On Thursday, Barack Obama announced that a U.S. drone strike accidentally killed two hostages, prompting a congressional democrat to call for a “hostage czar,” a single point person who can coordinate with various agencies on hostage issues. Obama’s press secretary wouldn’t rule out the possibility.
According to USA Today, Democratic Representative John Delaney is leading the charge for the creation of a new Czar.
“I want someone who can walk into the office in the morning, look at the white board that has all the names of hostages, and say, ‘How do we move the ball today?'”
Warren Weinstein, one of the hostages killed in the drone strike, lived in Maryland, in Representative Delaney’s home district.
The Congressman added, “Don’t get me wrong, I think the people in the White House care deeply about this issue. And it’s really important to me not to be at all critical of the men and women who are doing this job. But they work in a bureaucracy. It’s an institutional problem.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest wouldn’t rule out the creation of a hostage czar. The Obama administration is considering its options after families of a number of hostages have come forward to criticize the government’s response. Weinstein’s wife called the effort to free Warren “inconsistent and disappointing.”
Instead of a single authority, the White House detailed what they call a “Fusion Cell.”
Earnest explained the Fusion Cell “would be a working level, operationally focused group of federal employees that would enable a whole-of-government response to overseas hostage events.”
According to CNN the Fusion Cell would bring together the CIA, FBI, the State Department, the Defense Department, and the White House to work on hostage situations and provide communication to the families of victims. Earnest noted the importance of communication with the families.
“These families are in a terrible situation. It’s unthinkable to imagine what it would be like to have a loved one, a family member, being held against their will by a terrorist organization. So there is a premium on clear, direct, specific, regular, reliable communication with these families, and that can be difficult when you have a wide range of agencies that are involved in those conversations.”
He added that during the review, there will be an opportunity for the families to give some feedback.
Diane Foley, the mother of journalist James Foley, who was beheaded by ISIS, acknowledged, “It’s encouraging to me that they understand that they failed our son.” She initially told CNN she was “embarrassed and appalled” by the U.S. response to her son’s case.
U.S. authorities convinced Foley to stay quiet about the abduction, but behind the scenes she was never satisfied with the effort to free her son, telling CNN afterwards, “I think our efforts to get Jim freed were an annoyance.”
Diane Foley believes that the U.S. should amend its policy of never negotiating with terrorists. Unfortunately for Foley, that’s one option not being considered by the White House, as Earnest explained.
“This is a policy that’s in place because considering options like that, paying ransom or offering a concession to a terrorist organization, may result in the saving of one innocent life, but could put countless other innocent lives at greater risk.”
The Huffington Post reports the family of Warren Weinstein paid $200,000 to free the aid worker, but the terrorists did not turn him over in time.
As for a hostage czar, Delaney says at least a single person in authority could cut some of the bureaucracy out of the tragedy.
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