The Yellow Ribbon Project

The Yellow Ribbon Project

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Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) implored his colleagues today to not forget about Americans held in Iran while the administration negotiates a nuclear deal with Tehran.

Kildee represents the Flint, Mich., home of Marine veteran Amir Hekmati, who was seized by Iranian authorities in August 2011 and is held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.

The congressman stressed in a floor speech, with a placard of Amir’s Marine photo, that he is “an American citizen, born and raised in the United States; grew up in my hometown of Flint, Michigan; served in the United States Marine Core; he is a brother, he is a son.”

“Three and a half years ago he traveled to Iran. His parents are of Iranian descent. He traveled to Iran to meet for the first time a grandmother that he had never seen, traveled under his own name, notified the government that he was going,” Kildee said. “And after just a couple of weeks, he was apprehended, disappeared, and a few months later it was revealed that he had been tried and convicted, and sentenced to death.”

That was later commuted to 10 years in prison for alleged conspiracy to commit espionage.

“A young man, an American, traveling under his own name in Iran, who had served in the United States Marine Corps, was sentenced to death simply for being an American in Iran that had served this country. He’s an innocent man, and he continues to languish in Evin prison.”

Kildee wanted to “make it clear that the Congress of the United States and the American people are watching the Iranian government.”

“If in fact Iran intends, as they purport to do, to try to take steps to join the international community, they cannot hold Americans like Amir Hekmati as political prisoners,” he stressed. “Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, from John Lewis to Darrell Issa, have joined in the effort to raise awareness around Amir Hekmati’s case. It is important that we never let this case fade into the woodwork.”

“I think about Amir the same way that I would think about it if my own son were being held in a prison on the other side of the world. And I know that every other member of Congress who’s been engaged in this effort feels the same way. He is one of us. He is our son. And he needs to be reunited with his family.”

Kildee noted the current nuclear negotiations with Iran, adding it’s “very difficult for many of us in Congress, especially those of us who represent those few Americans being held in an Iranian prison to view this agreement other than through the lens of that imprisonment.”

“If Iran truly intends to try to rejoin the global community, they can make a very clear demonstration of their seriousness by releasing Amir Hekmati and the other Americans that they hold, and we all can play a role in making that happen, and I encourage everybody out there, members of Congress, people who want to want to become engaged to get to social media, use the hashtag #FreeAmir or hashtag #FreeAmirNow,” he said.

“We know that the Iranian government does pay attention to what the American people think. The Iranian citizens certainly do, and we know that we have to keep the pressure on right now. As I said, it is very difficult for many of us who support the direction that this administration has taken in these negotiations and really hope that it bears fruit, really hope that it creates an agreement that makes the world, and particularly that region safer. We can only really accept Iran as a member of the global community not just by entering into this agreement but by them joining the world community by not being a nation that can take a young man who served this country, who grew up here, was the captain of his high school hockey team, simply wanted to go to see the country that his parents were born in and to visit the grandmother that he had never met, to hold him as a political prisoner, as a chip in a geopolitical struggle, is beyond the pale, and it’s something that can’t be accepted.”

Kildee asked his colleagues to “make sure not that one day passes – especially during this period where we’re considering this potentially historic agreement – not one day passes where Amir Hekmati, Jason Rezaian, Pastor Abedini, that their cases, their names are never forgotten.”

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Shortly after the P5+1 victory lap in Switzerland over a nuclear framework, Iran has finally revealed charges against an American held in custody since last summer.

Washington Post bureau chief Jason Rezaian, a California native who reported from Tehran since 2008, was seized on July 22, 2014, in a raid on his home. His wife, Yeganeh Salehi, a reporter for UAE English-language newspaper The National, was also detained and released in October.

According to the semi-official Fars News Agency, Rezaian will be brought before Iran’s Revolutionary Court on charges of espionage and “acting against national security.”

The report claimed that the journalist sold information to unnamed Americans. “Selling Iran’s economic and industrial information at a time of sanctions is exactly like selling food to the enemy at a time of war,” Fars said.

Rezaian was reportedly indicted on mystery charges in January and was unable to consult with an attorney for months. He’s been held in solitary confinement and reportedly needed blood-pressure medication as well as treatment for a severe eye infection.

Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron called the charges “absurd.”

“It has been nearly nine months since Jason was arrested,” Baron said. “Now comes word via an Iranian news agency that Jason will face espionage charges. Any charges­ of that sort would be absurd, the product of fertile and twisted imaginations.”

