A Democratic lawmaker is urging the administration to maintain its policy of not paying ransom money to free American hostages held by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), despite criticism.
“I don’t think we should be paying ransom,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, on MSNBC Monday.
“And I say that fully aware of the fact that if it were a member of my family, I would be out there trying to raise ransom to protect my family. But as a nation, I think … it would be a poor policy,” he added.
Schiff instead called for the U.S. to press other nations to also stop paying ransoms to terror groups.
He called for a “full-court press on other nations not to succumb to this, and, instead, to redouble our efforts to go after these people committing these kind of heinous crimes.”
Schiff made the comment days after a New York Times report detailed the terror group’s brutal treatment of its hostages. The group has already beheaded two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, in brutal propaganda films uploaded to the Internet.
While some Western governments have paid or helped arrange ransoms to free hostages captured by ISIS, the U.S. has a policy against doing so.
Obama administration officials have said that paying ransoms encourages more kidnappings and provides financial support to terrorist organizations. But the murders of the two Americans sparked a renewed debate over U.S. policy.
Last month, a spokesman for Sotloff’s family levied harsh criticism at the White House over its handling of the hostages. And over the weekend, Foley’s parents told MSNBC that the U.S. should at least reconsider its policy.
“We feel that there needs to be an international open discussion to revisit … these issues,” John Foley, James Foley’s father, said.
The slain journalist’s mother, Diane Foley said, they and other families “were told very clearly that we should not” pay ransoms by a member of the National Security Council.
Schiff called the Times report which detailed the American prisoners’ prolonged torture, even as hostages from other nations were freed “just awful to consider.”