White House: We Didn’t Threaten Journalist’s Families

The White House is pushing back against allegations that a member of the National Security Council (NSC) threatened the families of journalists imprisoned by ISIS with prosecution if they paid a ransom for their loved ones.

According to the Detroit Free Press, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough denied the claims, saying that government officials didn’t threaten the families of captured journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. Instead, McDonough asserts that the journalists’ relatives were made aware of the law regarding support for militant groups. As The Huffington Post notes, the U.S. National Security Council has expressed that ransom payments made to terrorist organizations are illegal.

“In terms of what was communicated to the families, in the midst of many, many meetings over the course of this very difficult circumstance, we obviously made clear what the law is,” McDonough said, appearing on Fox News Sunday. “We didn’t threaten anybody, but we made clear what the law is. That’s our responsibility, to make sure we explain the law and uphold the law.”

The family of slain journalist James Foley, who was beheaded by ISIS militants, spoke out this week as his mother and brother both claimed that they had been threatened by White House officials over the possibility of paying ransom for his return. As The Inquisitr has noted, Foley’s mother, Diane, alleges that an unnamed military member of the White House’s NSC staff threatened the family with prosecution, telling them not to speak to the media.

On Thursday, the NSC addressed the allegations in a statement, in which they asserted that they had conveyed to the journalists’ families the legal implications of paying a ransom, although they would not discuss the details of private conversations. It has also been revealed that the United States launched a mission this summer to retrieve Foley, as well as other captive journalists. By the time that special forces arrived, however, the journalists had already been moved.

“We took every effort and will continue to take every effort to secure people,” McDonough added.

The interview with the White House Chief of Staff aired a day after the Islamic State beheaded a third hostage.

[Image via Politico]