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Obama seeks review of government response to hostage-taking

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Story highlights

  • President Obama orders a review of how the government handles hostage cases
  • ISIS has released three videos showing beheadings of Americans
  • The mother of James Foley said she was "appalled" by U.S. response
The U.S. government is conducting a review of how it responds when American citizens are taken hostage by overseas terrorists, including how the families of captives are kept informed, CNN learned Monday.
A top Pentagon official wrote in a letter to Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California, that President Barack Obama had ordered a "comprehensive review of the U.S. Government policy on overseas terrorist-related hostage cases, with specific emphasis on examining family engagement, intelligence collection and diplomatic engagement policies."
Hunter has advocated for a tougher U.S. response when Americans are taken captive overseas. The Obama administration response was first reported Monday by The Daily Beast.
The Pentagon official who wrote Hunter, Under Secretary of Defense Christine Wormuth, said the review came as a result of "the increased frequency of hostage-taking of Americans overseas" and would seek to add "innovative and non-traditional solutions" to hostage-recovery efforts.
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In a statement, the White House said Obama had ordered the review over the summer.
"President Obama directed relevant departments and agencies, including the Departments of Defense and State, the FBI, and the Intelligence Community, to conduct a comprehensive review of how the U.S. government addresses these matters," Alistar Baskey, a National Security Council spokesman wrote.
"While we are not in a position to detail every effort or every tool we are using to try to bring American hostages home, we will continue to bring all appropriate military, intelligence, law enforcement, and diplomatic capabilities to bear to recover American hostages," Baskey said. "Those efforts continue every day."
On Sunday, ISIS released a fifth video showing the brutal execution of a Westerner, in this case, American aid worker Peter Kassig. Two other Americans have been shown in previous videos being beheaded by ISIS: James Foley and Steven Sotloff, both journalists.
After Foley's death in August, the United States said it had attempted to rescue him and other hostages in a military operation over the summer but couldn't find where they were being held.
Foley's mother later told CNN she was "embarrassed and appalled" by how the U.S. government had responded to her son's case.
"I think our efforts to get Jim freed were an annoyance" to the U.S. government, Diane Foley said on CNN in the weeks following James Foley's death. She said the U.S. government should be more willing to negotiate with ISIS in order to free hostages.
Other governments, particularly in Europe, have successfully won the release of captives by paying ransoms to ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State. Obama and other U.S. officials have decried the practice, saying the money has fueled the group's rise.