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NBC Reporter: Doesn’t New U.S. Hostage Policy ‘Put a Price Tag on Americans’ Heads Overseas?’

• June 24, 2015 3:29 pm

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Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco said Wednesday "there’s no doubt" ransom payments fund terrorist activity, even as President Obama announced that the U.S. government would permit private ransom payments and negotiation with terrorists.

Monaco was grilled by NBC News’ Peter Alexander about whether the president’s dramatic overhaul of U.S. hostage policy would endanger Americans traveling overseas.

"The president today said the U.S. government policy will remain the same because he said ransom risks endangering more Americans, and it funds terrorism that we're trying to stop, but ransom money is ransom money, whether paid by the government or paid by individual families, so doesn't this announcement today risk endangering more Americans overseas?" Alexander asked.

"I understand that critique," Monaco said. "The U.S. government policy is no concessions. That's ransoms, that's other policy concessions, a whole number of levers or issues that could be on the table if it's an issue of the U.S. government providing that concession, whether it's money and the seemingly vast resources at the government's disposal, or a policy concession, or a policy change, or a pledge not to undertake some type of foreign policy or military action. All of those things would be in the realm of a U.S. government concession that are simply not on the table and will not be on the table."

"The president said that ransom money and oil helps fund terrorist groups, so doesn’t providing that money ultimately put a price tag on Americans’ heads overseas?" Alexander asked.

"There’s no doubt that the payment of ransoms fuels the very activity we’re trying to stop," Monaco responded.

She said that the president’s policy change was effected to comfort the families of hostages, some of which have accused the administration of hindering their efforts to rescue their loved ones.

The United States has long maintained an official "no ransom" policy so that kidnappers do not have incentive to capture more Americans. This policy will remain in effect for the government, but families of hostages will no longer be prosecuted for paying terror ransoms.

The New York Times reported last year that ransom payments are a crucial source of funding for some of the world’s most dangerous terrorist groups. Al Qaeda and its affiliates earned $66 million in 2013 alone from ransom payments.

More than 30 American citizens are currently held hostage abroad.

Published under: Obama Administration