Being a U.S. citizen and a hostage never been a great thing, given the longstanding government policy of not negotiating with hostage takers. While you might have been lucky enough to have Seal Team Six come to your rescue, odds are you would be at your kidnappers mercy.
Citing changes in world events, the Obama administration launched a review of the policy and is expected to be release its findings this month this month, says an aide to a senior administration official. The results of the review will prompt “critical” changes to how the government reacts to hostage taking situations.
The review, launched in December, came because of criticism the administration has received from the families of previous American hostages who have allege that outreach from the government had been inconsistent and insensitive.
The review has been comprehensive, with a 70-person team with members from the Departments of Justice, Defense, Treasury, State, and the intelligence community providing recommendations to the President on where our nation’s hostage policy can be improved.
While the review is not complete there are already a number of organizational changes on the table in order to create a response that is more rapid and coordinated.
One of the changes planned is to create a Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell, which would operate as a dedicated inter-agency body to coordinate the U.S. government’s response to hostage-takings. Its director would be responsible for overseeing all hostage recovery strategies.
The new report will also call for the creation of two new government positions: a family engagement coordinator, serving as point person for the families of the hostages, and a senior representative from the State Department to coordinate diplomatic outreach abroad.
The review process has conducted over 40 interviews with 24 families and former hostages with three rounds of feedback in order to tailor the policy to the needs of American citizens and their families.
The White House has seen a “significant shift” in hostage-takings abroad by terrorists and criminal groups, necessitating a policy that is aligned with the new.
“Terrorist groups have become increasingly willing to engage in publicized and repugnant murders of hostages if they are unable to extract concessions,” an administration official stated. “They deliberately target private citizens as well as government officials to garner media attention and attempt to extract political and financial concessions.”
Currently the U.S. has a long-standing policy of making no concessions, such as paying ransoms, to hostage-takers, which White House press secretary Josh Earnest still claims is not part of this review.
“We have made clear that our policy about not paying ransom to hostage-takers, to terrorists, not making concessions to them is a policy that’s not going to change — it is not part of the ongoing policy review, ” Earnest said.
The final report is expected to be released at the end of June.