This week holds a somber anniversary: 1,000 days since journalist and Marine Corps veteran Austin Tice went missing in Syria.
Tice’s 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.
National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan marked the anniversary with a “heavy heart” in a White House statement.
“The United States government will continue to work tirelessly to bring Austin home to his parents, Debra and Marc, and his brothers and sisters, who have endured anguish and suffering since Austin’s abduction. We greatly appreciate the efforts of the Czech government, which acts as the U.S. protecting power in Syria, on behalf of our citizens, including Austin,” Meehan said.
“We strongly urge Austin’s captors to release him so that he can be safely reunited with his family. We call on all those who may have information about Austin’s whereabouts – governments and individuals – to work cooperatively with us to help bring him home.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest added that “obviously our thoughts and prayers are not just with Austin today, but they’re also with his parents, Debra and Marc and his brothers and sisters who are missing him dearly.”
Like other families of Americans held abroad, the Tice family has cautiously expressed frustration about dealing with the U.S. government in trying to bring their son home.
At the Newseum in February, Debra 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.
Reporters Without Borders took the lead on launching an awareness campaign about the threats that journalists embrace 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 have visited D.C. 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.”