The PJ Tatler

Sotloff Family Spokesman: Journalists Were 'Pawns' in Game of Uncooperative Administration

The spokesman for journalist Steven Sotloff’s family told CNN last night that relations with the Obama administration were “very strained” as they don’t feel they got the help they needed in trying to get him back before he was beheaded by ISIS.

Barak Barfi, a research fellow specializing in Arab and Islamic affairs at the New America Foundation and a longtime friend of Sotloff, revealed that Sotloff was sold out by rebels to ISIS for a price of between $25,000 and $50,000.

Barfi said he talked to his friend by phone “minutes” before he was kidnapped, right after he crossed the border from Turkey into Syria in August of last year.

“Somebody at the border crossing made a phone call to ISIS, and they set up a fake checkpoint with many people,” he said. “Steve and his people that he went in with could not escape.”

Barfi said activists spread a “false” story that Sotloff was involved in a hospital bombing. He said they’ve gleaned information that the person who tipped off ISIS is one of “the so-called moderate rebels that people want our administration to support.” The capture happened so quickly that friendly sources on the ground couldn’t stop the kidnapping, Barfi added.

It was revealed to the world that Sotloff was in ISIS’ hands when his life was threatened at the end of the Aug. 19 video showing the beheading of journalist James Foley.

“Once Steve appeared in that video, the Sotloff family made one simple request of the administration — and they were rebuffed on that,” Barfi told CNN, not elaborating further out of concern for the safety of those still in the hands of ISIS. “…We do not believe [the administration] gave the cooperation we needed.”

“The administration could have done more,” Barfi said. “They could have helped us. They could have seen them [the Sotloff family] through.”

One of the administration’s weaknesses, cited by other families of Americans held abroad as well, is the lack of an authoritative figure tasked with overseeing the cases and working cooperatively with families.

Barfi charged that Foley and Sotloff were being used as “pawns” in “a larger game of bureaucratic infighting” between the administration and the intelligence community. He said they know that the location of the hostages was “stationary” for the early part of the year.

“If there continue to be leaks, the Sotloff family will have to speak out to set the record straight,” Barfi said.