“We are left to repeat our call on the Iranian government to release Jason and, in the meantime, we are counting on his lawyer to mount a vigorous defense.”

That lawyer came on board the case only at the beginning of March. The Rezaian family’s first choice of lawyer was a man experienced in such cases, but the judiciary in Iran would not allow him to take the case.

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The case of a Marine veteran imprisoned for 1,317 days by Iran is getting new publicity traction as Fox News host Greta van Susteren, who championed the case of Marine Andrew Tahmooressi when he was held by Mexico after illegally bringing guns into the country, has started dedicating consistent primetime coverage to Amir Hekmati.

Amir, who served in the Iraq war and worked as a military contractor afterward, was seized while visiting extended family for the first time in August 2011. He has been tortured behind bars and is being held on a 10-year sentence for alleged conspiracy to commit espionage for the country of his birth, the United States.

A State Department official told PJM last week that the nuclear framework agreement with Iran does not include U.S. demands for the return of Amir and three other Americans, and the final deal isn’t expected to include the hostages either.

Saeed Abedini was convicted in January 2013 for establishing Christian house churches. Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian has been held without any notification of the charges against him since July. Bob Levinson went missing off the coast of Iran eight years ago while working as a private investigator; his family later received images of him in captivity.

Fox and MSNBC featured Montel Williams last week to advocate for Amir, and last night his sister Sarah and brother-in-law Ramy Kurdi pleaded on van Susteren’s show for the Marine’s case.

“We respect our government. It’s an honor and privilege to be able to be here and to be able to have a criticism of our government — other people don’t have that luxury,” Ramy said. “Having said that, we respect the efforts they’ve made, directly the State Department, but on our end it’s Congressman Kildee, he’s come through 100 percent for us and he’s been our champion speaking out for Amir.”

“The State Department has been — we’d like them to do more, without question, they’ve shown that they can do more for other people. We’d like them to do everything they can for Amir, because Amir put his life on the line for this country. He’d do it again. Bring him home, he’d do it right now. And we want the State Department to show that same resolve.”

The Hekmatis’ congressman, Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), told Fox last night, “We know that when the American people speak up, the Iranian government listens.”

“We encourage people to speak out and your bringing attention to this case makes a big difference. We want people to use a social media use, #freeamirnow to express themselves on this,” he said. “…This is a young man born here in the United States, served his country and Marine Corps. Most likely because of that service is being treated by the Iranian government as a political prisoner. Is an innocent man, he has done nothing wrong and he has simply become a pawn in a geopolitical struggle between Iran and the rest of the world.”

Kildee noted that he’s spoken with President Obama “a number of times” about the case.

“The president understands the urgency of this. I continue to press him and the State Department,” the congressman said. “We don’t want Amir’s freedom to be a condition of this nuclear agreement. But, on the other hand, I as a member of Congress, many of my colleagues, cannot accept an agreement with Iran on its face unless Iran releases the political prisoners, the Americans that it holds and particularly Amir Hekmati. So, I think its right that we negotiate an agreement to limit their nuclear capabilities. But it’s hard to take any agreement with them seriously if they continue to hold innocent people for political purposes.”

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A State Department official told PJM today that U.S. demands for the return of three Americans held by Iran and one missing in Iran are not in the framework nuclear agreement.

In fact, the administration intends on keeping the return of the U.S. citizens separate from any deal, even though it says their cases have been brought up on the sidelines of the talks.

Decorated Marine veteran Amir Hekmati was seized while visiting extended family for the first time in August 2011. Saeed Abedini was convicted in January 2013 for establishing Christian house churches. Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian has been held without any notification of the charges against him since July. Bob Levinson went missing off the coast of Iran eight years ago while working as a private investigator; his family later received images of him in captivity.

Secretary of State John Kerry was asked about the fate of the Americans during his press conference on the Iran deal in Switzerland today.

“With respect to our citizens, we, of course, have had a number of conversations, and no meeting, no date when we come together has been without conversation about our American citizens,” Kerry replied. “I’m not going to go into any details except to say to you that that conversation is continuing. We have a very specific process in place to try to deal with it.”

“And we call on Iran again today, now, in light of this, to release these Americans and let them get home with their families. And we’re working on that, and we will continue to be very focused on it.”

A State Department official reiterated to PJM later in the day that “we will continue to call on Iran to immediately release detained U.S. citizens Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati, and Saeed Abedini, and to work cooperatively with us to locate Robert Levinson, so that all can be returned to their families as soon as possible.”

