- - Thursday, January 16, 2020

In the early days of what became a 30-year government career, I was enrolled in a training class during which CIA officer Bill Daugherty recounted the ordeal of being one of the 52 American citizens held hostage for 444 days in Iran starting in November 1979. Mr. Daugherty and his fellow hostages were released shortly after President Reagan was sworn into office in January 1981.

It was the first and only time I ever saw Mr. Daugherty in person, but his poignant words made a deep and lasting impression on my colleagues and me. We internalized many lessons, in particular the importance of doing everything we could to ensure the safety of our fellow CIA officers and U.S. government colleagues serving in harm’s way.

Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini used Mr. Daugherty and the other American hostages as fodder to consolidate power, smearing his political opponents with allegations of being pro-American.

The hostages were beaten, psychologically tortured (including with threats of execution), and subjected to long periods of solitary confinement. Once the hostage-takers discovered Mr. Daugherty’s CIA affiliation, he faced particularly rough treatment, including 100 hours of interrogation from a “student” who later played a leading role in Iran’s notorious state-sponsored terrorism.

Confined to solitary for 425 days, Mr. Daugherty lost 50 pounds while in captivity. He was physically abused and threatened with trial and execution.

Tehran was Mr. Daugherty’s first overseas tour with CIA, after having earned a PhD in government and serving eight years in the Marine Corps. An accomplished aviator, he flew over 70 missions during the Vietnam War.

Mr. Daugherty arrived in Tehran in September 1979. One month later, President Carter decided to admit the Shah of Iran, who was suffering from terminal cancer, into the U.S. for medical treatment.

Iranian student mobs responded by seizing the U.S. embassy, and the new Tehran regime demanded the extradition of the Shah.

Iranian student captors conducted psychological warfare against the hostages. In unimaginable shock and despair over the failure of their government to rescue them, many hostages felt abandoned.

Every year, Iran commemorates the hostage crisis, which caused so much damage to U.S. prestige, dignity and Middle East policy interests. Iranians hold an annual demonstration in front of the abandoned U.S. Embassy grounds, where American flags are burned.

While U.S. businesses were able to reclaim funds and assets from before the revolution, the 1981 Algiers Accords stated the former hostages would not be allowed to seek damages from Iran for their captivity.

In 2015, Congress passed an act creating the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, offering compensation to each hostage, spouse and dependent with a lump-sum payment. But since the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York had earlier held that Iran was in part responsible for the 9/11 attacks, a large additional group of claimants, numbering in the thousands, had a claim to money in the fund.

In November, President Trump in November signed a bill that divided the fund in half, splitting the revenue between two competing groups: victims of state-sponsored terrorism like Mr. Daugherty and families of the 9/11 victims. The practical result has been that the former hostages who were held in Iran are still waiting for compensation.

There is no question that 9/11 victims deserve restitution, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of our fellow U.S. citizens who were held hostage in Iran. The attack and takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was the Iranian regime’s first act of terrorism against the U.S.

Time is running out. Some of the hostages have passed away, others are elderly and in poor health.

In today’s hyperpartisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill, there has been considerable debate about the Trump administration’s Iran strategy, including the targeting of top commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani. But delivering on long-promised compensation to our fellow citizens, citizens who suffered so greatly at Iran’s hands, would be a righteous act in service to our nation on which both Democrats and Republicans should easily find common ground.

⦁ Daniel N. Hoffman is a retired clandestine services officer and former chief of station with the Central Intelligence Agency. His combined 30 years of government service included high-level overseas and domestic positions at the CIA. He has been a Fox News contributor since May 2018. Follow him on Twitter @DanielHoffmanDC.

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