Saturday, September 13, 2014

Since when do we prosecute anyone for war crimes?

To paraphrase Alberto Gonzales... that would be quaint.

The parents of murdered journalist Steven Sotloff were told by a White House counterterrorism official at a meeting last May that they could face criminal prosecution if they paid ransom to try to free their son, a spokesman for the family told Yahoo News Friday night.

"The family felt completely and utterly helpless when they heard this," said Barak Barfi, a friend of Sotloff who is serving as a spokesman for his family. "The Sotloffs felt there was nothing they could do to get Steve out."

The journalist's father, Art, was "shaking" after the meeting with the official, who works for the National Security Council, Barfi said. The families of three other hostages being held by the militant group Islamic State were also at the White House meeting, sources told Yahoo News.

Did you read that correctly?  I'm just asking because I did not, on first read.

The Sotloff family issued their statement after Diane Foley, the mother of murdered journalist James Foley, told ABC News that her family took statements by the White House counterterrorism official about legal bars to paying ransom as a "threat, and it was appalling. ... We were horrified he would say that. He just told us we would be prosecuted."


Sources close to the families say that at the time of the White House meeting the Sotloffs and Foleys — after receiving direct threats from IS — were exploring lining up donors who would help pay multimillion-dollar ransoms to free their sons. But after the meeting those efforts collapsed, one source said, because of concerns that "donors could expose themselves to prosecution." 

Although European hostages have been freed through ransom payments that have run into the millions of dollars, the Obama administration has taken a hard line against any such payments, viewing the transfer of cash as a violation of federal laws that forbid providing "material support" to a terrorist organization.

Barfi said that within a few hours of the White House meeting, he was at a separate meeting with State Department officials. One of those officials repeatedly mentioned the "material support" law and made it "clear," said Barfi, that criminal prosecutions could result if ransoms to the IS terrorists were paid.

So here's the message I'm getting from our government's leaders (elected and appointed):

If you use enhanced interrogation techniques on torture detainees prisoners of war, or if you authorize the use of enhanced interrogation techniques torture of detainees prisoners of war, you will not be prosecuted.  In fact, you may very well have a second career as a military strategist on teevee.

If you make a donation of hundreds of thousands of dollars to your favorite politician through his or her super PAC, you don't even have to disclose your name or the name of your company, much less worry about violating the law.

But if you make a donation to a family whose loved one has been kidnapped by terrorists for the purpose of having the terrorists release that person... your government wants you to clearly understand that you will be prosecuted for that crime.

What. A. Country.

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