WASHINGTON, April 27 (UPI) -- The White House is reviewing its policy preventing families of hostages to pay ransom to kidnappers, officials said.
Under the current policy, families who wish to pay terrorists ransom for the release of their loved ones are threatened with prosecution.
The parents of James Foley, a freelance journalist kidnapped and killed by the Islamic State in August, said they were repeatedly told they could be prosecuted for supporting terrorism if they paid their son's ransom.
"We were told at that point that there was going to be no intervention, there was going to be no negotiation, and that no ransom would be paid -- and, if in fact, we attempted to raise the money and pay it we would be potentially prosecuted. So that was pretty upsetting," John Foley said on ABC News' World News Tonight on Sunday.
While the government isn't looking to change its stance on using taxpayer dollars to pay ransom, it could loosen the restrictions on families doing so, a U.S. official told the Los Angeles Times.
"It's only a baby step, it's a tiny step. If the government can't help, I would hope that families would be free from prosecution of getting their loved ones home," Diane Foley, James Foley's mother, said.
Critics, though, say that allowing the funds to go to terrorists could encourage them to continue kidnapping.
The news that the White House could consider suggesting changes to the ransom policy came less than a week after U.S. President Barack Obama announced that two hostages -- American aid worker Warren Weinstein and Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto -- were killed in a January drone strike on al-Qaida. Weinstein's family paid $250,000 to the men believed to be holding the aid worker, but nothing ever came of it.
In addition to possibly loosening its policy on ransom payments, the White House is also considering creating an office to act as a liaison between the government and the families of hostages.
"In response to what we have heard from family members, we are considering the establishment of a working-level, operationally-focused coordinating Fusion Cell to ensure a whole-of-government response to overseas hostage events," a U.S. official told ABC News. "We are also considering the establishment of a Family Engagement Team as a permanent part of the Fusion Cell, to ensure that families have full-time and direct access to professionals who can provide timely information and other necessary support during and after a hostage crisis."