WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration is going to tell families of Americans held by terror groups that they can communicate with the captors -- and even pay ransom -- without fear of prosecution.
The shift is part of a broad review of U.S. hostage guidelines that will be released tomorrow. It was ordered last fall by President Barack Obama after the deaths of Americans held by the Islamic State. The families of some of those killed said they had been threatened with prosecution if they tried to pay ransom in exchange for the release of their loved ones.
Two U.S. officials familiar with the review said there will be no formal change to the law that explicitly makes it a crime to provide money or other material support to terror organizations. And they say Obama won't directly approve of families paying ransom. However, they say administration will make clear that the Justice Department has never prosecuted anyone for paying ransom and that that will continue to be the case.
Four Americans have been killed by the Islamic State since last summer: journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller.
The families' anguish has been deepened by the fact that European governments routinely pay ransom for hostages and win their release.