President Obama announced changes to the way the government handles hostage recovery, explaining why he felt it appropriate to allow families to privately communicate and pay ransoms to terrorists.
“No family of an American hostage has ever been prosecuted for paying a ransom for the return of their loved one,” Obama said. “The last thing we should ever do is to add to the family’s pain with threats like that.”
During conversations with families of the hostages, Obama said, they expressed frustration with the government bureaucracy to bring their loved ones home.
“That’s totally unacceptable,” Obama said shortly.
He engaged emotional rhetoric sympathizing with the families of the hostages, which he met at the White House today. “I’ve visited with them, I’ve hugged them, I’ve grieved with them,” he said, referring to the “emotional meeting.”
But Obama defended his position, reminding reporters that he would not allow federal ransom payments for American hostages, calling it a “difficult and emotional issue.”
“I firmly believe that our policy puts fewer Americans at risk,” he said.
Obama’s change in policy has upset a number of critics who believe that allowing private communications and payments with terrorist groups would actually increase the number of hostages taken.