WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Senate Majority Whip introduced legislation today establishing an Interagency Hostage Recovery Coordinator, a newly established position designated to properly coordinate a unified government response to hostage situations and work to secure the release of all hostages held by terrorist groups.
In addition to directing the federal government’s response, the newly created Interagency Hostage Recovery Coordinator will establish a fusion cell comprised of various government agencies to respond to each hostage situation, and work closely with family members of hostages and to inform them of developments.
“American hostages held and killed by ISIS and other terrorist groups were aid workers, humanitarians, and journalists – they represent the highest of American ideals and values,” said Senator Cardin. “Too frequently, the suffering families of hostages were left in the dark, unsure who in government was working exclusively to ensure the safe return home of their loved ones. Maryland resident Elaine Weinstein and her family experienced incredible heartache while their beloved Warren was abducted and held by terrorists. There are no remedies to the pain the Weinsteins and other affected families have endured, but we must as a nation respond more effectively to these tragedies. That is why this legislation is so vital.”
“Families of Americans held hostage by terrorists, rogue regimes, or other bad actors deserve as much information as possible about the work being done to ensure their loved-ones are returned home safely,” Sen. Cornyn said. “The weeks, months and years of silence about a loved-one’s well-being are unbearable, and we need to do more to help those here in the U.S. waiting for answers and to ensure some unity of effort by the Federal Government.”
In recent years, American journalists James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Peter Kassig were held captive and killed by the Islamic State. Luke Somers, a journalist, was killed in Yemen and aid worker Kayla Mueller was killed in Syria. Marylander Warren Weinstein, a USAID worker, died in a drone strike while held captive along the Afghanistan – Pakistan border.
The legislation introduced today was co-sponsored by Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).
U.S. Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and John Delaney (D-MD) are expected to introduce a companion bill in the House of Representatives.