Potential Shift in Hostage Policy: Officials to Recommend Families Be Free to Pay Ransom

This is the headline, today,  from ABC News, reporting  this potential change in policy.  Read the report at:


The United States has long had a policy of no negotiation with terrorists and absolutely no payment of ransom to free US citizens held hostage. The policy is based on the rationale that paying ransom would only place a price on other Americans. Unfortunately, the United States has not been successful in rescuing hostage hostages.

Families of US citizens, including Warren Weinstein, reported that they were visited by US officials who told them that if they attempted to privately raise funds and pay ransom, they would be prosecuted. “Looking the other way” may be the policy change that would allow families to attempt to ransom relatives held hostage, without fear of prosecution. If it had been in effect, perhaps American hostages would not have been killed.

Evidently families did not receive such a warning, at least during the Carter administration. Richard Starr was a Peace Corps Volunteer who was kidnapped and held for three years by Marxist insurgents in Colombia, from 1977 to 1980. He was finally privately ransomed through the relentless efforts of his mother and with the help of columnist Jack Anderson. During his captivity, Peace Corps Volunteers were brought into more secure sites in urban areas, but continued their service. After the ransom was paid and by the end of 1981, Peace Corps  closed all programs and withdrew all Volunteers. US Representative Pat Schroder claimed that Peace Corps had left because their work was successfully completed and Colombia was now a democratic country. Sadly, Starr was found dead a few years after his return to the U.S.

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