TO better collaborate with and assist American families whose loved ones have been kidnapped and held overseas, the White House today announced the creation of the Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell, which will be the single government entity responsible for coordinating the recovery of U.S. hostages abroad.
Staffed by hostage recovery professionals from the Department of Defense, Department of State, Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the FBI, and the intelligence community, the fusion cell aims to improve how the government develops hostage recovery plans, tracks developments in specific cases, shares information with families, and provides information to Congress and the media. The interagency group will be located at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. and will be led by Michael McGarrity, an 18-year veteran of the FBI. Two deputy directors will be from the Department of State and the Department of Defense.
In December 2014—in the wake of increased hostage-takings by terrorist organizations and criminal groups—President Obama directed a comprehensive review of U.S. policy toward overseas hostage-takings. The findings of that review resulted in the new presidential executive order announced today.
“The fusion cell approach enables law enforcement and intelligence community partners to work in a collaborative environment to secure the safe return of U.S. hostages,” said FBI Deputy Director Mark Giuliano. “We will also be better equipped to serve the needs of families as we all work to bring their loved ones home.”
Kathryn Turman, who leads the FBI’s Office for Victim Assistance, noted, “We continue to look for better ways to be supportive and transparent in our relationships with victims and their families, as well as to better partner and share information with them during and after these times of crisis.”
The White House also announced the following new measures today:
- Hostage Response Group – This dedicated interagency policy body convened by the National Security Council will review and provide guidance on hostage recovery strategies and ensure high-level support for all hostage recovery and family support efforts.
- Intelligence Community Issue Manager for Hostage Affairs – This designee will provide the fusion cell with improved management of hostage-related intelligence and enable the timely declassification of intelligence to share with the families of hostages.
- Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs – This designee will coordinate the government’s diplomatic engagements on all U.S. hostage-related matters and will personally engage at the highest levels of foreign governments to secure the safe recovery of hostages.
- Family Engagement Team – This group will include personnel from the FBI’s Office for Victim Assistance and the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. The team will collaborate on a continual basis with families of hostages.
More information about today’s announcement can be found on WhiteHouse.gov.