- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2002

The United States yesterday announced a more aggressive policy toward hostage-takers and kidnappers of Americans overseas that would treat abducted private citizens in the same way as U.S. officials and require a federal review of every case.
The reviews will determine the "appropriate means we have to deal" with a specific situation, "and I don't want to imply in any way that military action is a first or a preferred way," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.
"Based upon past experience, the U.S. government concluded that making concessions that benefit hostage-takers in exchange for the release of hostages increased the danger that others will be taken hostage," the State Department said in a statement.
"U.S. government policy is, therefore, to deny hostage-takers the benefits of ransom, prisoner releases, policy changes or other acts of concession."
Although those principles have been followed for years, they haven't been part of an explicit U.S. policy. The United States has taken the tougher stance at a time when a Wall Street Journal reporter and a Christian missionary couple are held hostage in Pakistan and the Philippines, respectively.
"What may be a little bit different now is to say that we look at every kidnapping and every hostage-taking to consider what the U.S. government can do to gain the safe return of the individual, whether it's an official American or a private American," Mr. Boucher said.
He said "direct U.S. military or law enforcement intervention … may not be the appropriate response to any particular situation," especially, as in the case of the Philippines, "when you do have local capabilities among law enforcement agencies."
The two Christian missionaries from Kansas, Martin and Gracia Burnham, were abducted by rebels last summer.
As for journalist Daniel Pearl, Mr. Boucher said, "We have people out in Pakistan who are working with the authorities … even though it is a Pakistani investigation that we all give credit to for the quality and the diligence that's involved."
The State Department statement said the United States "strongly urges American companies and private citizens not to accede to hostage-taker demands." But "if they wish to follow a hostage resolution path different from that of U.S. government policy," they can do so without Washington's approval.
"In the event a hostage-taking incident is resolved through concessions, U.S. policy remains steadfastly to pursue investigation leading to the apprehension and prosecution of hostage takers who victimize U.S. citizens," the statement said.
It made clear that the United States would not support requests that host governments in countries where abductions had taken place "violate their own laws or abdicate their normal enforcement responsibilities."
Citing a 1984 U.S. law enacted in implementation of the U.N. Convention on Hostage-Taking, the statement said that "seizure of a U.S. citizen as a hostage anywhere in the world is a crime, as is any hostage-taking action in which the U.S. government is a target or the hostage taker is a U.S. national."

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