Obama orders full review of hostage policy following ISIL beheadings
News of Barack Obama's hostage review proposal emerged after a letter was leaked by a US congressman to the press. (AFP/File)
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The White House admitted Tuesday that President Barack Obama ordered a full review of the US hostage negotiation policy, after a Pentagon letter to a congressman was leaked to the press.
In a letter made public by the Daily Beast, a senior Pentagon official wrote that President Obama ordered a comprehensive review of policy dictating how the US tries to secure the release of Americans held hostage by overseas terrorists. The review was ordered during the summer.
“The review will seek to integrate innovative and non-traditional solutions to result in recommended actions to improve interagency coordination and strengthen the whole-of-government approach led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Department,” according to the November 11 letter written by Christine Wormuth, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and addressed to Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California.
"The president felt it was warranted to direct the relevant departments and agencies who have traditionally been involved in assisting families as they try to recover the safe return of their family members. So this is something that the Department of Defense, State, the FBI and the intelligence community have been reviewing,” White House press secretary Josh Earnst said.
The leak comes as the US confirmed the beheading of American aid worker and former Army Ranger Abdurrahman Peter Kassig by ISIL in Syria. Kassig was the third American beheaded by the terror group following James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
Earnest made it clear, however, that the review does not include a "reconsideration" of paying ransom. The administration has followed a strict policy of not paying ransom in exchange of American hostages.
"We don’t want to put other American citizens at even greater risk when they’re around the globe," Earnest said. "Knowing that terrorist organizations can extract a ransom from the United States if they take a hostage only puts American citizens at greater risk."
Declining to give the details of the review Earnest said it is ongoing among the relevant departments and would be announced when concluded.