NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Negotiations and Ransoms in Hostage Situations

March 28, 2002

Recent changes in Washington's policies suggest that American civilian hostages can expect more help from their government, and that the government will relax its opposition to ransom payments to free private citizens.

  • Previous U.S. policy was to try to rescue hostages only if they were military or diplomatic personnel.
  • The new policy is that the U.S. will use any means available to free U.S. hostages.
  • Another policy previously said that if a private entity pays ransom, Washington won't give help.
  • It now says the government will try to catch the kidnappers and won't withhold help if a ransom is paid.

But some critics are concerned that the new stance will only encourage kidnappings by relenting on ransoms. They would like to see a law banning both payoffs and negotiations with terrorist-kidnappers.

Defenders of the new policy respond that talks between U.S. interests and kidnappers must be opened, if only to find out who they are and what they want. That would allow the U.S. to plan its strategy.

The State Department gets reports of about two dozen kidnappings of U.S. citizens a year. But experts say many others go unreported.

Source: Peter Benesh, "U.S. Tweaks Hostage Policy: Are More Americans at Risk?" Investor's Business Daily, March 26, 2002.


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