Hunter statement on White House Hostage Policy review

Jun 23, 2015 Issues: National Security

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter made the following statement regarding reported changes to U.S. hostage policy:

“After a long, drawn-out review of U.S. hostage policy, the changes offered up by the White House prove that neither the right questions were asked nor were any lessons learned.  Wholesale changes are needed, but what’s being put forward is nothing more than window dressing, I fear.  It’s a pathetic response to a serious problem that has plagued the ability of the U.S. to successfully recover Americans held captive in the post-9/11 era.  It’s a sure bet that more Americans and westerners will be captured given the threat of ISIS and others, and while there’s always opportunity for success if things go right, the new policy falls significantly short overall. 

“The fact that the FBI has retained the leadership role within the fusion cell ignores the long list of mistakes and grievances presented over the duration of the review—and I was one of many individuals to offer my concerns and recommendations.  There needs to be a single person situated above the fusion cell, with the authority necessary to direct certain activities, isolate turf battles, and streamline the bureaucracy.  The FBI is not organized or developed for hostage recovery in hostile areas, yet they are leading the fusion cell.  Even with two Deputy Directors representing the Defense Department and the State Department beneath a Director housed at the FBI, there’s no chance that the FBI will have the authority to direct either entity.  It also makes no sense to house the director of the fusion cell within an agency, specifically when that agency has comparatively limited overseas reach.  Bottom line: the controversy regarding U.S. hostage policy started with the FBI and will likely continue with the FBI.  Look no further than Army Lt. Col. Jason Amerine—who testified before the Senate recently—as a prime example of how the FBI retaliates against any interest that’s not their own. 

“Among all the issues I believed the White House could get right, this was one.  I was wrong.  And sadly, I was told of numerous reports of infighting during the progression of the hostage policy review, with both the FBI and the State Department arguing for the leadership role, while discrediting the other.  All the while, the early recommendation for the Defense Department, with its assets, intel and global reach, to assume the direct lead was scuttled.  This is all very unfortunate—and while I have hope we can be successful, which we are sure to be from time to time, what’s needed is a hostage recovery policy that works for every American held captive in hostile areas.  The changes put forward show that there’s still a lot of work to do.”