American Deaths Spark Dispute Over Official Hostage Policy

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Ivan Plis Reporter, Daily Caller News Foundation
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Now a bereft father, Carl Mueller says for the 18 months that his daughter Kayla spent as a captive of Islamic State extremists before dying in early February, the U.S. government decided to “put policy in front of American citizens’ lives.”

Mueller, who spoke to NBC’s “Today” show Monday, said that while he believes the government did as much as it legally could to rescue his daughter, the FBI and other agencies were constrained by longstanding federal policies on the handling of hostages. (RELATED: ISIS Emailed Kayla Mueller’s Family Pictures Of Her Corpse)

Federal agencies are in the middle of reviewing policies on U.S. hostages abroad, which includes a hard stance against ransoms. Several American Islamic State hostages’ families have complained about insensitive treatment, poor inter-agency coordination and requests to keep their loved ones’ identities secret.

While the final report is expected to recommend a more “compassionate” approach, the ransom policy isn’t going away. White House Chief Counterterrorism Advisor Lisa Monaco wrote in a letter to families that “this review will not include a reconsidering of our no-concessions policy,” according to the Washington Post.

The review process will involve dozens of formal interviews with families of dead, released or current hostages, with input from the FBI, State Department, Department of Defense and a cluster of intelligence agencies.

Besides Carl Mueller, the parents of Austin Tice have been notably outspoken in their criticism of the standing policy. Tice, a freelance journalist, went missing in Syria over 900 days ago, and is believed to be in the hands of the Syrian government. His parents Marc and Debra have proposed a systematic series of overhauls to replace the existing situation, in which “no government policy and no established support network exist to help families.”

Islamic State terrorists have successfully received huge ransoms for other hostages, notably those from European countries. In December, the Brookings Institution estimated the organization’s worth at around $2 billion; the ransom demand for Kayla Mueller was reportedly more than $6 million. (RELATED: ISIS Hostage Kayla Mueller: ‘I Have A Lot Of Fight Left’)

According to the Muellers’ congressman, Rep. Paul Gosar, the government made at least one botched attempted to rescue their daughter before she died in militant custody.

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