The point of the policy is to provide no incentive for taking hostages

NY Times:

U.S. Policy of No Ransom Closes Off Other Options

The United States has steadfastly refused to pay terrorists in order to free hostages, but family members and former officials suggest the policy results in systemic gaps in the government’s efforts to free captives.
Paying for hostages puts more Americans at risk.  It is one of the reasons that many thought the swap for Bergdahl  was a mistake.  It was certainly an awful deal where we swapped five terrorist for an alleged deserter.  There are unconfirmed reports that the US also gave the Taliban substantial funds in trying to get the deal.  The recent Cuban deal was also another bad bargain where the US swapped spies and killers for an innocent man being held in Cuba.  I understand the concerns of family members, but the bigger picture makes such transactions a greater risk for vulnerable Americans.

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