U.S. Senator Joni Ernst says she is “deeply, deeply concerned” about the direction the president is going in allowing U.S. families to offer private ransom payments for relatives kidnapped overseas.
“I do not believe families should be negotiating with terrorists,” Ernst says. Ernst, a Republican from Red Oak, says the president is sending a mix message. The federal government will continue its policy of not making ransom payments, but president signed an executive order creating a new office to deal with hostage families, including the facilitation of communications with terrorist groups that could theoretically be used to organize ransom payments.
“I don’t agree with what the president is doing, and I think he puts a number of these families at great peril by encouraging them to do so,” according to Ernst. “It is our responsibility to ensure that we are getting those hostages back as a federal government.”
Ernst says the president’s plan raises the risk for everyone. “I think that puts not only any hostages at increased risk — but also those families. We shouldn’t put them in that position,” she says. “It is our responsibility as a federal government to ensure that we are protecting our citizens. And when they are in hostage situations, we should be the ones who are getting those hostages back.”
Ernst says the president’s plan doesn’t help the issue. “We do not negotiate with terrorists, we don’t want to fund those organizations and we don’t want to encourage them either. I think there is a better way to do this. I do believe that the Department of Defense should really spearhead these hostage situations,” Ernst says.
Under the new directive from President Obama, families will not be prosecuted if they attempt to pay ransoms to get their relatives released.