The Obama administration will stop threatening prosecution for families who negotiate ransoms for the return of their loved ones with terrorist groups, White House officials announced in early July 2015.
Diane Foley, mother of James Foley, the journalist who was murdered by ISIS this past year, said that the government threatened to prosecute her if she had attempted to free her son by means of privately funding a ransom request. Obama will officially announce the policy changes along with others on Wednesday, as part of a report on the U.S.' hostage policies and procedures. Obama called for the report last fall after the beheadings of multiple U.S. hostages by ISIS.
Many families have complained that it has been difficult to get information from the government regarding hostage situations. The new policy will likely allow the FBI to be the main contact point for families involved in hostage situations, instead of multiple government agencies giving families contradicting information.
White House officials did stress, however, that the longstanding and strict U.S. policy not to negotiate with terrorist group would still stand. Under new policy, the U.S. government would not be negotiating or paying the ransom themselves, rather they would assist the families in facilitating communications with the captors in an effort to secure the release of the hostage.
Many European countries have successfully negotiated the release of hostages by paying ransom to ISIS and other terrorist groups; the U.S.' unwillingness to do the same has added to the anguish of U.S. families of hostages.