U.S. State Department denies pressuring the Foley family

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Foley Family: We Faced Prosecution for Raising Ransom

The parents of James Foley say not only did the U.S. fail to do enough to save their son, but senior officials threatened them with prosecution if they tried to raise his ransom money.

"We had no other alternatives. We began to raise ransom. We were told that we might be prosecuted. Big deal. I'd rather be in a prison here than my son being in a prison over there," John Foley told FOX NEWS.

The Foleys made similar comments to other networks, including ABC, which cited five current and former U.S. officials who confirmed the threats were made.

Same story from the family of Steven Sotloff - the other American journalist beheaded by ISIS.

A spokesperson for his parents to Yahoo, The Sotloffs "heard the same thing the Foleys did."

"Threatening someone with a criminal prosecution when they're trying to save their child is not only, in my opinion reprehensible, it's counterproductive," Bryan Cunningham told CNN

The U.S. State Department responded to criticism like that, saying it never pressured the Foley family, only informed them of the U.S.'s anti-terrorism laws.

"It's part of our job to help the family understand what our laws are about terrorists paying - or paying ransom to terrorists? Absolutely. But this Department would never and did not ever intend to nor do we think we ever did anything that we would consider threatening," said Marie Harf, a U.S. State Department spokesperson.

Demanding ransoms for kidnapping foreigners is a major source of revenue for ISIS thanks to many Western European nations who have made behind the scenes deals with the group to free hostages.

The U.S. government, on the other hand, has a hard-line policy of neither negotiating nor making ransom payments to terrorists. But it did launch a high-risk special operations mission to rescue Foley and other hostages in July - which proved to be unsuccessful.

The Foley family has launched the James W. Foley Legacy Fund to support other families who have loved ones taken hostage by terrorists. The Committee to Protect Journalists estimates 20 other journalists are missing in Syria.


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U.S. State Department denies pressuring the Foley family
Diane and John Foley talk to reporters after speaking with U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 outside their home in Rochester, N.H. Their son, James Foley was abducted in November 2012 while covering the Syrian conflict. Islamic militants posted a video showing his murder on Tuesday and said they killed him because the U.S. had launched airstrikes in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
President Barack Obama shakes hands with members of the North Carolina National Guard and their families after arriving at the North Carolina Air National Guard Base in Charlotte, N.C.,Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
President Barack Obama speaks about veterans issues at the American Legion’s 96th National Convention at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Audience members listen as President Barack Obama speaks about veterans issues at the American Legion’s 96th National Convention at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Three months after a veterans' health care scandal rocked his administration, President Barack Obama is taking executive action to improve the mental well-being of veterans. The president was to announce his initiatives during an appearance before the American Legion National Convention that is fraught with midterm politics. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama speaks about veterans issues at the American Legion’s 96th National Convention at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Three months after a veterans' health care scandal rocked his administration, President Barack Obama is taking executive action to improve the mental well-being of veterans. The president was to announce his initiatives during an appearance before the American Legion National Convention that is fraught with midterm politics. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama greets veterans before he speaks about veterans issues at the American Legion’s 96th National Convention at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Three months after a veterans' health care scandal rocked his administration, President Barack Obama is taking executive action to improve the mental well-being of veterans. The president was to announce his initiatives during an appearance before the American Legion National Convention that is fraught with midterm politics. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama speaks about veterans issues at the American Legion’s 96th National Convention at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Three months after a veterans' health care scandal rocked his administration, President Barack Obama is taking executive action to improve the mental well-being of veterans. The president was to announce his initiatives during an appearance before the American Legion National Convention that is fraught with midterm politics. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama waves as he boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, as he travels to Charlotte, N.C. to attend the American Legion’s 96th National Convention to speak about veterans issues. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama speaks about veterans issues at the American Legion’s 96th National Convention at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Three months after a veterans' health care scandal rocked his administration, President Barack Obama is taking executive action to improve the mental well-being of veterans. The president was to announce his initiatives during an appearance before the American Legion National Convention that is fraught with midterm politics. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama is greeted by Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., left, who has criticized the Obama administration on veterans issues, as he arrives at North Carolina Air National Guard Base in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Obama is in Charlotte to address the American Legion’s 96th National Convention. At right is Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama waves as he leaves Air Force One after arriving at the North Carolina Air National Guard Base in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
President Barack Obama jogs up the stairs of Air Force One prior to leaving from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, to speak at the American Legion’s 96th National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
President Barack Obama takes the stage before speaking about veterans issues at the American Legion’s 96th National Convention at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Three months after a veterans' health care scandal rocked his administration, President Barack Obama is taking executive action to improve the mental well-being of veterans. The president was to announce his initiatives during an appearance before the American Legion National Convention that is fraught with midterm politics. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Mourners pack Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic church during a special Mass for slain journalist James Foley in his hometown of Rochester, N.H., Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014. Foley was kidnapped on Thanksgiving Day 2012 while covering the Syrian uprising. The Islamic State group posted a Web video on Tuesday, Aug. 19, showing his killing and said it was in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Candles are lighted on the town common during a vigil for James Foley in his hometown of Rochester, N.H., Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014. Foley, a freelance journalist, was killed earlier in the week by Islamic State militants. He was abducted in November 2012 while covering fighting in Syria. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
A woman holds a candle during a vigil for James Foley in his hometown of Rochester, N.H., Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014. Several hundred people attended and paid tribute to the freelance American journalist who was killed earlier in the week by Islamic State militants. Foley was abducted in November 2012 while covering fighting in Syria. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
A yellow ribbon is tied to a tree outside the family home of freelance journalist James Foley, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 in Rochester, N.H. Foley was abducted in November 2012 while covering the Syrian conflict. On Tuesday, Aug. 19, militants with the Islamic State extremist group released a video showing Islamic State militants beheading Foley in an act of revenge for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq . (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
US President Barack Obama speaks at the American Legion's 96th National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, August 26, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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