“We have raised these cases repeatedly with Iranian officials and will continue to do so until they are all home,” the official said. “But we have been very clear that our discussions with Iran about our concerns over these American citizens are a separate issue from the nuclear talks.”

“These U.S. citizens should be returned to their families independently of political negotiations with Iran; their freedom should not be tied to the outcome of these negotiations.‎”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) noted in his statement of disapproval of the framework agreement today that “Iran continues to hold multiple Americans hostage.” Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), the Levinson family’s congressman, said he greets “any deal with Iran with great skepticism given its deceptive history and ongoing destabilizing and dangerous activities.”

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), who represents the Hekmati family, called the nuclear agreement “a positive step towards ensuring Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon, and I look forward to seeing a full and enforceable framework.”

“However, no agreement with Iran can be taken seriously if it continues to hold political prisoners like Amir Hekmati hostage,” Kildee said. “Amir has committed no crime, yet he continues to languish in Evin Prison. If Iran is serious about rejoining the global community – as it claims – it would release Amir and other political prisoners today.”

Amir’s sister, Sarah, told PJM recently that in September the family was “really excited” that her brother’s case was reportedly moving up to the country’s supreme court for review. But then in November, nuclear talks were extended by several months “and Amir’s case was completely dropped.”

Sarah said the family was “holding our breath” to see what happens at the negotiating table in Switzerland, with myriad scenarios running through their minds for Amir and the other hostages.

If a deal is forged, “what incentive does Iran have anymore to keep them, so why not release them?” she mused.

But then again, if a deal is forged, “they’ve received everything they’re asking for and there’s no motivation to release them, either.”

“We’re terrified of this,” Sarah added.

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Amir Hekmati, right, his father, Ali, left, and brother-in-law Ramy.

Amir Hekmati’s young nephew recently drew a plan for his uncle’s escape from Tehran’s notorious Evin prison: in stick figures, Sami documented how his dad could poke the guard in the eye while he grabs the key and unlocks his uncle’s cell.

If only that imagination could free the decorated Marine veteran unjustly held for 1,309 days and counting by Iran.

And Amir’s family, which has worked tirelessly for his release even when tragedy compounded upon tragedy with his father’s brain tumor, fears how current events could affect his case.

Indeed, the administration has said it’s raising the case of Amir and three other Americans held in Iran — Saeed Abedini, convicted in January 2013 for establishing Christian house churches; Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who has been held without any notification of the charges against him since July; and Bob Levinson, who went missing off the coast of Iran eight years ago while working as a private investigator — at every opportunity, but that’s as much as we know about what hardball the U.S. is willing to play or not play to secure the release of these citizens.

Amir, who was born in Flagstaff, Ariz., and grew up in Michigan, was visiting extended family for the first time in August 2011 when he was seized and sentenced on trumped-up espionage charges.

His sister, Sarah, told PJM last week that the process of his appeal is now “really ambiguous.” In September, the family was “really excited” that his case was reportedly moving up to the country’s supreme court for review.

But then in November, nuclear talks were extended by several months “and Amir’s case was completely dropped.”

“We heard no more of it,” Sarah said. “We were given the impression that it had to do with the talks being extended.”

In a December letter to President Obama, Amir stated he was “deeply concerned that my future has become tied to the nuclear negotiations with Iran, with which I have no connection, influence or leverage.”

“I can draw no other conclusion, as each opportunity for a legal or humanitarian remedy is ignored, delayed or denied,” he wrote. “…My punishment has already far exceeded the charges brought against me, charges that I continue to contest to no avail. I know that the climate between the United States and Iran is delicate. But I should not fall victim to it.”

Sarah said the family is “holding our breath” to see what happens at the negotiating table in Switzerland, with myriad scenarios running through their minds for Amir and the other hostages.

If a deal is forged, “what incentive does Iran have anymore to keep them, so why not release them?” she mused.

But then again, if a deal is forged, “they’ve received everything they’re asking for and there’s no motivation to release them, either.”

“We’re terrified of this,” Sarah added.

Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee in mid-March that the administration will “continue to insist” that Iran locate Levinson and release Hekmati, Abedini, and Rezaian.

Blinken said it’s “something that we’re working on virtually every day.” Levinson’s congressman, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), said as the last days before the deadline for a framework deal with Iran drew near, “‘raising the issue’ at this point can no longer suffice…if anyone is to take Iran seriously, that there is any commitment that they can make that can be adhered to, then the best show of good faith they can make will be to return those Americans.”

