In an appearance on CBS This Morning, Wednesday, a spokesman for the family of slain journalist Steven Sotloff repeated the charge that his parents were threatened by the Obama administration as they looked for ways to free their son from the Islamic State’s grip. Specifically, Barak Barfi the Sotloff spokesman said that they were “bullied and hectored” by a member of the White House Security Council.
Last week, members of the Foley and Sotloff families went to the media to complain about the shabby way they say they were treated by the Obama administration while their loved ones were being held by ISIS.
The State Department and the White House have flatly denied accusations that the families were threatened with prosecution if they paid the ransom ISIS requested, saying only that they were made aware of the law in regards to paying ransoms.
Barfi doubled down, Wednesday, saying that the family was threatened by a member of the White House National Security Council staff.
“I’m hearing Denis McDonough saying they weren’t threatened. He wasn’t in the meeting,” he said. “John Kerry wasn’t in the meetings. The family was in the meetings, and then I was in a subsequent meeting. And I know what I heard.”
Norah O’Donnell asked him if he thought the U.S. government had given the Sotloff family the help that they wanted.
“Not at all,” Barfi answered. “We never really believed that the administration was doing anything to help us. We had very, very limited contact with senior officials. It was basically limited to two FBI agents, and when I tried to ask for a senior point of contact, all the administration said is, ‘You can speak to the counselor of bureau affairs at the State Department.'”Barfi said that the Sotloff family wanted constant contact with the White House to exchange updates on Steven’s conditions and the terrorists’ demands.
But instead, he explained, the administration sought to intimidate the family into withdrawing from the negotiation process. “We had meetings with the administration, the family sat with this National Security Council official, and basically he bullied and hectored them,” Barfi alleged. “And they were scared.”
Could this White House be any more ham-fisted? I understand the policy of not negotiating with terrorists, but while Steven Sotloff was being held by the brutal ISIS head-choppers, a member of the White House Security Council staff bullied his desperate, heart-sick parents for trying to free him?
Barfi noted that the NSC official was a Marine – “not a Justice Department lawyer, he’s not an official from the Organization of Foreign Asset Control — the Treasury. He shouldn’t be telling them what the law is. He’s a counter-terrorism specialist. That is what he should be talking about.”
Asked why the White House would treat the family that way, Sotloff replied, “we don’t know. We don’t have a view into this White House – we didn’t have a very good relationship with this administration….”
In an appearance on CNN, last week, slain journalist James Foley’s mother, Diane Foley also mentioned an unnamed military member of the White House’s NSC staff who threatened the family with prosecution, and told them not to speak to the media.