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Paying Ransom to Terrorists

By Gary Noesner

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It was recently announced that President Obama has ordered a review of the U.S. government’s kidnap response policy. This review is prompted by the recent series of gruesome beheadings of American hostages by ISIS, and criticism from the family of James Foley that they were threatened with prosecution if they attempted to pay a ransom to the kidnappers.

First, there has never been a legal prohibition against paying a ransom payment in a criminal kidnapping. Long standing FBI kidnap response policy since the famous Lindbergh kidnapping states that the decision as to whether or not to pay a ransom rests solely with the family. During my lengthy FBI negotiation career I worked over 120 cases of American citizens being kidnapped abroad; and that policy was the driving force behind our actions. All but a few incidents resulted in the safe release of the hostage.

The FBI’s goal has always been to secure the safe and timely release of the victim, identify the kidnappers, and work towards arresting and prosecuting those involved. That role is appropriate and highly successful. While no one wants to reward kidnappers, the sad fact is that ransom payment is often the only means of successful resolution. It is easy to criticize this approach until it is your own family member or employee held hostage.

Paying Ransom to Terrorists By Gary Noesner


Copyright © 2015 Gary Noesner
Copyright ©   2015  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  March 2015