U.S. State Department denies pressuring the Foley family
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 operationsmission 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.