Tags: Barack Obama | ISIS/Islamic State | MidPoint | Newsmax TV | Terry Anderson | ransom | policy

Terry Anderson: Obama Made 'Badly Needed' Fix in Ransom Policy

By    |   Thursday, 25 June 2015 08:13 PM

President Barack Obama "went a long way toward fixing something that has badly needed fixing for a long time" with his change in ransom policy, former journalist and hostage Terry Anderson told Newsmax TV on Thursday.

"The government's stated policy of not negotiating with or rewarding hostage-takers or kidnappers sounds good in theory, but in actual fact and in practice it has been very, very hard on families of the hostages," Anderson told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.

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Anderson, 67, was among 11 people held captive in Lebanon for nearly seven years by Hezbollah Shiite Muslims backed by Iran. He was bureau chief for The Associated Press. Anderson now teaches journalism at the University of Florida.

"Their policy has been interpreted to mean they can't even talk to the families," he said of the administration's previous policy. "They won't tell the families anything about what's going on. They won't talk to the kidnappers. They won't, in fact, really do anything very much in these cases — and that is not only not a productive policy, it's a kind of a foolish policy.

"I know a number of families of people who are hostages right now, and they have been very upset and very angry at the way that policy has been carried out. They've been threatened with prosecution if they make any contact with the kidnappers — and that's a pretty harsh attitude to take."

Obama acknowledged Wednesday that the U.S. government had let down the families of hostages in announcing that they would not be prosecuted for paying ransoms to captors.

"These families have already suffered enough and they should never feel ignored or victimized by their own government," Obama said.

Thirty-five Americans are being held as hostages abroad, according to the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, established last year by the parents of the first American slaughtered by Islamic State terrorists.

Anderson dismissed claims that the reversal would encourage terrorists to capture more Americans.

"How dangerous can we make it?" he asked Berliner. "It's already as dangerous as it possibly can be. Has this policy, in fact, cut down on a number of Americans kidnapped or the number of journalists kidnapped overseas? I don't think so.

"It hasn't had any effect at all, so changing it probably isn't going to have any effect either. The point is you can't pay ransom. You can't reward the hostage takers — but you can't get anything done if you won't even talk to them or allow anybody else to talk to them either."

Negotiations are critical in these situations, according to both Anderson and Bill Flanagan, a former hostage negotiator and former deputy police commissioner in Nassau County in New York.

"Sometimes it works; sometimes, it doesn't work," Anderson said. "In fact, I and my fellow hostages were released by a negotiator who gave our kidnappers no reward.

"Nothing. He simply talked them out of doing what they were doing."

Flanagan added: "There is a difference in dynamics here. That does not mean, however, that negotiations could not be successful. Everything is negotiable.

"We need to understand what it is that these parties that take hostages, that kidnap people, that demand ransoms are looking for — and we need to leverage their needs against the needs of getting those hostages repatriated," he said.

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President Barack Obama "went a long way toward fixing something that has badly needed fixing for a long time" with his change in ransom policy, former journalist and hostage Terry Anderson told Newsmax TV on Thursday.
Terry Anderson, ransom, policy, families, hostages
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2015-13-25
Thursday, 25 June 2015 08:13 PM
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