US vows not to threaten hostage families over ransoms



The White House said Wednesday it would not threaten families seeking to raise hostage ransoms, as President Barack Obama took steps to address poor government coordination in dealing with such crises.

As Obama hosted the families of victims at the White House amid criticism that his administration has been uncaring and unresponsive, he issued an executive order to deal with the increased threat posed by the Islamic State and other groups.

The review upheld the government’s long-standing policy of neither negotiating with terror groups nor paying ransoms, but the White House indicated families would not be prosecuted for doing so.

“The United States Department of Justice does not intend to add to families’ pain in such cases by suggesting that they could face criminal prosecution,” a statement said.

The White House argues that ransoms help fund extremist organizations like the Islamic State group and would make US citizens more of a target.

But some have complained that policy costs American lives and that hostages from some European countries are often freed because such payments are made.

Many of the measures announced Wednesday are administrative, designed to adjudicate and delegate responsibilities between the FBI, CIA, Department of Justice, Pentagon and State Department.

Among them, Obama will establish an FBI-led “fusion cell” bringing together disparate government departments.

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