On the one hand, good riddance (we can hope) to an inhumane and thoroughly worthless “policy”…
Families of American hostages who communicate with foreign kidnappers or raise money and pay ransoms will no longer have to fear prosecution for aiding terrorist groups, a White House-ordered advisory group on U.S. hostage policy is expected to recommend, senior officials told ABC News last week.
“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,” said one of three senior officials familiar with the hostage policy team’s ongoing review.
The study undertaken by the National Counterterrorism Center on orders from the Obama White House has involved interviewing many of those with tragic experience such as the parents of journalist James Foley, who were among several families alleging they were repeatedly threatened by administration officials with prosecution last summer for moving to raise millions in ransom demanded by ISIS and other groups in Syria …
Diane Foley, James Foley’s mother, told ABC News last September her family was “told very clearly three times that it was illegal for us to try to ransom our son out and that we had the possibility of being prosecuted.”
“We felt compelled. We had to attempt to raise money… What would anyone do? Give me a break,” she said in the interview last year. “We don’t want other American families to go through what we have.”
Foley said Saturday that with the new policy, which officials discussed with her last week, it seems the government is “trying to make it right in their way.” …
The hostage policy review team is headed by Army Lt. Gen. Bennet Sacolick, a former commander of the elite Delta Force counter-terrorism unit, and his NCTC staff. He told the Daily Beast last week that “we can do better” at informing hostage families about developments in their cases, which has been another criticism by the Foleys who complained they were kept in the dark during their son’s captivity…
On the other hand, it seems like one more data point on the privatization of government. You want ISIS to release your loved one? Go ahead, clean out the 401(k), do some community fundraising — establish their fair market value! Just don’t count on Tha Gubmint to bail you out, ya leech…
The Republic of Stupidity
And that is indeed one ugly can of worms to be opened…
Comrade Colette Collaboratrice
I agree that the threat of prosecution is horrid emotional torture and should be eliminated, but there are other ways to prevent ransom from being paid and those methods should be diligently employed. More ransom = even more kidnapping, and an ever-increasing price demanded for the victims.
It’s OK to enable terrorists as long as you have a relative being held hostage.
What if I have a friend? Or a friend of a friend? Or a pretty blonde coed who wandered off a cruise ship and has 24×7 coverage on Fox?
Reagan should have just started a campaign fund for the Iranian hostages. Next up, kickstarters for Americans held in Iran or North Korea, sponsored by Ted Cruz.
Trolls be trolling today. Hostage rescue is not easy.
Off topic, but check out this tweet from the Baltimore Police (posted at 1am local time)
@skerry: Wow. Can you taste the ironic obliviousness this morning or what?
Nonviolence as Compliance
Officials calling for calm can offer no rational justification for Gray’s death, and so they appeal for order.
Something going on with Lawyers, Guns & Money? I tried getting there through the link in the sidebar and got Bing. Twice. I thought, “Okay, let’s try going through my bookmark.” Boom, back to Bing. Weird shit.
ADD: They’ve been hacked somehow. Instead of LGM, you get Bing or “free girls.” Who’d they piss off?
I just connected to LGM OK.
@Mike G: I am scared to try again. Are you on PC, tablet or phone?
Tried again. It’s fine now. Creepy.
Hmmmm. I think there’s a few private equity firms that might think about getting in on this kidnapping game. It does seem like an industry that is ripe for consolidation. There aren’t any clear market leaders. Customers grow tired of having to deal with so many vendors. How do you choose? How do you find someone trustworthy?
The technological advances are dispersed. The Bedouin of Sinai know how to scale up production, the Mexican drug gangs are experts at disposal. With a few strategic investments in both areas…hmmm. I see synergies. Very profitable synergies
@karen marie: On my mobile devices on occasion I’ve been hijacked by an ad on that page and instantly redirected. I have to browser back and try again to avoid it. Very annoying. I should just install ad-blocker…
I could hardly believe my eyes: Salon illustrated a serious story about democracy in Kazakhstan with a photo of Borat.
@Amir Khalid: Surprised you didn’t injure yourself laughing.
That’s happened to me a few times this past month, usually when LGM Mobile site is down.
TNC is the best. period, end of sentence.
I also saw this & thought it was good, MLK:
“But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellion to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.”
By the way, Amir, I’m finishing a four-day visit to Malaysia as part of a long SE Asia junket on business, and if you don’t mind my saying so, I couldn’t be more impressed. KL is beautiful. And I was just reading that the economic growth rate has averaged 6.5 % for fifty years. I have to confess to ignorance, but I had no idea.
There’s some possibility I could end up posted here. From what I’ve seen, I’d take it in a heartbeat.
