Kerry vows better treatment for families of hostages

American journalist James Foley was killed by Islamic State militants.
Associated press
American journalist James Foley was killed by Islamic State militants.

US Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Wednesday that the government will seek to work better with families of people held hostage by Islamic State militants, responding to concerns raised by the family of executed journalist James Foley.

“We’ve got to make sure that people feel better about the process. I can assure you — the president on down — everybody feels that sensitivity,” Kerry said at a congressional hearing, responding to a question by Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who represents Foley’s home state of New Hampshire.

Foley’s family and their advisers said in a New York Times story on Monday that, after militants demanded ransom for Foley, the US government was sympathetic but offered little active support. That left the family feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what they should do, the Times reported.


Shaheen told Kerry that she hoped that this administration and future ones would “seriously reassess what can better be done to assist families” dealing with such crises.

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Foley, 40, was the first of three hostages, two Americans and one Briton, who have been beheaded by the Islamic State militant group.

Kerry said he had worked personally on the effort to free Foley. He said “everybody here just shuddered at what [Foley’s family] had to go through.”

He also recalled the failed rescue mission that was launched to free Foley and other hostages. “I sat in the White House, in the Situation Room, and watched that entire mission unfold and was amazed by the capacity of our military people to do what they did,” he said.

“The intelligence was correct to every degree. They went to the right place. They did things correctly. It just was empty. They’d moved them,” he said.

Noah Bierman of the Globe staff contributed to this report.