Saturday, May 2, 2015

FBI had aided Weinstein family with "ransom" payment in 2012, stirring intractable controversy

The Wall Street Journal, in a front page article Thursday, April 30, 2015, by Adam Entous and Devlin Barrett, reports that the FBI indirectly aided the family of Warren Weinstein in making a ransom payment through a Pakistani middleman.  The family had apparently decided to make private arrangements, and the FBI says it was protecting the family from scams through the process.  The WSJ has a video here
Yet it is apparently illegal for individuals of families in the US even to use private monies to pay ransom to terrorists overseas, as explored in this article by Philip Sherwell and Colin Freeman in the UK Telegraph, here
Of course, the US (somewhat at odds with European countries) believes that paying ransom only rewards further kidnappings.  But this is indeed a question about “sacrifice”.  Although it hasn’t happened, I would never become involved in a fundraising activity to pay ransom or for any specific victim.  I don’t respond directly to situations like this. Social media companies like Facebook would be likely to ban such campaigns when they are illegal. 
The US policy, arguably, could hinder churches and charities from deploying aid workers or missionaires in conflict-countries or in poorer countries generally.  College or older high school students sometimes go in the summer on such missions (which so far have not produced any such incidents, to my knowledge). Under this policy, they would be “let go”.  So people would not be able to volunteer for such efforts. 
It does seem, however, that actual prosecution of a family by the US for making a ransom payment privately is very unlikely.   

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