Sen. Boxer defends U.S. policy against paying terrorist ransoms

Days after the grisly killing of American journalist James Foley revived debate about whether the U.S. government should pay ransoms to terrorists, Sen. Barbara Boxer defended its “very clear” policy.

“We don’t negotiate with terrorists,” Boxer told reporters Friday at an appearance at Los Angeles City Hall. “And that’s the policy, and Congress has affirmed it … It only encourages more hostage-taking and puts more of our people in jeopardy.”

The California Democrat briefly answered a question about the ransom policy after delivering remarks that ranged from global challenges such as the crisis in Iraq, the breakdown in negotiations between Israel and Hamas, the Ebola outbreak in Africa and fighting in Ukraine to domestic matters such as the influx of immigrant children, sexual assault on college campuses and the toll caused by the drought in California.

Foley’s slaying by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has spurred fresh debate about whether the U.S. policy that bars negotiating with terrorists or paying ransoms helps or hurts Americans.


Most major countries officially pledge not to pay for hostages, but several European nations have directly or indirectly paid ransoms to free their nationals, despite denying that they do so, former U.S. officials told the Los Angeles Times.

Boxer said Friday that “the brutal cold-blooded murder of an American journalist has brought the battle against ISIS to a new level, as far as I’m concerned.”

“No one is safe in a world where ISIS is allowed to terrorize and grow unchecked,” Boxer said of the group, calling it “perhaps the most dangerous terrorist group the world has ever known.”

The senator said she backed the Obama administration’s decision to authorize targeted air strikes in Iraq and to directly provide weapons to Kurdish forces battling Islamic State. She argued that the current fight against the terrorist group was not a continuation of the war in Iraq, which she voted against.

“But make no mistake, this terrorist organization was born out of the deeply flawed U.S. invasion of Iraq,” Boxer said, arguing that the failure of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to create an inclusive government had fueled sectarian hatred and set the stage for its rise.

Follow @latimesemily for what’s happening at Los Angeles City Hall