Obama calls for interagency review of hostage policy

This week the White House announced that President Obama has ordered a comprehensive review of U.S. policy concerning American hostages held overseas. The decision to review the policy comes after an increase in Islamic State militants capturing and detaining U.S. citizens, including journalists and aid workers.

Historically, U.S. policy has not allowed for hostage negotiation with terrorists. However, policy reform during the Bush administration made allowances for ransom payments under certain circumstances. National Security Presidential Directive 12, which was signed in 2002 and is still in effect, dictates the roles and responsibilities of various related U.S. government agencies and was also the nascence of the “hostage working group.”

The proposed review, according to a letter from Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth, will focus on several areas related to hostage cases, including family engagement, intelligence collection, and diplomatic engagement. Wormuth also stated that the review will “seek to integrate innovative and nontraditional solutions to result in recommended actions to improve interagency coordination and strengthen the whole-of-government approach” led by the FBI and Department of State.

White House National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey said in a statement that, while the Obama administration could not reveal all the details surrounding efforts to free U.S. hostages, “we will continue to bring all appropriate military, intelligence, law enforcement, and diplomatic capabilities to bear to recover American hostages.”

For more information about the U.S. hostage policy review, please follow the links below.
White House reviewing policy toward U.S. hostages held by militants, Reuters
‘No One’s Really in Charge’ in Hostage Negotiations, Foreign Policy
Letter from Christine Wormuth, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy

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