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Pres. Orders Review of Hostage Policy


Sarah Shourd, a ShowTrial survivor, discusses current U.S. hostage policy on Hardball with Chris Matthews.

The White House recently stated that President Obama has ordered a review of how the U.S. handles Americans held by hostages. A White House spokesperson said it was due to  “the extraordinary nature of some of the hostage takings that we’ve seen this year.”

A statement from Christine Wormuth, an under secretary of defense states

“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 media and cultural influences in the president’s decision cannot be ignored.  The U.S. Government has received criticism from families and the public over the lack of cooperation between agencies, communication with families, and the no ransom policy. These cases are increasing in number and public awareness. Ignoring the outcry is no longer an option.

No ransoms has been the U.S. policy for several decades. David Cohen, the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the Treasury Department recently laid out the U.S. policy saying, ”Ransom payments lead to future kidnappings, and future kidnappings lead to additional ransom payments. And it all builds the capacity of terrorist organizations to conduct attacks. We must find a way to break the cycle. Refusing to pay ransoms or to make other concessions to terrorists is, clearly, the surest way to break the cycle, because if kidnappers consistently fail to get what they want, they will have a strong incentive to stop taking hostages in the first place.”