The family of a U.S. journalist beheaded by Islamic militants last month said members of the Obama administration told them that they would be prosecuted if they paid a ransom for their son.
ABC News reported Friday on the allegations from the family of James Foley, whose killing last month by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria was recorded and distributed in an online video. The family said the threats had been made by a member of President Barack Obama’s National Security Council. The person was left unnamed in the ABC News report at the request of the administration.
“Three times he intimidated us with that message. We were horrified he would say that,” Diane Foley, Foley’s mother, told ABC News. “He just told us we would be prosecuted. We knew we had to save our son, we had to try.”
“We were told that several times and we took it as a threat and it was appalling,” she said. Foley’s brother Michael told ABC News he was also warned of possible prosecution by a State Department official.
ISIS reportedly sought a $100 million ransom from the U.S. government for Foley’s life, which the Obama administration refused to pay.
The White House acknowledged that the payment of ransom is prohibited under federal law but denied threatening the Foley family in a statement to ABC News.
“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 [ISIS], are prohibited,” NSC spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said. “It is also a matter of longstanding policy that the U.S. does not grant concessions to hostage takers. Doing so would only put more Americans at risk of being taken captive. That is what we convey publicly and what we convey privately.”