Speed Reads


After ISIS videos, White House is reviewing U.S. hostage negotiation policy

Last summer, President Obama ordered an interagency review of how the U.S. government addresses situations where Americans are held by militant groups overseas, the Pentagon and White House said Monday. "The administration's goal has always been to use every appropriate resource within the bounds of the law to assist families to bring their loved ones home," National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey said.

The review apparently won't reconsider longstanding U.S. policy against paying ransom for hostages. "While we are not in a position to detail every effort or every tool we are using to try to bring American hostages home," Baskey added, "we will continue to bring all appropriate military, intelligence, law enforcement, and diplomatic capabilities to bear to recover American hostages."

The participating agencies include the Pentagon, State Department, FBI, and intelligence agencies, and the review will focus on better coordination between those departments and better communication with the hostages' families.

Along with Baskey's statement, the Pentagon released a letter from Christine Wormuth, undersecretary for defense policy, to Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.). Both officials implicitly acknowledged that the review was prompted by the videotaped beheadings of Americans by Islamic State — or "the increasing number of U.S. citizens taken hostage by terrorist groups overseas and the extraordinary nature of recent hostage cases," as Baskey put it. Aid worker Peter Kassig was the third American ISIS has killed in such a manner.