add to a family’s pain with threats like that.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  The U.S. government will maintain its policy against official concessions to terror groups, although, Washington did negotiate last year’s release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan.  He had been held five years by the Taliban. And many European countries routinely pay ransoms for captives.

DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS, Foundation for Defense of Democracies:  This is a huge mistake.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  But some, like Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, argue the practice only encourages hostage-taking.

DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS:  These organizations make hundreds of millions of dollars, when you look at the sum total of them, from hostages.  They will nab a person, they will demand a payment, and then it will strengthen their military capacity and allow them to take further hostages.  This is an enormous problem.

"Refusing to pay ransom won’t stop kidnapping, says former hostage" PBS NewsHour 6/24/2015


SUMMARY:  The White House cleared the path for the families of hostages to be able to pay ransom, and offered other changes for how the government handles hostage cases.  Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner gets reaction from Michael Scott Moore, a former hostage who was held in Somalia.

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