“Amir Hekmati is an American citizen who has done nothing wrong, yet continues to languish in an Iranian prison,” Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), Amir’s congressman, told PJM. “Despite his innocence, Iran has held him captive for more than three years. If Iran is serious about rejoining the international community, they must release Amir so that he can be reunited with his ailing father and the rest of his family in Michigan.”

Sarah Hekmati said the family has not been contacted by Iranian officials for any reassurance that the appeals process is moving. They’ve been told by the lead negotiator at the talks, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, that she personally raises Amir’s case with the Iranians.

“Our question right away is what does that mean?” Sarah said. “And if you’re raising his case, what is the response from Iran? Are you getting a flat, blank stare or are you getting a reaction?”

“Are they just asking about his well-being, his treatment, or what it takes for him to be free? We never get those answers.”

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Rep. Ted Deutch’s (D-Fla.) constituent Bob Levinson is the longest-held U.S. hostage in history, having recently marked eight years since he went missing off the coast of Iran.

In January 2014, his wife, Christine Levinson, released photos the family had received from his captors nearly two years earlier. She did so because “there isn’t any pressure on Iran to resolve this.”

The captors of three other Americans are known: the regime in Tehran holds Marine vet Amir Hekmati, seized in 2011 when he went to visit family for the first time; Idaho pastor Saeed Abedini, convicted in January 2013 for crimes against the national security of Iran, a charge tied to his involvement many years earlier with establishing Christian house churches; and Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who has been held without any notification of the charges against him for more than six months.

The frustration at their continued captivity and documented mistreatment — especially as Washington sits across a table from Tehran nuclear negotiators — only mounts.

Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week that the administration will “continue to insist” that Iran locate Levinson and release Hekmati, Abedini, and Rezaian.

“I understand that we are now approaching a deadline and I want to — I want to express my thanks, as I have every single time I’ve had the opportunity, for the focus on working to bring my constituent, Bob Levinson, home,” Deutch told Blinken at the hearing.

“But as we approach these last days, let me just say that ‘raising the issue’ at this point can no longer suffice and that with respect to Pastor Abedini and Amir Hekmati and Jason Rezaian and Bob Levinson, if anyone is to take Iran seriously, that there is any commitment that they can make that can be adhered to, then the best show of good faith they can make will be to return those Americans,” the congressman stressed.

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Marine veteran Amir Hekamti has been unjustly held by Iran for 1,297 days as the Islamic Republic refuses to bend to international pressure to let him go — asserting that since he’s an Iranian citizen, it’s none of America’s business.

But Amir, who was born in Flagstaff, Ariz., and grew up in Michigan, is a dual citizen only because of his father’s heritage. The Iraq War veteran was visiting extended family for the first time in August 2011 when he was seized and sentenced on trumped-up espionage charges.

In a recent letter to the Iranian Interest Section in Washington, D.C., Amir makes clear he is 100 percent American and renounces his Iranian citizenship.

Amir writes that he was “surprised” to be given an Iranian passport when he applied for a visa in 2011, but was eager to see the country of his heritage. “Sadly, after only three weeks of my visit, I was falsely imprisoned and put as a part of a propaganda campaign by the Ministry of Intelligence and for nearly 3½ years I’ve endured inhumane treatment and witnessed the devastation this has caused my family and the deteriorating health of my father who is battling with cancer.”

He told of being interrogated and called only “an Iranian by name,” then being “paraded on Iranian television as a major catch and a testament to Iran’s intelligence prowess.”

“After a 15 minute trial, I was sentenced to death by hanging, having quickly been deemed not fit for life” — a sentence later overturned, becoming a 10-year term during a secretive retrial.

“To date, prison officials continue to take every opportunity to address me as spy in hopes of weakening my morale and to escape their own guilty consciences. The Ministry of Intelligence recently denied a request to visit my sick grandmother citing that the Ministry of Intelligence is worried ‘the Americans will take you away by helicopter.’ This while my request was to visit her under armed guard,” Amir continued.

“The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman, Mrs. Afkham, has stated that there are no Americans in Iran; however, it is precisely for the reason that I am American that I have been taken hostage by the Ministry of Intelligence and used as a political bargaining tool. Having been born in the US and having spent my entire life there, my citizenship status is clear. My intended visit of only one month to Iran has become 3 years and 6 months, which means that for every day I was allowed to visit my family, has resulted thus far in 42 days of prison under miserable conditions.”

