Shaheen Statement on New Executive Order to Enhance Efforts to Bring American Hostages Home

July 19, 2022

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) issued the following statement in response to the Biden administration’s announcement of a new Executive Order to expand the tools available to deter and disrupt hostage-taking and wrongful detentions that will enhance efforts to free Americans held abroad and further support the families fighting for them at home. 

Shaheen has worked on numerous cases of Americans held against their will. She worked to secure the freedom of Granite Stater Amer Fakhoury, who was detained in Lebanon, as well as Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was wrongfully imprisoned in Turkey. Shaheen is also a leading advocate for families of hostages, and has worked to see the ISIS terrorists culpable in the murders of New Hampshire native and journalist, James Foley, as well as Americans Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller, stand trial in the United States for their crimes. 

“Anytime an American citizen is wrongfully held against their will, it demands the full attention and weight of the United States to bring them home. I’m glad to see the President take an important step forward to bolster our diplomatic tools to that end,” said Shaheen. “Having worked on numerous cases, I know the agony and anguish families experience as they face the unimaginable. Every effort should be made to secure the freedom of their loved ones. This is the case for Paul Whelan, Brittney Griner and other Americans wrongfully detained abroad – we must pull every lever available to get them home as swiftly as possible.” 

Shaheen successfully included language in the fiscal year (FY) 2020 defense authorization legislation to establish a senior coordinator position within the Executive Branch for all ISIS detainee issues. This position leads all diplomatic engagements and planning regarding the future of ISIS detainees. In 2018, Senator Shaheen visited northeast Syria to view the detention facilities housing ISIS terrorists. The creation of this role was originally a recommendation of the Syria Study Group’s (SSG) interim report. The final report was released in 2019. Shaheen established the Syria Study Group in the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that was signed into law in 2018. The Syria Study Group was a bipartisan panel created with the purpose of completing a comprehensive strategic review of America’s policy in Syria. 

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