Obama ordered the appropriate authorities – including the Defense and State Departments, the FBI and the intelligence community – to conduct a “comprehensive review of the U.S. Government policy on overseas terrorist-related hostage cases, with specific emphasis on examining family engagement, intelligence collection and diplomatic engagement policies,” National Security Council spokesman Alistar Baskey said in a statement.
The president’s order was issued last summer, but it was made public only now in a letter from Under Secretary of Defense Christine Wormuth to Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of California.
In the letter, as reported by The Daily Beast, Wormuth explains the decision to conduct the review came as a result of the “increased frequency” of kidnappings of U.S. citizens abroad, adding that its aim is to add “innovative and non-traditional solutions” to hostage-recovery efforts.
The government’s current protocols for responding to such kidnappings reject the idea of negotiating with terrorists, paying ransom or exchanging prisoners.
The news of the policy review coincided with the report of the murder of Peter Kassig, the third American to be beheaded by the Islamic State jihadist group.
Kassig, who served a year in the U.S. Army in Iraq in 2007, was taken hostage in 2013 in Syria, when he was preparing to distribute a cargo of medical supplies and humanitarian aid