Hence, Amir states in the letter, “it has become very clear to me that those responsible view Iranian-Americans not as citizens or even human beings, but as bargaining chips and tools for propaganda. Considering how little value the Ministry of Intelligence places on my Iranian citizenship and passport, I, too, place little value on them and inform you, effective immediately, that I formally renounce my Iranian citizenship and passport.”

“My Iranian heritage and affinity for the Iranian people will always be a part of me, but I wish to have no ties to an organization that places so little value on my human rights and dignity and is willing to destroy an entire family for simple propaganda purposes.”

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On St. Patrick’s Day, as a young Idaho boy marks his 7th birthday, his dad will not be among the party-goers despite Jacob Abedini’s every wish.

Idaho pastor Saeed Abedini was convicted in January 2013 for crimes against the national security of Iran, a charge tied to his involvement many years earlier with establishing Christian house churches.

“I saw your beautiful birthday invitation that you had made me and I know how much you want me to be there on your birthday. Daddy loves you so much. I long to be there for your birthday and to make this reunion happen, but my chains are keeping me from you,” Saeed wrote to his son, whom he last saw when the boy was 4 years old.

The pastor thanked Jacob “for standing strong with me in this battle for the Glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

As Iran nuclear talks barrel forward again this week, with the Obama administration hoping to arrive at a deal framework, the Abedinis just want Saeed home — for Jacob’s birthday, and every day after.

“The U.S. government should not be negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran while Pastor Saeed sits in an Iranian prison,” Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, which has been representing the Abedinis, has said.

State Department press secretary Jen Psaki said a week ago that Secretary of State John Kerry has raised the cases of Abedini, Marine veteran Amir Hekmati, retired FBI agent Bob Levinson, and Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian “directly with Foreign Minister [Javad] Zarif on several occasions.”

“So it is not about a renewed push; there’s been a consistent push. And obviously, seeing these American citizens come home is – remains a top priority,” Psaki said.

She wouldn’t, however, speculate on whether Iran might release any of the men as a goodwill gesture related to negotiations.

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Former FBI agent Bob Levinson long ago set the record as the longest-held U.S. hostage in history.

Today, the father of seven hit another grim milestone: it’s been eight years since he went missing off the coast of Iran.

And Tuedsay is Levinson’s 67th birthday.

Levinson was working as a private detective on a cigarette smuggling case on Kish Island, an Iranian resort port in the Persian Gulf with looser entrance requirements, when he disappeared on March 8, 2007. Later reports indicated he may have been contracting for the CIA.

In November 2013 he became the longest held U.S. hostage in history, passing Terry Anderson’s 2,454 days in captivity at the hands of Hezbollah before being freed in 1991.

In January 2014, his wife, Christine Levinson, released photos the family had received from his captors nearly two years earlier. She did so because “there isn’t any pressure on Iran to resolve this.”

“Every year on this date we remind the world that Bob’s case is still not resolved and that this husband, father and grandfather is still not home where he belongs. But we, his family, have been reminded every single day of the past eight years because of the enormous hole in our lives that will only be filled when Bob is back with us,” the Levinson family said in a statement. “We need to see him, hear his voice, and hold him.”

“To help the world remember this extraordinary human being,” they added links to the hostage video they received in 2010 and photographs received in 2011 . “We have heard nothing since. We urge the governments of Iran and the United States to work together to resolve this case and send Bob home, so he can live the rest of his life quietly, surrounded by the family that loves him.”

Last year at this time, the FBI was offering a million-dollar reward for the location and safe return of Levinson. Today, the reward was increased to $5 million.

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Diane Foley, left, and Debra Tice, center, talk with PBS’ Judy Woodruff at the Newseum.

WASHINGTON — The mothers of American journalists kidnapped in Syria agreed in a forum at the Newseum tonight that communications breakdowns and bureaucratic song-and-dance are frustrating families’ efforts to bring U.S. citizens home.

Diane Foley, whose son James was the first U.S. hostage beheaded by “Jihad John” in an August ISIS video, said she didn’t even find out from the U.S. government that the video had surfaced.

“I didn’t know Jim was killed until a hysterical AP reporter called me,” Foley said, adding they didn’t get a call from anybody in the government all day. “That’s not acceptable.”

James Foley, 40, was kidnapped while working for Agence France-Presse in northwest Syria on Thanksgiving Day 2012. His mother said she knew something was wrong when she didn’t get a call from him on the holiday.

