Posted: 1:49 pm EDT
We’ve previously blogged about the Iran hostages here (see Supremes Say No to Appeal from US Embassy Iran Hostages; January 20, 1981: The Iran Hostages – 30 Years Later; November 4, 1979: Iranian Mob Attacks US Embassy Tehran; Hostages Compensated $50/Day; The Iran Hostages: Long History of Efforts to Obtain Compensation).
In light of the significant shift in hostage taking by terrorists organizations (media reports say that there are roughly 30 Americans held hostage overseas), President Obama directed a comprehensive review of U.S. policy toward overseas hostage-takings last year. On June 24, 2015, President Obama approved Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 30, U.S. Nationals Taken Hostage Abroad and Personnel Recovery Efforts and issued an Executive Order on the recovery of U.S. hostages taken abroad, which directs key organizational changes “to ensure that the U.S. Government is doing all that it can to safely recover Americans taken hostage overseas and is being responsive to the needs of their families.” According to the Fact Sheet, PPD-30 “reaffirms” the U.S. Government’s dedication to achieving the safe recovery of U.S. nationals taken hostage abroad
On August 28, 2015, President Obama announced the appointment of James O’Brien as Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs (see President Obama Appoints James O’Brien as First Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs).
This past June, the State Department also updated its Foreign Affairs Manual related to U.S. Government personnel taken hostage. That affirmation for safe recovery is item one on the updated FAM, a language that had been absent from the rules books for at least 20 years.
Note that per 2 FAH-1 H-115.3, the new version does not comply with the standard FAM colors, which requires that new or revised material be shown in both darkmagenta™ (R139,G0,B139) and in italic. We’ve marked the changes below for easier identification.
3 FAM 4143 GUIDELINES FOR U.S. GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL TAKEN HOSTAGE (pdf via state.gov)
(State/USAID/BBG/Commerce/Foreign Service Corps-USDA) (Applies to Foreign Service and Civil Service Employees)
a. The U.S. Government will make every effort to recover U.S. Government personnel who are victims of a hostage taking incident while serving abroad.
b. Individuals who are taken hostage should be aware that their captors may seek to exploit their knowledge of sensitive information to the detriment of the United States or their fellow hostages. Individuals should be mindful that whatever they say may be used to mislead or punish their colleagues, and that information obtained from one captive may be used when interrogating another. Captured individuals should not divulge classified or sensitive information and should not discuss sensitive aspects of the work of any fellow hostages.
c. Individuals should be aware that active members of the U.S. Armed Services who are taken captive are subject to different legal authorities and organizational policies when they are captured, due to their possible status as Prisoners of War. For additional information please reference Executive Order 10631.
d. If detained with other captives, it is essential to avoid internal conflicts within the group and maintain a unified approach to the captors (e.g., group agrees not to discuss religion, politics or the economy with the captors).
e. While awaiting rescue, individuals taken hostage should make an effort to:
(1) Eat and drink to preserve their health and seek opportunities to remain mentally active;
(2) Circumstances permitting, build rapport with their captors by humanizing themselves;
(3) Leave evidence of their presence in each location (such as strands of hair, fingerprints, blood, bits of fingernails, etc.); and
(4) Maintain faith in their individual beliefs and have confidence in the efforts of their family and the U.S. Government to obtain their release.
f. If asked to produce evidence of proof of life, such as a photo or a video, it is advisable to do so as it confirms the individual’s continued survival to family and possibly the U.S. Government entities working on your release, and aids in the negotiation process.
g. The decision to attempt escape rests with the individuals concerned based on their judgment, environment, and level of threat. However, the decision should be consistent with the considerations set forth above.
h. In the event of a recovery operation, individuals awaiting rescue should drop to the ground, ensure their hands and face are visible, and identify themselves as American citizens.
i. For more information, Department personnel can follow this link to the High Threat Security Overseas Seminar: Abduction: Prevention, Preparation and Response for Individuals.
j. Hard and fast rules are not always helpful and the U.S. Government recognizes that the ability of individuals to resist extreme pressure differs. But, to the extent possible, one must help one’s colleagues and avoid exploitation. Sound judgment is essential.
Below is the old 3 FAM 4143 guidelines that took effect on November 8, 1995; we have not been able to find a version in effect after 1995 and before it was superseded by the June 2, 2015 version (pdf via the Internet Archive):
3 FAM 4143 GUIDELINES FOR U.S. GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL TAKEN HOSTAGE
(Uniform State/USAID/USIA/Commerce/Foreign Service Corps-USDA) (Applies to Foreign Service and Civil Service Employees)
a. U.S. Government personnel serving abroad are expected to be mature, responsible, and patriotic individuals for whom the concept of service has a real and personal meaning.
b. Individuals who are taken hostage should be aware that their captors may seek to exploit them. Their captors may be seeking information to be used to the detriment of the United States or of their fellow hostages, and are likely to use information obtained from one captive when interrogating another. Individuals should consequently be guided by the knowledge that whatever they say may be used to mislead or punish their colleagues and that their actions may result in reprisals.
c. Captured individuals should not discuss sensitive aspects of the work of their fellow hostages. They should not divulge classified or sensitive information. They should not sign or make statements or take action which they believe might bring discredit to the United States.
d. The decision to attempt escape rests with the individual concerned. However, the decision should be consistent with the considerations set forth above.
e. Hard and fast rules are not always helpful and the U.S. Government recognizes that the ability of individuals to resist extreme pressure differs. But, to the extent possible, one must help one’s colleagues and avoid exploitation. Sound judgment is essential.
Here is also quick guidance per 2 FAH-1 H-112.3 on how to tell if employees have discretion to deviate from the instructions in the Foreign Affairs Manual. The Foreign Affairs Handbook instructs FAM drafters that “information must be clear, and the discretion of the reader to deviate from instructions must be clear.” Level of discretion is to be described by the use of three auxiliary verbs: “must,” “should,” and “may.”
(1) Mandatory: “Must” is used to advise the reader that he or she has no discretion to deviate from the instructions. In some cases, the reader will have no discretion, but another person or entity can grant authority to deviate from the instruction. If that’s the case, the person with authority and the circumstances under which the authority may be exercised is identified (by title) or office (by name/symbol);
(2) Recommended: “Should” is used to advise the reader that the instruction is the Department’s preferred approach. However, the word “should” permits the reader to deviate if the reader can accomplish the objective in another way. FAM drafters are told to “clearly specify how much discretion the reader has, and advise the reader if he or she must justify any deviations. Use the term “recommended” if you believe the word “should” will not convey these points adequately in the context of the sentence. Either define the word “should” or hyperlink to this definition at the beginning of subchapters in which the word appears.”
(3) Advisory: “May” is used to advise the reader that he or she has the option to pursue alternative courses of action. “May” is used when neither law, regulation, nor management policy dictates which of several options to follow.