FBI supported ransom deal for Al Qaeda hostage Warren Weinstein, who was …

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 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. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s role, previously undisclosed, runs counter to Washington’s longstanding public opposition to paying ransoms to secure the release of hostages. 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.

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. But ABC News reported at the weekend that a National Counterterrorism Center advisory group, acting on White House orders, is expected to recommend that US officials stop prosecuting families of American hostages who communicate with kidnappers abroad or raise funds and pay ransoms.

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. Warren Weinstein was snatched by Al Qaeda in Pakistan in 2011 and killed with fellow hostage and Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porta in a CIA drone strike in January targeting a suspected hideout of the terror group in Pakistan’s tribal areas. That has never changed,” Charles Regini, a former 21-year FBI veteran and one of the lead international kidnapping negotiators for the U.S. government, told The Daily Beast. “In fact, the FBI regularly assists and supports families and companies in payment of ransoms. 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’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.

Weinstein’s death was not announced until last Thursday, when the White House revealed that he and an Italian hostage were inadvertently killed during a US-launched drone strike that also killed two US citizens involved with Al-Qaeda. 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. 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.

But hostage negotiation experts and former U.S. officials have stressed that ransoms used as a lure are not considered a “concession,” that is, a quid-pro-quo payment of cash in exchange for a hostage’s release.

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