Saturday, June 27, 2015

Conservative Analysis of the Obama Administration’s Tolerance of Private Ransoms for Hostages

           American citizens who pay ransom to terrorists for the release of hostages will no longer be threatened with prosecution by the Obama Administration for providing material support to terrorists.

            No American had ever been prosecuted for paying ransom, but the threat of prosecution did have some deterrent effect.  The United States government will continue not to pay ransoms. 

Publicly announcing that no one will be threatened with prosecution is an abuse of prosecutorial discretion, as it is a blanket policy, which violates the constitutional requirement in Article II, Section 3 that the Chief Executive “Take Care That the laws be faithfully executed.”  A prosecutor may exercise discretion for reasonable cause, such as some significant matter of public policy or risk to security, or out of prioritization of resources, but publicly announcing a blanket policy of non-prosecution leaves no room for exceptions and is thus an act of executive lawmaking by decree, which violates the principle of the separation of powers by usurping the Congress’ legislative powers.  Such a policy is unlike an amnesty, which precludes prosecution of people after they commit a crime, but is given before they commit the crime, as if to condone it. 

The impetus for the change in policy was the Obama Administration’s trade of five Taliban terrorist leaders for an American soldier who had deserted to the Taliban in Afghanistan, which led the families of some hostages to object to the inconsistency.  The policy change follows the rewarding of the Cuban Communist dictatorship for with diplomatic recognition and the relaxation of economic sanctions for releasing a federal contractor working to increase internet access for Jewish Cubans.  The contractor had been unjustly detained by the Castro regime, which censors the Internet.  The Obama Administration further rewarded Communist Cuba by removing it from the State Department’s lists of state sponsors of terrorism, despite Cuba’s harboring of terrorists and pro-terrorist foreign policies.  The Administration’s tolerance for private ransoms is thus part of a pattern in placing a higher premium on obtaining the release of Americans captured abroad than on protecting other Americans from being taken hostage in the first place.

            The Obama Administration’s policy not to threaten prosecution for private ransoms for hostages encourages terrorists to capture more Americans and hold them for ransom as the tactic of hostage-taking is now financially incentivized.  In fact, ransoms are one of the main sources of fundraising for terrorists.  Therefore, the change in policy leaves Americans more vulnerable as terrorists conclude that the reward for hostage-taking is more worth the risk.  Furthermore, the ransoms finance additional terrorist or other militant acts.   

           Conservatives should promote more comprehensive policies to obtain the release of Americans who are taken hostage or unjustly detained for bargaining purposes and to deter hostage-taking instead of encouraging it.

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