It is U.S. policy that the government does not pay ransom to gain the release of Americans held hostage by terrorist groups, nor does it negotiate with them. That stance was criticized by the family of James Foley, the journalist recently killed by extremist group Islamic State, or ISIS. The family felt that the Obama administration had not done enough to secure Foley’s release.
“As someone who was held and who was released in part because of a ransom,” Fattal says, “I’m forever grateful for that. It seems like it’s important to have the U.S. government be supporting U.S. citizens abroad.”
At a recent briefing, White House spokesman Josh Earnest explained that the U.S. policy to not pay ransom is one it has “pursued for a long time; it has been in place for a long time.”
In fact, Americans have been taken hostage since the very earliest days of the republic. George Terwilliger, a former deputy U.S. attorney general in the first George Bush administration, says there is good reason for the no-ransom policy.