Obama: Here's 3 Ways We'll Fix Our Outdated Hostage Policy

Daniel Doherty
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Posted: Jun 24, 2015 3:00 PM
Obama: Here's 3 Ways We'll Fix Our Outdated Hostage Policy

In order to reduce the rate at which American hostages are dying at the hands of radical Islamic terrorists, many of whom are killed deliberately or by accident, President Obama announced on Wednesday a series of policy changes he’s implementing to enhance — and upgrade — the federal government’s rescue efforts.

“Today, I’m formally issuing a new presidential policy directive to improve how we work to bring home American hostages — and how we support their families,” he said this afternoon during a White House press conference. “I’ve signed a new executive order to ensure our government is organized to do so. And we’re releasing the final report of our review which describes the two-dozen specific steps we’re taking. Broadly speaking, they fall under three areas."

They are as follows:

“First, I’m updating our hostage policy,” he said. “I’m making it clear that our top priority is the safe and rapid recovery of American hostages. And to do so we will use all elements of our national power.”

“I am reaffirming that the United States government will not make concessions, such as paying ransom, to terrorist groups holding American hostages,” he added. “I firmly believe that the United States government paying ransom to terrorists risks endangering more Americans, and funding the very terrorism we’re trying to stop.”

And yet, this policy does not preclude working with other countries, he said. To that end, he will appoint a Special Presidential Envoy For Hostage Affairs, whose sole purpose will be helping with — and securing — the release of captured Americans.

“Second, we’re making changes to making sure our government is better organized around this mission,” he continued. “Under the National Security Council, here at the White House, we’re setting up a new Hostage Response Group comprised of senior officials from across our government, who will be responsible for ensuring that our hostage policies are consistent, coordinated, and implemented rapidly and effectively.”

The organization's "hub" — or "fusion cell," as he put it — is stationed inside the FBI and already operational. Finally, he addressed an issue of paramount (and growing) concern.

“[We] are fundamentally changing how our government works with families of hostages,” he said. “Many of the families they said at times felt like an afterthought, or a distraction.”

“That ends today,” he declared. “I’m making it clear that these families are to be treated like what they are: our trusted partners, and active partners, in the recovery of their loved ones.”

These reforms come amidst ongoing criticism that the administration was woefully unprepared — and unwilling — to keep in contact with (or help) the families of abducted Americans during their hellish ordeal. However, the president also stated that, contrary to popular belief, no American family “has ever been prosecuted” by the federal government for unlawfully trying to recover a loved one.