The parents of James Foley, the journalist beheaded by ISIS/ISIL, have given out some disturbing information. They say that a senior White House official threatened them with prosecution if they paid a ransom for their son’s release.
The mother of slain American journalist James Foley said she wasn’t necessarily surprised that the U.S. government threatened her family with prosecution should they raise money to pay her son’s ransom, but she was astounded by how such a devastating message was delivered.
“I was surprised there was so little compassion,” Diane Foley told ABC News today of the three separate warnings she said U.S. officials gave the family about the illegality of paying ransom to the terror group ISIS. “It just made me realize that these people talking to us had no idea what it was like to be the family of someone abducted… I’m sure [the U.S. official] didn’t mean it the way he said it, but we were between a rock and a hard place. We were told we could do nothing… meanwhile our son was being beaten and tortured every day.”
Earlier this week five current and former officials with direct knowledge of the Foley case confirmed the alleged threats were made.
The issue of paying ransom for hostages is a deeply fraught one. One can understand the argument that paying the ransom increases the chances of other hostages being taken. But it is a bit much for the government to expect the family of a hostage to take a dispassionate long-term view and be willing to sacrifice their family member for the hypothetical well-being of possible future hostages. For the family, this is the only hostage they care about.
It is one thing for the government to have an official policy against paying ransoms. But the family of a hostage should not be bound by that policy. One may discourage them but to go so far as to threaten them with prosecution is wrong. Family ties are very strong and anguished members want to feel they did everything they could to get their loved ones out of harm’s way.