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Monday, June 29, 2015

U.S. Hostage Policy and the Need for a "Czar"

    Yesterday, I attended a memorial service celebrating the life of Warren Weinstein, the father of a dear friend of mine.  As was widely reported, Warren was an aid worker who was killed in a U.S. drone strike last January after being kidnapped in Pakistan and held captive by al Qaeda for more than three years.  Many people spoke at the memorial about how remarkable Warren was--a true humanitarian, a great intellectual, a devoted family man, a generous mentor, and a loyal friend.  Warren will be sorely missed by those who knew, loved, and respected him.

    Barbara Mikulski, the senior U.S. Senator from Maryland, was among the speakers at the service.  Sen. Mikulski, together with Sen. Cardin (Md.) and Rep. Delaney (Md.), have worked closely with the Weinstein family through this terrible ordeal.  Sen. Mikulski discussed the policy changes that have come about in part because of Warren's tragic death.  As discussed here and here, President Obama announced a policy overhaul last week that (1) authorizes the government, families, and third parties to communicate with captors; (2) ensures that families who pay ransoms will not face criminal charges; and (3) reorganizes the government's hostage recovery efforts.

    While a step in the right direction, Sen. Mikulski believes that more should be done for the families of hostages.  To that end, legislation has been proposed in both the House and Senate to create a "hostage czar" charged with coordinating and directing governmental efforts to secure the release of U.S. hostages held by terrorist groups.  For families like the Weinsteins, knowing that someone in the government is waking up every day focused exclusively on bringing their loved ones home would go a long way.


Posted by Megan La Belle on June 29, 2015 at 12:03 PM | Permalink


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