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June 24, 2015

U.S. will no longer go after families who pay ransom to kidnappers

Obama still reaffirms no negotiations policy though

Hostages Families
Obama Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

President Barack Obama gestures as he makes opening remarks at the House Democratic Issues Conference in Philadelphia, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015

The White House on Wednesday released a new policy aimed at becoming more sensitive to the needs of families of U.S. hostages held abroad, saying the government needed to "evolve" to take account of a shift in the way groups take captives.

After a six-month review that included discussions with families of people held overseas, the White House said the government will continue its longstanding policy of not making concessions to hostage-takers.

But it will no longer threaten families who decide to pay ransoms. The government may communicate with hostage-takers and intermediaries, and it may help families who are trying to pay ransom, the White House said.

The new directive from President Barack Obama "reaffirms the 'no concessions' policy, but makes clear for the first time that 'no concessions' does not mean 'no communication,'" the White House said in a statement.

The White House said it has also created an interagency group called a "fusion cell" to work on hostage recovery issues and better communicate with families.

A new presidential envoy for hostage affairs will coordinate diplomatic work with foreign governments, the White House said.