The Obama administration has changed its policy and will now allow families of terrorist hostages to negotiate and even pay ransom for their release, but it's too late for photojournalist Luke Somers. Somers was kidnapped two years ago in Yemen and was killed during a failed rescue attempt. His bitter mom blames the FBI more than she does al-Qaeda.
"We were treated so badly," Paula Somers tells the Guardian. Her other son Jordan, referring to the FBI agents who visited them after Luke's kidnapping, said: "These people had so little tact, so little compassion or sympathy."
The agents showed up at the Somers door the day after Paula learned Luke had been kidnapped. They left printouts with suggestions on what to do if the kidnappers made contact, along with a cassette player to record a call. The proposed telephone scripts were "formulaic at best," notes the Guardian. The cassette player was broken.
"Their advice to us was: OK, this is what we should do, be quiet, don't talk" to anyone, including the media, journalists, other families, politicians, said Jordan. They followed orders, but it did little to help Luke.
Two videos of Luke months apart were shared with them via the FBI. They were told to write a letter in response, then to send a video. But whether to wear a "scarf, no scarf" in the video or to offer a "greeting in Arabic, no greeting in Arabic, they had no clue," said Jordan.
Luke was killed during a US rescue mission in late 2014 that the family had no idea was being launched.
President Obama began a review of the US hostage policy after Somers' death. Besides lifting restrictions on family participation in negotiations and paying ransom, the administration is also establishing a "fusion cell" run by agents whose sole mission will be to focus on the release of captives and to deal with families.
It will never be enough for Paula Somers.
"In a way, I blame the US more than I do al-Qaeda," said Paula. "All the other [foreign] hostages in Yemen came back."
But Paula and Jordan Somers were at the White House when Obama announced the new policy. They met Obama, and then had an hour-long meeting with the new hostage review team. "They were responsive," said Jordan. "They seemed sort of emotionally devastated by this."