After a series of high-profile hostage situations, the U.S. is reviewing its policy on how it deals with American hostages held abroad. President Obama ordered the policy review, according to a letter sent by Undersecretary of Defense Christine Wormuth to Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) earlier this month.
In the letter, Wormuth writes:
As a result of the increased frequency of hostage-taking of Americans overseas, and the recognition of the dynamic threat posed by specific terrorist groups, the President recently directed a comprehensive review of the U.S. Government policy on overseas terrorist-related hostage cases, with specific emphasis on examining family engagement, intelligence collection, and diplomatic engagement policies.
“The review, which will include a specific emphasis on how the U.S. treats hostages’ family members, follows criticism that current hostage-negotiation operations are plagued by bureaucratic infighting and a lack of leadership, particularly by the White House,” according to the Daily Beast. Rep. Hunter wrote to Obama in August, after an ISIS video showed the killing of American journalist James Foley, urging Obama “to guarantee we are maximizing our recovery efforts.”
“The letter does not explicitly address whether ransom payments will be part of the assessment,” ABC News notes. “The U.S. has a strict policy against paying ransoms to terrorist organizations, though many other countries permit direct payment.”