Paying Ransoms: A Dangerous Precedent

Kidnap and Ransom scenarios are extremely high risk and rarely straight forward.  There is no guarantee that paying a ransom will lead to a safe hostage release.  As the families of Paul and Rachel Chandler learned it can spawn more demands for cash, a practice known as ‘double-dipping’.  Gut wrenching as that blow must have been, the Chandlers were lucky.  Some kidnappers take the money and kill.

I can’t fault any family for doing everything in their power to free their loved ones.  But ransom payments do make the world a more dangerous place. Continue reading

Should Aid Workers Leave Afghanistan?

The death of kidnapped British aid worker Linda Norgrove during a rescue attempt by US Special Forces in Kunar has prompted much debate, especially after it was revealed that she may have been killed by a US grenade and not a Taliban suicide bomber as initially reported.   Some are asking if the US military should have exercised more restraint or whether the operation was even necessary.

If the goal of such questions is to prevent more aid workers from dying in future, this line of inquiry is  counter-productive at this stage.  I sincerely doubt the British government would have green-lighted the military option had Ms. Norgrove’s life not been in extreme danger. Hostage rescue is extremely high risk and there is always a possibility that the person or persons you are attempting to free could be killed during an operation, especially in a dangerous location like Kunar (parts of which are so untameable that US forces withdrew from them earlier this year).  Instead of pinning blame on the rescuing party, a more useful question is why are aid workers being encouraged to come to Afghanistan when they are such obvious targets? Continue reading

Kidnap & Ransom: The Media’s Dangerous Double Standard

The media is having a field day tracking the story of Paul and Rachel Chandler, the British couple seized by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean.  Pirates Demand $7 Million and Somali Pirates Split on Demands for British Couple’s Release are just two examples of headline stories describing, among other things, ransom demands, the possible movements of the hostages, and details of the kidnappers’ alleged motives and operations.

            No doubt, other prospective holiday makers and adventures will learn from the Chandlers’ ordeal. This is why, from a security standpoint, I have no problem with news organizations reporting that a kidnapping has taken place.  But describing the mechanics of what is happening behind the scenes, particularly to free the hostages is irresponsible and dangerous in my view. Continue reading