On Friday, the White House announced President Barack Obama’s decision to appoint a former State Department official to the new position of special emissary for hostage matters.
The new appointee, Jim O’Brien, will be working directly with foreign governments in order to secure the safe travels of American hostages back to the U.S. Lisa Monaco, the President’s Advisor on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism said that O’Brien will also be working closely with the families of hostages, according to NBC News.
“Jim is exactly the right person for a job that demands a high level of diplomatic experience and the ability to analyze and find effective remedies to complex problems,” said Secretary of State John Kerry, who O’Brien will report to.
During the 1990’s, O’Brien served as special presidential ambassador for the Balkans and was also deputy director with the State Department and a senior advisor to Madeline Albright.
The new position that O’Brien was appointed to came out of a hostage policy review from June which reported on the remarks from the families of hostages who expressed how they were left hanging in confusion from government guidance as their loved ones were being held hostage in other countries.
“The information we received over three and a half years was inconsistent at best and utterly disappointing,” Elaine Weinstein, the wife of Dr. Warren Weinstein. Her husband was an American hostage and was killed by a U.S. drone strike accidently. His death was just recently revealed in April.
Another family member of a killed hostage, Kayla Mueller, accused the Obama administration of putting its policy of not paying ransoms to captors ahead of the citizens’ lives, including her son who was killed by the terror group ISIS. In response to the criticism, Obama said that the administration will no longer criminally prosecute families of hostages who attempt to pay ransoms for their loved ones.
Part of O’Brien’s duties will be to participate as a “fusion cell,” which consists of officials from the FBI, the State Department, the Pentagon and CIA. Kerry said that he has “one overriding goal: using diplomacy to secure the safe return of Americans held hostage overseas.”