DEBATE OVER RANSOM DEMANDSSTORMS WREAK HAVOCHAMILTON CO. SCHOOLS RANKEDSIDELINE WRAPUP SCHEDULES - SCORES

Other Top Stories

Featured Story 

Foley Case Lays Bare Debate Over Paying Ransom
UPDATED: 10:26 PM EDT
By Lara Jakes and Ellen Knickmeyer, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The beheading of freelance journalist James Foley has forced a new debate between the longtime U.S. and British refusal to negotiate with terrorists, and Europe and the Persian Gulf's increasing willingness to pay ransoms in a desperate attempt to free citizens. The dilemma: How to save the lives of captives without financing terror groups and encouraging more kidnappings.

By paying ransoms, governments in the Mideast and Europe have become some of the biggest financiers of terror groups. By refusing to do likewise, the U.S. and Great Britain are in the thankless position of putting their own citizens at a disadvantage.

Foley's captors, the Islamic State militants, had for months demanded $132.5 million (100 million Euros) from his parents and political concessions from Washington. They got neither, and the 40-year-old freelance journalist from New Hampshire was savagely beheaded within the last week inside Syria, where he had been held since his disappearance in November 2012.

Extremists called his death a revenge killing for the 90 U.S. airstrikes, as of Thursday, that have been launched against Islamic State militants in northern Iraq since Aug. 8. But the ransom demands began late last year, even before the Islamic State - one of the world's most financially thriving extremist groups - had begun its brutal march across much of western and northern Iraq.

"They don't need to do this for money," said Matthew Levitt, a counter-terror expert at the Washington Institute think-tank. "When you ask for $132 million, for the release of one person, that suggests that you're either trying to make a point ... or you don't really need the money."

A senior Obama administration official said Thursday the Islamic State had made a "range of requests" from the U.S. for Foley's release, including changes in American policy and posture in the Mideast.

At the State Department, deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said the militancy - which controls a swath of land across northern Syria and Iraq - has collected millions of dollars in ransoms so far this year alone.

"We do not make concessions to terrorists," Harf told reporters. "We do not pay ransoms."

"The United States government believes very strongly that paying ransom to terrorists gives them a tool in the form of financing that helps them propagate what they're doing," she said. "And so we believe very strongly that we don't do that, for that reason."

The issue of payments by American families or U.S. corporations is now under debate within the Obama administration, according to a U.S. official familiar with the conversations who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss them by name.

The USA Patriot Act prohibits any payment or assistance to terror groups that could boost their support. The families of three Americans held by a rebel group in Colombia for five years, for example, were repeatedly advised against sending even medication and sneakers to the hostages to avoid potentially breaking the law.

But prosecution in those types of cases is rare and enforced haphazardly. "I never saw, in my time as an FBI agent, where the U.S. government threatened to prosecute a family for paying a ransom," said Clinton Van Zandt, the FBI's former chief hostage negotiator.

He said government-paid ransoms help create "a growing cottage industry in kidnap ransoms."

"You may get that person back that time, but what you've done is put a price tag on the head of every American overseas," he said. "And you've advertised that we pay to get Americans back."

Diplomats say ransoms paid or arranged by western European governments and the Gulf state of Qatar have provided the bulk of financial support for violent groups. That has spurred the U.S. and Britain - as well as some north African states - to push a campaign discouraging ransom payments.

In January, the U.S. and Britain secured a U.N. Security Council resolution appealing to governments not to pay ransom to terror groups. The Group of Eight, a bloc of some of the world's most developed economies, made the same pledge a year ago, also under U.S. and British pressure.

U.S. and British officials say it's not clear to what extent allied governments are abiding by those pledges.

The Treasury Department has estimated at least $140 million worth of ransoms have been paid to al-Qaida and other terror groups in Africa and the Mideast since 2004.

France and Qatar are most often identified as governments that frequently pay or arrange ransoms - usually to free European nationals. But France has denied doing so, as have Germany, Italy and the Nordic counties of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. All are accused by security experts, diplomats and others of having paid ransoms in some cases.

Qatar typically refuses to comment on the issue of ransoms, and Spain has neither confirmed nor denied that it pays terrorists for hostages' release.

Despite its insistence that it does not make concessions to terrorists, the U.S. did just that earlier this year in securing the release of American Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban. In exchange for Bergdahl, the Obama administration released Taliban prisoners from the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay - including some whom critics called among the most hardened fighters of the war against terror.

Rather than pay ransoms, the United States often tries to rescue its hostages with covert military teams trained to raid extremist camps. That was how the three hostages in Colombia were freed in 2008 in a joint operation with Colombian spies and U.S. intelligence, for example.

