The mother and brother of James Foley — one of the U.S. journalists beheaded by the Islamic State — claim Obama administration officials threatened to charge them with criminal counts if they tried to pay the ransom demanded by the terrorists.
“We were told that several times and we took it as a threat and it was appalling,” Foley’s mother Diane told ABC News.
She said the warnings emanated from the White House’s National Security Council — specifically, from a highly decorated military officer who serves on the council’s staff.
“Three times he intimidated us with that message,” she told ABC News. “We were horrified he would say that. He just told us we would be prosecuted. We knew we had to save our son. We had to try.”
She’s not alone in her outrage at the reported statement.
“It was an utterly idiotic thing to do that came across as if he had the compassion of an anvil,” said one former official who’s now advising the Foley family, ABC News reported. And another official who’s currently serving in the government said similar: “He had no business speaking about legal issues he was unqualified to discuss,” ABC News said.
Meanwhile, Foley’s brother, Michael, said he was threatened with prosecution by a State Department official, but said that he didn’t pay the threat much mind.
He said he told the threatening official: Go ahead — no family members of U.S. hostages have ever been indicted for trying to free their loved ones, ABC News reported.
A spokeswoman for the NSC said that the family of Foley had been told that U.S. laws ban them from financing terrorism — but that nobody threatened them with prosecution if they paid a ransom.
“Without getting into the details of our private discussions with families, the law is clear that ransom payments to designated individuals or entities, such as ISIL, are prohibited. It is also a matter of longstanding policy that the U.S. does not grant concessions to hostage takers,” NSC spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told ABC News. “Doing so would only put more Americans at risk … That is what we convey public and what we convey privately.”