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MISSION: To generate education about the rise of politically motivated detentions and kidnappings of  travelers abroad.

The first of its kind, The David House Foundation (DHF), a nonprofit non-partisan think tank based in Los Angeles, offers research and analysis to families, news reporters and others affected by the drastic rise of wrongful detentions and kidnappings of Westerners and travelers abroad, or what security consultants are referring to as “institutional kidnappings” or “ShowTrials.”

What is a ShowTrial?

International “ShowTrials”, cases in which power and influence outside the law complicate the obtainability of justice, are happening at a rate never seen before.  Many ShowTrials involve wrongful conviction via a judicial process, the most common causes of which are false confessions, junk science and police prosecutorial misconduct.  However, what makes ShowTrials different is that they also tend to share one or more of the following: 

  • High-levels of media attentioncausing the information (or misinformation) surrounding a situation to spread like wildfire

  • Intervention by one or more foreign governments and other non-state groups—complicating negotiations for release and necessitating sophisticated coordination

  • Use of detainees as bargaining chipsheld as pawns for political or economic purposes by foreign regimes or terror groups

  • Impact of complex geopolitical factors and/or opaque foreign legal processesmaking information difficult to obtain and clarity hard to achieve

Global travelers—students, reporters, tourists, humanitarian aid workers and others—are increasingly vulnerable. Whether taken at gunpoint by a quasi-military organization, or arbitrarily detained by a foreign judicial system, unsuspecting victims, in an instant, become the means for any state or non-state group to effectively strike (or gain leverage) against larger, more powerful nations. 

Our analyst are documenting this new international reality in which not just terrorists, but foreign governments have learned to effectively engineer and leverage the detentions of travelers as a new form of asymmetric warfare. Victims are used as a form of currency, and their value is amplified through manipulation of media to shape public perceptions and levy harsh demands.

ShowTrial cases and the impact they can have on bilateral nation-state relations in the areas of diplomacy, culture, security and economics need to be studied in order to offer families, news organizations, governments and crisis management teams a more accurate understanding of the dynamics that influence these cases.

Primary Focus Areas


Think Tank

The DHF was founded to establish a central location for a much needed body of knowledge about Show Trials and to serve as a resource for news organizations, governments, families and crisis management teams.  The Foundation has partnered with some of the leading analysts to develop a global database of case studies and relevant findings that will accelerate a general understanding of the issues and patterns in Show Trial cases of the 21st century. 


News Reports

Sources talking about ShowTrials are common, but through the ShowTrial News blog, annual conference, and media alerts, the Foundation generates understanding of both the realities and misconceptions. The Foundation seeks to provide the most accurate, up-to-date and insightful perspectives via case reports prepared as a resource to interested parties, including the media. Much of the information sourced by the Foundation will not be available via the mainstream media.

*The David House Foundation is underwritten, in part, by The David House Agency, headquartered in Los Angeles, California. David House Foundation funds are not allocated to the work of The David House Agency in any way.