I was a little too conscious of the insult to go there.
I’m glad you like my town, but why didn’t you say you were coming? We coulda had a BJ mini-meetup.
@Amir Khalid: Sorry, didn’t think of you until just now. If by some bizarre chance you happen to be in the vicinity of the Royale Chulan, I’d be happy to buy you your beverage of choice this evening.
Probably not, alas. At this time of day, the traffic around Jalan Raja Chulan (which is part of the central business district and a shopping zone) is a bitch.
I’ll be back–next time, then!
@Comrade Colette Collaboratrice: As long as Americans are in harms way (military or civilian) there will be a ready supply of potential hostages to be taken when ever the terrorist coffers get low. The Great and Powerful ST Ronulus the First discovered that when he sold weapons to Iran. Of course that isn’t part of the myth about he Great and Powerful ST Ronulus the First
Yes you can negotiate, and yes you can get them the money but that doesn’t mean they have to let their hostage go.
How is this a data point on the privatization of government? What a bizarre comment.
I can’t help thinking that the policy would still have limited use (if enforced judiciously); in cases where idiots willingly go off to join terrorists and find themselves trapped, the leverage on family members to come clean about said idiots’ history / political leanings / etc could lead to rescue (although also to possible arrest). It’s the difference between “bring my kid home” and “bring my kid home from someplace s/he went willingly to do something I/we don’t want to talk about because Politics/Religion.” I’m glad it’s no longer being followed, but I can see a situation where the threat of is use could yield at least some positive results.
@EconWatcher: @Amir Khalid: There are reasons I say “KL looks better every year.” Not all of them are driven by The Rise of The Wingnuts.
@rp: IIUC it’s that discussions which could result in financing terrorism through ransoming hostages are now no longer de facto illegal, so it’s privatization of diplomacy/hostage-negotiations at the family/terror-cell level.
That’s quite a stretch. Privatization suggests the government will no longer play a role and will encourage such payments, which I doubt will be the case.
The Europeans have bankrolled organizations like ISIS with massive hostage payouts. Funneling millions or tens of millions of dollars per hostage is ensuring that many die for each person rescued. And it puts a big fat target sign on the back of people like aid workers, ensuring many more hostages too. The prohibition against ransom is actually sound policy.
I have no idea why you want to lay this at the feet of Reagan or invoke the sordid Iran weapons deal.
Kidnapping for ransom by criminal and terrorist organizations is standard operating procedure in many parts of the world. As poster Marc notes, the Italians and other European nations have a de facto policy of paying ransom to attempt to get back aid workers or other nationals kidnapped by terrorists. This creates a regular fund raising operation.
Kidnapping in Mexico is so regular an activity that many middle class Mexican Americans will not return to parts of Mexico to visit for fear that ignorant kidnappers will assume that they are wealthy and kidnap them or family members.
Kidnapping gangs, working with corrupt police officials, have continually plagued Mexico, Brazil and other nations.
And in the Middle East, kidnapping of aid workers is big business.
@Peale: I know you were being funny, or trying to, but the latest New Yorker has a heartbreaking article on relatives of undocumented immigrants being kidnapped, on both sides of the U.S. border. There are apparently plenty of freelancers, but it the biggest player is indeed Mexican organized crime.
As for “very profitable synergies,” consider this:
The New Yorker article centers on two teenage brothers from Guatemala who were kidnapped literally minutes after crossing the border into Texas. Their parents, who had crossed illegally years before and settled in New Jersey, couldn’t scrape up enough cash to ransom them and called authorities in desperation. The cops found and freed the brothers, then promptly clapped them away in an ICE refugee detention center. The center was run by a “private contractor” who kept the boys, adding to their head-count reimbursement, because the parents couldn’t come up with enough cash to bail them out.
In other words, the kids went from one kidnapper to another. They complained that at least their first kidnappers let them sleep in a bed and fed them warm meals. In the ICE center, it was a bare floor and frozen bologna sandwiches.
Adam L Silverman
I don’t think this is really an attempt to privatize this. Given the official US policy that we do not negotiate, as a government/state, with kidnappers – and despite the fact that we’ve broken that policy in the past – this is an interesting change. The policy argument has always been that if badly behaving states, terrorists, organized crime groups, etc know that we’ll ransom people back, then it will actually increase the number of kidnappings. So the official position has always been no negotiations, no ransoms. This is different than negotiating for prisoner swaps during war time and at the cessation of hostilities. By decriminalizing private attempts to negotiate we are going to find out if the policy calculus is actually correct. That said, criminalizing a traumatized family’s desire to spend whatever it takes to get their loved one/ones back is a good thing. The old rule basically put the potential for adding insult to injury at the most trying of times.