Politics & Government

Pittenger criticizes Obama announcement on ransoms

N.C. Rep. Robert Pittenger
N.C. Rep. Robert Pittenger

U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger said he opposes President Barack Obama’s announcement Wednesday that families of hostages will continue not to be prosecuted for paying ransoms.

Obama spoke about the policy Wednesday, describing a new executive order that creates government positions and groups tailored to work on hostage situations. The policies stem from a recent hostage policy review.

“No family of an American hostage has ever been prosecuted for paying a ransom for the return of their loved ones,” Obama said. “The last thing that we should ever do is to add to a family’s pain with threats like that.”

Pittenger, a Charlotte Republican, said in a news release that allowing families to pay ransoms will endanger Americans living or traveling overseas.

“By announcing families won’t be prosecuted for paying ransoms, we have just advertised American citizens as a new source of revenue,” he said.

“We must fully support the families of hostages while not putting additional families at risk for similar heartache,” Pittenger said. “We should also collaborate with our allies regarding greater protections for our citizens who travel to danger zones for humanitarian or family reasons.”

Pittenger is chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare and vice chairman of the Bipartisan Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing.

Obama reaffirmed that the U.S. government does not pay ransom to terrorist groups.

“I firmly believe that the United States government paying ransom to terrorists risks endangering more Americans and funding the very terrorism we’re trying to stop,” he said.

Obama’s executive order creates a hostage response group of senior officials to review the consistency and effectiveness of policies. It also establishes a central hub in the FBI where experts will work as one group to recover hostages.

A new diplomat will serve as the presidential envoy for hostage affairs and work with other governments in hostage situations, Obama said. And families will now have one official to work with during hostage situations who will advocate for them, a process that was more confusing and frustrating in the past, the president said.

“These families have suffered enough and they should never feel ignored or victimized by their own government,” Obama said.

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