The Campaign Spot

How Many Americans Are Being Held Hostage Overseas?

A point in today’s Jolt spotlighting further . . . 

To get Bowe Bergdahl back, the United States took five of the worst captured killers in Guantanamo Bay and released them to Qatar. To get the release of Alan Gross, an American aid worker illegally detained in 2009, Obama normalized relations with Cuba. (Do you notice that Obama’s “concessions” to get prisoners back always involve him doing something he wanted to do anyway?)

Even if you thought the embargo was ineffective, it is exceptionally dangerous for the United States to give a hostile regime everything it wants for releasing an American.

How many Americans are being held hostage abroad? Nobody’s sure of the exact number, and our government won’t tell us, according to this September report:

Gross is one of possibly hundreds of Americans being held abroad by hostile regimes, terrorist groups and criminal organizations that don’t provide due process, according to the David House Agency, a Los Angeles-based international crisis resource agency. Given the U.S. government’s longstanding policy of not negotiating with terrorist groups and its lack of formal diplomatic relations with countries like Cuba, Iran, and North Korea, getting Americans out of trouble and back onto U.S. soil can be complicated or even impossible.

“It’s not just a global problem. It’s an international reality,” said Eric Volz, managing director for the agency. “Institutional kidnappings are at a rate never seen before. More Americans are traveling internationally and doing mission work. That’s why we are seeing it at a higher rate.”

“It’s reaching a tipping point,” he added. “These are just not isolated incidents.”

State Department officials declined to comment on any Americans being held captive overseas citing “privacy issues.” The department has reportedly told families of hostages held by terror groups not to publicize their plight, warning that it could put them in greater jeopardy. But the families of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, both of whom were beheaded in recent weeks by an Islamic State extremist in videos released on the Internet, have angrily denounced the U.S. government for not doing more to help free the men.

These concessions make us less safe. The Pentagon has noted “the increased frequency of hostage-taking of Americans overseas” and is reviewing its policy options.

You’ll recall that back in 2009, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il got what he wanted — a meeting with former president Bill Clinton in Pyongyang — and then released two detained American journalists:

If you’re hostile to the United States, why not take hostages? Sure, there’s a chance the Americans may try to send in Navy SEALs. But there’s a pretty good chance this administration will play ball.

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