Hostage Families Deserve Better from White House

Author: Mike Glass

Kidnapped, exploited and beheaded. This was the excruciating experience for Diana Foley’s journalist son at the hands of Islamic State. The family suffered every minute of this lengthy horror and our government neglected the Foley family to the point of groveling.

“We had to beg…They really didn’t have time for us.”

It was last September that the grieving mother told ABC News of how difficult the government was for her family when they were trying to deal with James Foley’s captivity. This dovetailed with accounts from other families of recent political hostage victims concerning the conduct of the Obama administration and pushed the White House to spend seven months reviewing hostage policy. The outcome? Promising not to prosecute families who want to pay a ransom. There has never, in the entire history of the country, been anyone prosecuted by the federal government for trying to pay a ransom. This change grotesquely misses fixing the issue at hand and is little more than, as one congressman put it, “window dressing”.

Victimized families have said the Obama administration threatened them with prosecution for entertaining the prospect of paying to get their children, spouses and siblings home. Threatening a victim’s family who just wants their loved one home is an atrocity by itself that never should have been committed. Stopping this is only a very tiny step toward where we should be.

Journalist James Foley, along with the other hostages, were political prisoners captured, tortured and mutilated as an attack on our government and country. We owe the families of these victims everything we can possibly give them. We will not be negotiating with hostage-takers as this makes the crime profitable which puts other Americans at risk. On this, many agree. But, we can be exceptional when it comes to caring for the families of these political prisoners during and after the hostage situation. At minimum, we have more than enough resources to provide a consistent and warmly-handled contact point for these families. Perhaps a few individuals with a small staff with a background in grief counselling that can work directly with families delivering as much or as little as little information as they need. Even complete explanations of why certain information can not be given, or is not known, likely will help. Having a family member taken as a political prisoner and then dealing with the world watching your loved one get beheaded has to be a deeply and uniquely traumatic experience. The family should never have to beg for information.

Congressmen John Delaney, D-Md and Duncan Hunter, R-Calif have pointed to the need for a single hostage coordinator. Representative Delaney has close knowledge of this need as he witnessed a family from his own district, the family of Warren Weinstein, suffer through three-and-a-half years of his captivity.

Representative Hunter goes further in a written statement, citing the FBI as not capable of leading in a warzone.

“The fact that the FBI has retained the leadership role within the fusion cell ignores the long list of mistakes and grievances presented over the duration of the review”, Hunter wrote. “The FBI is not organized or developed for hostage recovery in hostile areas, yet they are leading the fusion cell…Wholesale changes are needed, but what’s being put forward is nothing more than window dressing.”

Whether window dressing, political cover or an honest, though inept, attempt to fix the problem, simply promising not to threaten victim’s families is not even close to addressing the issue. This is a special and important situation that this White House has the resources to fix, yet has been dragging it’s feet on for far too long.

By: Mike Glass

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Originally published at Observe & Opine.