Three months before Foley was kidnapped, 33-year-old journalist and Marine Corps veteran Austin Tice went missing in Syria. His battlefield experience lent immense credibility to the pieces he filed for McClatchy Newspapers, the Washington Post, and other outlets, and as a correspondent he quickly earned the respect of the Free Syrian Army fighters.

“Spent the day at an FSA pool party with music by @taylorswift13. They even brought me whiskey. Hands down, best birthday ever,” reads Austin’s last tweet, on Aug. 11, 2012.

On Sept. 26, 2012, a video titled “Austin Tice still alive” was posted on a pro-Assad website, and raised alarms about the Syrian government’s potential role in his capture. The Assad regime has denied any involvement.

Part of Debra Tice’s frustration, more than two years later, is not knowing who exactly is holding her son.

“It is unlikely to be an opposition group,” she said, sitting beside Diane Foley. “We don’t think it’s the Syrian government. They have denied holding him.”

Tice said she and her husband, Marc, have been “sort of pushing on both ends” trying to get information from the U.S. government and the Syrian government. The Houston resident gave credit to their congressman, Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) for helping in whatever way they can. Cornyn raised Austin’s case on the Senate floor last summer at the two-year anniversary of his disappearance.

Foley said her son “would want to right this wrong” of families left in the dark, even left on their own to try to talk with captors when Americans go missing.

“Jim really believed in America,” she said. “He was an idealist. He believed until the end that our government would find a way to free them.”

With some countries paying ransom for hostages, and groups including ISIS then being stimulated to take more hostages to reap cash and publicity, Foley said she fears “this issue is going to be with us for a while.”

She hopes to “stimulate discussion” and “advocate for a clearer policy that will bring our citizens home.”

One policy that Foley thinks the American public should weigh is how families of those held by ISIS, including her own, were under a blackout “that was recommended to all of us to not talk to media.”

She now personally regrets not enlisting more media while he was being held captive to keep her son’s story alive.

“Americans need to reflect on these issues not just for journalists, but aid workers, tourists who may end up in the wrong place…” Foley said. “It could happen to any American… what is an American citizen worth to our country?”

“We did not feel Jim was a very high priority,” though they were told so by the government, she added.

The family knew he was being held with other Westerners, thus made trips to London and Paris to try to press his case. At home, there was a “huge communication problem,” particularly with the White House.

“We were privy to nothing,” Foley said. “‘Just trust, don’t talk to the media, trust in us, Jim’s a high priority.’ We did trust for a year.”

“It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just our bureaucracy didn’t work for us. It didn’t work for Jim.”

If the U.S. government decides it cannot give priority treatment to the case of every American citizen missing or held abroad, she said, officials at least need to be up front with the families about that. The FBI had information they could have shared with the Foleys’ private security team “that could have saved Jim’s life,” she said, such as his location within six months of his capture.

And for a month, Foley added, ISIS captors were emailing the family but they were left on their own as to how to respond to the terrorists. “We had no idea what we were doing,” she said. “That angered the captors.”

Tice said Reporters Without Borders is taking the lead on launching a big awareness campaign about the threats that journalists “embrace,” not just endure, to report the news in some parts of the world — a campaign that also urges President Obama to do all he can to bring Austin home.

The Tices are in D.C. for the week to work with the National Counterterroism Center on drafting recommendations for potential policy changes on how the U.S. deals with hostage crises.

Obama ordered the review after two more Americans — journalist Steve Sotloff and aid worker Peter Kassig — were beheaded on video by ISIS. The terrorists are known to be holding at least one more American, a 26-year-old woman believed to be an aid worker whose family is not speaking with the media.

Tice said she’ll naturally think the U.S. government can do more “until I have my arms around my son again.”

She said the Texas family has had issues trying to deal with the FBI, which she called an “information vacuum” — they ask the family for info but don’t give any in return. That relationship has become “a bit acrimonious in a bit of middle-school way, unfortunately.”

Tice spoke carefully when asked if the U.S. government should entertain paying ransom for hostages.

“I think there are ways of moving money around without saying the government paid ransom,” she replied.
“Every option is on the table and you can be very clever how you exercise your options.”

(The Tice family has set up a website, www.austinticefamily.com. Follow @FreeAustinTice on Twitter. Tips about Austin’s case can be sent to information@austinticefamily.com or to the Yellow Ribbon Project.)