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Will Obama’s New Hostage Policy Bring Americans Home?



Photo: AP

President Obama announced this morning that his administration has reconfigured the way they respond to US hostages and their families. Many families whose loved ones have been taken captive by ISIS, al Qaeda, and the Taliban over the past year have openly criticized the current protocol.

Among the complaints was the lack of communication from the US government on the status of their loved ones and the lack of coordination between the multiple agencies. On top of this, some families reported being threatened with prosecution if they were to pay a ransom to a terrorist organization. A New York Times article noted that many of the families “felt bullied, neglected and trapped in a bureaucratic vortex of low-level officials with clashing agendas and conflicting information.”

The main changes to the policy will include the creation of a “Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell”,  or task force that will coordinate all of the government’s responses. Part of this cell will be a “family engagement coordinator” meant to be an available point of contact to families. Also, under the reformed policy families will no longer face the threat of prosecution if they attempt to pay ransom to secure their loved ones.

As is common with ShowTrials around the world, powerful political forces can complicate and confuse efforts to bring the wrongfully detained home. It is hoped that this policy will improve communication between families and the US government as well as make the return of hostage citizens a priority, but will the changes really bring Americans home? Will the new policy attract more terrorist organizations to capture Americans abroad and use them as bargaining chips to obtain a ransom?

The proof of success will be seen in the future if more Americans detained abroad are brought home safely and the rate at which these cases are occurring declines.

Read CNN’s coverage of the policy reforms HERE