They’re not much good at intimidating America’s enemies or securing cooperation from her allies, but the Obama Administration excels at pushing American citizens around. Earlier this week, we learned that the family of murdered journalist Steven Sotloff was angry at the Obama Administration for handling his hostage situation badly and making “a number of inaccurate statements” about his capture and death to the American people, as a family spokesman put it. The Sotloffs kept quiet at the urging of the Administration in the past, but are now speaking up, and threatening to speak up even more if Team Obama keeps pumping out those inaccurate statements.
The Sotloffs grew close to the family of the other American journalist murdered by ISIS, James Foley, during the ordeal suffered by the two men. Now ABC News reports that the Foleys are also making their displeasure with the Obama Administration known… and if anything, their charges are even more explosive:
Obama administration officials repeatedly threatened the family of murdered journalist James Foley that they might face criminal charges for supporting terrorism if they paid ransom to the ISIS killers who ultimately beheaded their son, his mother and brother said this week.
“We were told that several times and we took it as a threat and it was appalling,” Foley’s mother Diane told ABC News in an interview.
She said the warnings over the summer came primarily from a highly decorated military officer serving on the White House’s National Security Council staff, which five outraged current and former officials with direct knowledge of the Foley case also recounted to ABC News in recent weeks.
“Three times he intimidated us with that message. We were horrified he would say that. He just told us we would be prosecuted. We knew we had to save our son, we had to try,” Diane Foley said.
“It was an utterly idiotic thing to do that came across as if he had the compassion of an anvil,” said a former official who has advised the family.
“He had no business speaking about legal issues he was unqualified to discuss,” a current official said of the military officer at the NSC, who has no background in the law.
As if anyone in Barack Obama’s orbit gives a hoot what “the law” says about anything. Foley’s brother Michael added that he got the same threats from the State Department, so this wasn’t an isolated incident of one official getting a bit carried away with himself. Michael Foley said he “remained defiant” and reminded the State Department that “no relatives of American hostages have ever been indicted for trying to free a loved one from captivity.”
Naturally, the Administration decided to handle this by calling the Foley family a pack of liars:
An NSC spokeswoman admitted that the Foley family was informed of U.S. laws banning terrorism financing but denied the family was told they could face charges if they made a ransom payment.
“Without getting into the details of our private discussions with families, the law is clear that ransom payments to designated individuals or entities, such as ISIL [ISIS], are prohibited. It is also a matter of longstanding policy that the U.S. does not grant concessions to hostage takers. Doing so would only put more Americans at risk of being taken captive. That is what we convey publicly and what we convey privately,” NSC spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement on Thursday.
Except when Barack Obama does it, right? He can violate the law and trade five terror bosses for an American captive with a dodgy military record who was captured after walking away from his post, and that doesn’t send any messages that put anyone at risk. Not to mention the messages that were sent by the Administration’s bizarre meltdown over the Bowe Bergdahl swap when people started asking them questions about it. Come to think of it, that was pretty much a preview of the way this three-ring circus of a White House went into full clown mode after Foley’s beheading, with everyone from the President to State Department spokesmen donning rubber noses, tooting horns, pedaling around on unicycles, and shouting conflicting messages about what sort of response was merited for these videotaped atrocities. The Bergdahl release was another example of Obama subordinating foreign policy to his political needs, with the whole thing staged as a photo op he could take exclusive credit for arranging, to shore up his sliding poll numbers. And here we are again, with America’s response to a deadly enemy processed entirely in terms of how it affects Barack Obama politically.
The Foleys were actually working on putting a ransom package together, noting that ISIS has a track record of selling its captives for cash – it’s been one of their major funding mechanisms – but grew concerned about the possibility that their donors could be indicted for funding terrorism:
Foley did not disclose how much her family had raised before his high-profile public execution but she and a surviving son, Michael said that the administration’s intimidation tactics succeeded.
“It slowed my parents down quite a bit. They didn’t want to do anything that could get them in trouble. It slowed them down for months in raising money. Who knows what might have happened?” Michael Foley wonders.
The family launched the James W. Foley Legacy Fund this week, which in large part is intended to help other hostages’ loved ones navigate the frustrating currents they encountered both with the terrorists and with their own government.
Two American and several British hostages remain in ISIS captivity.
I don’t suppose the Obama cheerleaders in the press are going to give much coverage to the politically unhelpful pronouncements of the James W. Foley Legacy Fund. If this was all happening under a Republican president, the Foleys would be media superstars with certified Absolute Moral Authority. Hollywood stars would be lining up to play the Foleys in an A-list production.
Diane Foley also did an interview with Anderson Cooper, in which she was even more politically unhelpful to Barack Obama. She said she thought her family’s efforts to secure James’ release were viewed by the Administration as an “annoyance,” and they were instructed not to speak with the media. “We were just told to trust that he would be freed, somehow, miraculously… and he wasn’t, was he?” Mrs. Foley asked bitterly. As for the botched rescue attempt, she described it as “late… very late,” and said it was “rather frightening” that her family “tended to know everything before the FBI or anyone else.”
On the question of whether paying a ransom to get James Foley back was wise: you can hardly criticize the family for doing everything possible to get him back. It’s true that we don’t want to pour more money into terrorist coffers; the ISIS ransom business has been entirely too lucrative over the past few years. By the same token, whatever money might have been tendered to ISIS for James Foley would be a drop in the bucket compared to what they’ve already collected for hostages.
The non-interventionist case for staying out of the Islamic State’s affairs holds that a few brutally murdered hostages aren’t sufficient justification for military action, but allowing these thugs to seize and slaughter with impunity endangers the lives of Americans traveling around the world, with a particularly ugly no-go zone spreading from the areas where ISIS is most active. We either defend our citizens, or we don’t, and if we’re not going to, we shouldn’t be surprised that the savages draw certain conclusions from that reluctance. At the moment, this particular gang of thugs feels pretty good about using knives to cut American heads off on video, tossing in a few quotes from President Obama for good measure. If that attitude isn’t adjusted, they’ll do it again.