Tonight Lesley Stahl did a somber report on CBS 60 Minutes, about the question “Should the U.S. Government pay ransom money?” http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-hostage-policy-lesley-stahl/ The episode was also titled “The Hostage Policy”.
Stahl interviewed the parents Art and Shirley Sotloff, of murdered journalist Stephen Sotloff. Stahl also interviewed Lisa Monaco from the Obama administration, and she defended Obama’s policy.
Peter Bergen says that European countries which do pay ransom don’t have proportionally more kidnappings. (The UK does not.) Federal law also makes it illegal for a family to pay ransom or for individuals to contribute to ransom funds, but the DOJ says it will not prosecute such cases.
Stahl suggested that the government could pay ransom but in secret and denial.
I would not involve myself in ransom payment attempts (there are phishing attacks on the Internet trying to do this), and do not expect it to ever be done for me.