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On Wednesday, President Obama will release an executive order to allow the U.S. government to negotiate with terrorists for the release of American hostages, according to CNN.
The White House claims that the government will not pay ransom or make “substantive concessions” to terror groups, but it will no longer prosecute families who wish to pay them.
The payment of ransoms to terror groups like ISIS and al Qaeda has long been tolerated, though it is technically illegal. The administration has looked the other way when families of Americans held overseas have paid ransoms.
On Wednesday, the White House will explicitly indicate that families should not fear criminal prosecution if they choose to make ransom payments. The new directive will not include a formal change to existing laws. But administration officials will state publicly, for the first time, that ransom payments will be tolerated.
Officials said the administration will offer clear internal guidance to federal agencies on how to discuss the ransom issue with families to avoid confusion or mixed signals from the government.
However, the longstanding administration policy against government concessions to hostage takers, including paying ransoms, will be reiterated and not be altered.
The Obama Administration also will create an FBI office called the Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell, which will coordinate federal response in these situations.
Obama made these changes following heavy public criticism by the families of journalist James Foley (killed by ISIS) and aid worker Warren Weinstein (killed in a U.S. drone strike). Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who pushed the administration to update their hostage efforts, thinks the White House’s actions are too little, too late.
“The changes offered up by the White House prove that neither the right questions were asked nor were any lessons learned,” Hunter said to CNN. “Wholesale changes are needed, but what’s being put forward is nothing more than window dressing, I fear.”
Any negotiation with terrorists seems like a bad precedent to me, but in this age of rampant Islamic terror, the federal government must do something to improve its response. Constitutionally, the move looks awful since Obama isn’t trying to change the law through a Congressional debate, but has just decided not to enforce the laws on the books.
What do you think: Is this a step in the right direction or should the U.S. refuse to talk to groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda?Published in