The spokesman for the family of beheaded journalist Steven Sotloff charged that the Obama administration “bullied and hectored” Sotloff’s parents as they sought to free their son from Islamic State terrorists.
Barak Barfi appeared Wednesday on CBS This Morning to discuss the U.S. government’s cooperation — or lack thereof — with Sotloff’s parents during attempted negotiations with jihadists based in Iraq and Syria.
“Did you feel like the U.S. government gave the Sotloff family the help that they wanted?” Norah O’Donnell asked.
“Not at all,” Barfi said. “We never really believed that the administration was doing anything to help us. We had very, very limited contact with senior officials. It was basically limited to two FBI agents, and when I tried to ask for a senior point of contact, all the administration said is, ‘You can speak to the counselor of bureau affairs at the State Department.’”
Barfi said that the Sotloff family wanted constant contact with the White House to exchange updates on Steven’s conditions and the terrorists’ demands.
But instead, he explained, the administration sought to intimidate the family into withdrawing from the negotiation process. “We had meetings with the administration, the family sat with this National Security Council official, and basically he bullied and hectored them,” Barfi alleged. “And they were scared.”
“He’s a Marine,” he continued. “He is not a Justice Department lawyer, he’s not an official from the Organization of Foreign Asset Control — the Treasury. He shouldn’t be telling them what the law is. He’s a counter-terrorism specialist. That is what he should be talking about.”
Barfi claimed the White House “shot down every opportunity” for a possible ransom and threatened the family if they tried to negotiate on their own. “I’m hearing Denis McDonough saying they weren’t threatened. He wasn’t in the meeting,” he said. “John Kerry wasn’t in the meetings. The family was in the meetings, and then I was in a subsequent meeting. And I know what I heard.”