Should The U.S. Pay Ransom When Americans Are Kidnapped?

In this May 27, 2011 file photo, American journalist James Foley, of Rochester, N.H., poses for a photo in Boston. Jake Zelinski has been named Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, the first recipient of a scholarship named for journalist Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria and later beheaded by Islamic State militants.
In this May 27, 2011 file photo, American journalist James Foley, of Rochester, N.H., poses for a photo in Boston. Jake Zelinski has been named Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, the first recipient of a scholarship named for journalist Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria and later beheaded by Islamic State militants. Steven Senne / AP Photo, File
In this May 27, 2011 file photo, American journalist James Foley, of Rochester, N.H., poses for a photo in Boston. Jake Zelinski has been named Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, the first recipient of a scholarship named for journalist Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria and later beheaded by Islamic State militants.
In this May 27, 2011 file photo, American journalist James Foley, of Rochester, N.H., poses for a photo in Boston. Jake Zelinski has been named Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, the first recipient of a scholarship named for journalist Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria and later beheaded by Islamic State militants. Steven Senne / AP Photo, File

Should The U.S. Pay Ransom When Americans Are Kidnapped?

The United States government enforces a policy of refusing to negotiate when its nationals are kidnapped by terror groups. In theory, the approach is designed to ensure the government doesn’t fund terrorism, and to prevent additional kidnappings that could result from armed groups learning that hefty ransom payments are a possibility. But in practice, as Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists Joel Simon observes in his new book We Want to Negotiate: The Secret World of Kidnapping, Hostages and Ransom, the policy has resulted in American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff executed by the Islamic State while European hostages whose governments had paid up went home. 

Simon joins the show to talk about his book, and the question it delves into of whether or not governments should pay ransom when their citizens are taken hostage.