White House Will No Longer Stop Families of American Hostages From Paying Ransoms

PHOTO: President Barack Obama speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Nov. 18, 2014.Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo
President Barack Obama speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Nov. 18, 2014.

The White House is set to release the results of its hostage policy review, which will make clear the U.S. will not stop American families who are willing to negotiate with or pay ransoms to terror groups holding their loved ones hostage.

The administration will create a new office that will work with the American families of hostage victims, but will not change the law regarding the U.S. ransom policies, administration officials said today. A senior official said the hostage interagency fusion cell will be physically housed at FBI headquarters and initially will be run by a senior FBI official. Officials from other agencies and departments may rotate in to run the program in the future.

President Obama is set to meet on Wednesday with the families of hostages held overseas and make a statement on the review.

The announcement, which will include a policy directive and an executive order, completes a months-long process of how the government approaches situations involving American hostages held by terrorists abroad, including groups such as ISIS.

President Obama ordered a review of U.S. hostage policy in November, just a few months after the terror group ISIS began publicly executing Western hostages, which included journalists, aid workers and others, in gruesome videos released online.

Earlier this year, senior officials told ABC News the upcoming report was expected to recommend families of American hostages negotiating ransoms with kidnappers would not need to fear prosecution for aiding terror groups.

Some families of American hostages, their representatives and former hostages were expected to receive a briefing by the administration this week ahead of the announcement where they would receive a “full overview of the results.”

The family of Warren Weinstein, a humanitarian aid worker who was one of two hostages accidentally killed by a U.S. airstrike earlier this year, said they would prefer for the representative tasked with working with hostage families to be stationed within the National Security Council.

"We believe the creation of a fusion cell is a good idea, but we believe establishing a sole individual with overall policy responsibilities for safe hostage recovery would have been best positioned at the National Security Council, since that would not only give the position more inter-agency coordinating authority but also ensure that those debating counter-terrorism activities and hostage recovery efforts were sitting in the same room," said Elaine Weinstein, wife of Warren Weinstein.

“This review will not bring Warren back. It is our most sincere hope that it was conducted fully and frankly so the U.S. Government can have an honest conversation about the areas where it falls short," Elaine Weinstein added. "Our benchmark for this review’s success will be the actions arising from it more than its specific findings."

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