And a secret operation was launched in early July to rescue Foley and other U.S. hostages being held by the Islamic State in Syria. U.S. special forces engaged in a firefight with the Islamic State, and killed several militants, but did not find any American hostages at the unspecified location.

At least three Americans are still being held in Syria. Two of them are believed to have been kidnapped by the Islamic State. The third, freelance journalist Austin Tice, disappeared in Syria in August 2012 and is believed to be in the custody of government forces in Syria.

Money alone may not have been the main reason that the Islamic State killed Foley. The militancy is already rich off donations from supporters in the Persian Gulf and a broad criminal network of extortion and robbery. It is also believed to have stolen what several U.S. officials have estimated as millions of dollars from a bank in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul when the Islamic State overran the area in June.

The Islamic State "is at a point of evolution in its goal toward brutal total war" against the West, said Fernando Carvajal, an expert on al-Qaida in the Middle East and north Africa at Britain's University of Exeter. "It doesn't need to kidnap for ransom."

---

Knickmeyer reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writers Josh Lederman and Deb Riechmann in Washington, Michael Melia in Boston, Greg Keller in Paris and AP staff from around Europe contributed to this article.

Follow Lara Jakes on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/larajakesAP

(c) 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

  • TN/GA Regional News
  • National News
  • International News
  • Sideline Wrapup Challenge 2014

    Make your picks among these weekly high school games to win a NewsChannel 9 cap and $25 restaurant gift card. Try to outpick Dave & John.
  • Win $25 To Taziki’s Café!

    One winner each week will receive a $25 gift certificate to Tazikis Mediterranean Cafe. Enter Today!
  • NewsChannel 9 Golf Challenge

    Play our Golf Challenge. Each weekly winner receives an official Fathead. The Grand prize winner nationally receives at $250 Golfsmith Gift Card.
  • NewsChannel 9 Auto Racing Challenge

    Play our Auto Racing Challenge. Each local weekly winner receives a NewsChannel 9 Beach Cooler Backpack. The overall Grand Prize winner gets a trip for 2 to the 2015 Daytona 500.
  • No Text Zone

    Keep our roads safe! Take the No Text Zone Pledge and have a chance to win a prize!
  • Style Watch

    Check our Emily as she keeps you up to date with all of the latest Fashion trends!

  • WTVC :: Community - The Good Life

    The Good Life

    Celebrating the events, adventures and activities that represent "The Good Life" in the NewsChannel 9 viewing area.
  • WTVC :: Community - Sideroads

    Sideroads

    Take a ride with Brian Smith to explore the unique people and places to be found along the Sideroads of the NewsChannel 9 viewing area.
  • WTVC :: Community - Road Trippin

    Road Trippin

    Come Road Trippin' with us and see all the great sites in your area!
  • WTVC :: Community - Closings and Delays

    Closings and Delays

    These are the latest School and Business Closings reported to NewsChannel 9. If you see errors or need to add a school or business, call 423-757-7320.
  • WTVC :: Community - This N That

    This N That

    Learn about the latest in community affairs and great events with Brian Smith on This 'N That.
  • WTVC :: Community - Educator of the Week

    Educator of the Week

    Nominate now for Educator Of The Week!
  • WTVC :: Community - Wednesday's Child

    Wednesday's Child



  • WTVC :: Community - Deaf & Hard of Hearing

    Deaf & Hard of Hearing

    Information provided to NewsChannel 9 by members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community.
  • WTVC :: Community - Community Calendar

    Community Calendar



  • WTVC :: Community - Photo Galleries

    Photo Galleries



  • WTVC :: Community - Sponsored Events

    Sponsored Events

    Check Back Often for NewsChannel9 Sponsored Events!

Government Accountability

What your elected leaders in Washington are doing today:

President

U.S. Senate

U.S. House

(Public schedules posted online)


WTVC, NewsChannel 9, the news leader in Chattanooga, broadcasts locally produced news, sports, weather, traffic, lottery and community updates. WTVC carries ABC national programming, including Good Morning America, ABC World News, Dr. Phil, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and a wide variety of shows. WTVC first began operation in 1958. WTVC is proud to serve counties in Southeast Tennessee, North Georgia, Northwest Alabama and Western North Carolina.

Check back here for constant updates of top national, state and local Chattanooga area news stories. You can also watch WTVC NewsChannel 9 live on your computer, or mobile device here. WTVC’s award winning news programs are streamed live from our studios to your computer and mobile device daily. When you want the latest Chattanooga news, weather, traffic and sports, visit this page and see our newscasts live on your computer, tablet or smartphone. This is also a great way to keep up with Chattanooga and surrounding area news when you are out of the area.

