In the wake of James Foley's murder in the Syrian desert, his grief-stricken mother very publicly berated the American government for not doing all it could to free him—and for threatening the Foleys "very clearly three times that it was illegal for us to try to ransom our son out and that we had the possibility of being prosecuted." Diane Foley's criticism prompted a National Counterterrorism Center review of US policy, and ABC News reports that that policy will soon be reversed. "There will be absolutely zero chance of any family member of an American held hostage overseas ever facing jail themselves, or even the threat of prosecution, for trying to free their loved ones," a senior official says.
Foley said yesterday that she'd been briefed on the change and that the feds are "trying to make it right in their way. There's a lot that needs to be fixed." One former FBI agent tells ABC that "the issue is not whether or not ransom is paid, the issue is how it's paid. The practical matter is money is very traceable. Put the money in the terrorists' hands, find out who they're buying weapons from because you're going to follow the money." The change comes just as it surfaced that the family of al-Qaeda hostage Warren Weinstein did in fact pay a $250,000 ransom and got nothing. (Here's why one journalist thinks we shouldn't pay ransoms for hostages.)