Exposed: The White Houses Double Game On Hostages

30 Apr 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

5 Things To Read Today: FBI Helped Facilitate Ransom for U.S. Hostage Killed in Drone Strike, and More.

The White House has sworn, over and over again, that the U.S. government will not pay ransoms. The FBI supported a ransom paid to Al Qaeda for Warren Weinstein, an American hostage who was never returned and accidentally got killed by a U.S. drone strike, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, in a sweeping shake-up, moved a younger generation of leaders into positions to reinvigorate the kingdom’s standing in a volatile region and reshape ties with the West. FBI agents worked with a Pakistani middleman who transported an estimated $250,000 ransom on behalf of Weinstein’s family in 2012, senior officials said.

Weinstein, as we reported last week, was inadvertently killed in a U.S. military operation in January. “The FBI’s previously undisclosed role reveals a contradiction in the U.S.’s longstanding position against paying ransoms for hostages. In fact, the American government has both paid money to hostage takers and helped hostages’ families do the same, and that practice is likely to continue. “The FBI has always supported and assisted families with ransom payments. Since the family approved and oversaw the ransom, and the FBI technically had no direct involvement in the deal, this skirted the U.S. policy prohibiting ransom payments. “Our policy on this hasn’t changed,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday when asked about the report, which he said he didn’t read. Some analysts see the appointments as an attempt to replace the U.S. as the preeminent military force in the region, as the Obama administration focuses on Asia and a rising China. The agency also provided other intelligence that helped the family decide to go ahead with the exchange, senior US officials told the WSJ. “Over the three and a half year period of Warren’s captivity the family made every effort to engage with those holding him or those with the power to find and rescue him,” a family spokesman said. “This is an ordinary American family and they’re not familiar with how one manages a kidnapping.” The ransom was paid using $100 bills obtained from a “private” source, the intermediary told the WSJ.

He had been held in captivity since August 2011, and the ransom payment came sometime within a year of his kidnapping, but the thugs holding him hostage did not set him free. Weinstein, a 73-year-old relief worker, was accidentally killed along with an Italian aid worker in the January drone strike operation, having been originally taken hostage by Al Qaeda in August 2011. A fellow aid worker, Giovanni LoPorto of Italy, was also taken hostage and killed in the same drone strike, along with Ahmed Farouq, a senior Al Qaeda leader. He was snatched by terrorist gunmen at his Lahore, Pakistan, home while working as an economic development adviser for USAID, following a stint in the Peace Corps. Weinstein’s family had praised the efforts of specific officials at the FBI, with Weinstein’s wife Elaine thanking them “for their relentless efforts to free my husband” after the announcement of his death on April 23.

The fact that the FBI was willing to assist the Weinsteins underscores what current and former U.S. officials describe as a long-standing policy of law enforcement being willing to help families retrieve their loved ones even if it means going against the Obama administration’s public declarations that ransoms should never be paid and only encourage more hostage-taking. “The FBI regularly assists and supports families and companies in payment of ransoms. We always did, and I am confident they still do, as they should.” The use of ransom in that way is permitted under a classified presidential directive, known as NSPD-12, which was signed by George W. Bergdahl was eventually set free three months later in the prisoner swap. “It is my understanding that there are different methods for initiating payments, without a formal declaration of a ransom,” Hunter wrote. “Therefore any payments that might have been made—even under the guise of obtaining information—must be thoroughly scrutinized.” A few months after Bergdahl was released, hostage-takers attempted to broker another ransom payment for three individuals held by the Taliban, a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the matter told The Daily Beast.

In September 2014, an individual who claimed to have access to a proof of life video of American hostage Caitlin Coleman and her family contacted an office in the Defense Department working on hostage policy issues and offered to sell the video for $150,000, according to the U.S. official. The U.S. is also aware of a ransom payment made for another American hostage, journalist Peter Theo Curtis, who was freed by al Qaeda’s branch in Syria last year.

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