WTVC covers a wide variety of topics including politics, business and economy, police and crime, sports, entertainment and celebrities, justice and the courts, and every kind of news worthy subject imaginable. WTVC is dedicated to providing the best, timely and accurate news reporting for Chattanooga and the surrounding areas in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina.



TV Freedom
| StormTrack 9 Blog | Live Cameras |
| Neighborhood Network | Pollen Count |

 

Breaking News
Sponsored content

 
  • WTVC :: News - Border Crisis

    Border Crisis

    Get the latest developments on the border control issue!
  • WTVC :: News - Sideroads

    Sideroads



  • WTVC :: News - Raw News

    Raw News

    See the news as it happened, raw and unedited!
  • WTVC :: News - No Text Zone

    No Text Zone

    Keep our roads safe! Take the No Text Zone Pledge and have a chance to win a prize!
  • WTVC :: News - Price of Freedom

    Price of Freedom

    Josh Roe wants your "Price of Freedom" ideas. Tell him about people or programs that are important to veterans in the NewsChannel 9 viewing area.
  • WTVC :: News - Pay It Forward

    Pay It Forward

    Helping you help your neighbor with $500!
  • WTVC :: News - Made In Our Hometown

    Made In Our Hometown

    Highlighting the businesses and entrepreneurs that keep our area working.
  • WTVC :: News - NewsChannel 9 Traffic Tracker

    NewsChannel 9 Traffic Tracker

    Check the Live TDOT Traffic Cameras aimed at area highways.
  • WTVC :: News - The Good Life

    The Good Life

    Celebrating the events, adventures and activities that represent "The Good Life" in the NewsChannel 9 viewing area.
  • WTVC :: News - Political Pulse

    Political Pulse

    Armstrong Williams is a pugnacious, provocative and principled voice for conservatives and Christian values in America's public debates.
  • WTVC :: News - Behind The Headlines

    Behind The Headlines

    Behind The Headlines with Mark Hyman - Political Commentary and Opinions
  • WTVC :: News - Your Voice. Your Future.

    Your Voice. Your Future.

    As the country faces challenges from federal budget issues to jobs and national debt, your voice is critical to the future.
  • WTVC :: News - Health Care Reform

    Health Care Reform

    The Supreme Court ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act sparked a new battle. Check here daily for the latest developments, locally and across the country.
  • WTVC :: News - Washington Times

    Washington Times

    Politics, Breaking News, US and World News.
  • WTVC :: News - Waste Watch

    Waste Watch

    How are your tax dollars being spent? Waste Watch tracks whether local, state and federal governments or any groups are using your money wisely...or wasting it.
  • WTVC :: News - Blood Assurance needs donations.

    Blood Assurance needs donations.

    Blood Assurance donation centers are open July 4th
    *Cherokee County Cycles 14660 US Hwy 19 Andrews, NC 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    *Dellinger Park 100 Pine Grove Rd. Cartersville, GA 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. ...
  • WTVC :: News - Georgia Lottery

    Georgia Lottery

    Get the winning numbers and all the details on how to play in the Peach State.
  • WTVC :: News - Tennessee Lottery

    Tennessee Lottery

    Get the winning numbers and all the details on how to play in the Volunteer State.
  • WTVC :: News - Education News

    Education News

    Here is the latest news on issues affecting NewsChannel 9 area school systems.
  • WTVC :: News - Top Health Stories

    Top Health Stories

    News to keep you and your family alive and well.
  • WTVC :: News - Entertainment News

    Entertainment News

    Looking for something to do? Check here for fun stuff happening in the NewsChannel 9 area.
  • WTVC :: News - Business News

    Business News

    News about your money and businesses in the NewsChannel 9 area.
  • WTVC :: News - Missing Persons

    Missing Persons

    These people are missing and are being sought by law enforcement officials within the NewsChannel 9 viewing area.
  • WTVC :: News - Town Hall

    Town Hall

    Should VW be unionized? Join the debate by being a part of the our live town hall. Click now for details and to register to be in the audience

more »

Tonight on WTVC NewsChannel 9

7:00 Wheel of Fortune

7:30 Jeopardy

8:00 Black Box

9:00 Rookie Blue

10:00 NY Med

11:00 NewsChannel 9

11:35 Jimmy Kimmel Live

Complete Schedule »


Road Trippin
No Text Zone
Pay It Forward
Steve Harvey Show
2014 Southern Brewers Festival