TIME Foreign Policy

Obama: Fight Against ISIS a ‘Long-Term Campaign’

US-SYRIA-IRAQ-CONFLICT-MILITARY-OBAMA-CAMPAIGN
SAUL LOEB—AFP/Getty Images US President Barack Obama speaks following a meeting with top military officials about the military campaign against the Islamic State at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, July 6, 2015.

The president spoke at the Pentagon on the fight against the terrorist organization

President Obama’s efforts to take down the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria may have ramped up in recent months, but they are far from over.

“This will not be quick. This is a long-term campaign. ISIL is opportunistic and it is nimble,” he said at the Pentagon on Monday, using an alternative acronym for the Islamist group.

Obama said the U.S.-led coalition has now hit ISIS with more than 5,000 airstrikes, taking out thousands of fighters — including senior commanders. Victories can already be counted: the terrorist group has now lost more than a quarter of the territory it had previously held in Iraq. Nevertheless, he said, no amount of military force will be enough to defeat ISIS.

To stem the flow of foreign fighters to ISIS’s ranks, he said, we need to combat its ideology. “Ideologies are not defeated with guns, they’re defeated by better ideas, a more attractive and compelling vision,” he said. While Obama maintained the U.S. should not target any single religious or ethnic community, he pointed out that the group has been particularly effective at recruiting “vulnerable” Muslims around the world and called on that community “to step up in terms of pushing back as hard as they can” against extremist ideologies.

Obama argued that for the campaign to succeed in the long term, the coalition would have to help train local security forces to maintain order in the Middle East, noting that ISIS has filled a void in the communities where it’s gained ground, and “we have to make sure that as we push them out, that void is filled.”

“If we try to do everything ourselves all across the Middle East, all across North Africa,” he said, “we’ll be playing Whac-A-Mole.”

TIME White House

President Obama Sang the Davy Crockett Theme Song at an Event

"Is your name really Davy Crockett? That's a cool name"

When a man named James Davy Crockett asked the President a question at a town hall on Wednesday, President Obama had some questions of his own—and also, the urge to sing.

“Is your name really Davy Crockett? That’s a cool name,” Obama said. “But you don’t have that beaver cap?”

“I’ve got one at the house,” Crockett replied. (The frontiersman Crockett was actually known for a coonskin cap.)

Obama then recalled the Davy Crockett show that aired in the 1950s. “”Ya’ll remember that TV Show?” he asked the giggling crowd at Taylor Stratton Elementary School in Madison, Tenn. He then briefly broke into the show’s theme song.

The President’s exchange with Crockett began much more seriously—Crockett told the President he had unsuccessfully tried to get Social Security benefits, but had been turned down four times. Crockett’s story has been highlighted in the past, with an April Tennesseean article detailing his struggles with his health and gaining insurance. During Wednesday’s event, Obama promised to reach out to the Social Security Administration to get Crockett’s application expedited.

Obama took questions for about 50 minutes from a friendly crowd at the elementary school. He said his work on health care was not yet finished and thanked local leaders for their work in getting people in their states insured. The event followed the recent Supreme Court decision that kept the Affordable Care Act in place.

Watch a clip of Obama’s exchange with Crockett:

 

 

 

TIME Cuba

The Hard Part Is About to Start in U.S.-Cuban Relations

After a heady six month romance, Washington and Havana now face the daunting task of untangling obstacles put into place over the last 54 years

There’s a new flagpole outside the stately Washington D.C. building that will become the Cuban Embassy later this month—and that’s a win to be savored by President Obama, who has made outreach to enemy states a main point of his foreign policy. But if flagpoles are the symbol of the day, take proper note of the forest of 138 staffs outside the Havana building that will house the U.S. Embassy. The flagpoles were placed there nine years ago by the Cuban government, to physically impede the view of the building, a mostly empty seaside edifice Washington had decided to turn into an electronic message board aimed at speaking directly to the Cuban population.

That sophomoric level of exchange is precisely what both governments have said they aim to leave behind, over the six months since Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced the surprise rapprochement. The leaders managed to speak to rather than past each other at the hemispheric summit in Panama in April, and U.S. and Cuban officials got on well in the series of private negotiations that produced Wednesday’s announcement. Secretary of State John Kerry will go to Havana on July 22 to formally convert the U.S. Interests Section to the U.S. Embassy. And the White House says Obama is among the Americans curious about seeing the country for himself; look for him to visit before his term ends.

But away from the large gestures and sweeping statements, the reality on the ground remains stubborn. Relations between the countries were cut off in 1961, and it’s not as though things stood still for the next 54 years. Both countries were busy producing a jungle of laws, regulations and procedures intended, like that forest of flagpoles, to act as obstacles to normal contact. And jungles are not easily untangled.

Obama’s administration did what it could in the first weeks after the December announcement, using executive authority to remove penalties for Americans to travel to Cuba—as long as they did not call themselves tourists. Airline charters are now permitted from many U.S. cities, and passenger ferries from South Florida. But a thicket of impediments remain. The four biggest:

1. The embargo: As Obama made clear in his Rose Garden remarks, the chief executive is powerless to undo the overlapping legislation that bars U.S. citizens and companies from doing ordinary business with the island. Only Congress can repeal the embargo, and that’s one place where the Cuban expatriate lobby—dominated by staunchly anti-Castro Cubans who fled the island after Fidel took power in 1959—has yet to be tested. Presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican, has made himself chief spokesman against making any change.

2. Guantanamo: Obama’s promise to close the controversial prison on Guantanamo Naval Base does not mean the U.S. has any intention of giving up the base itself, which it’s leased from Havana since 1903—on terms Washington dictated, in the Big Brother role it played in Cuban internal affairs before Castro. But Castro’s government has never cashed the rent checks. Both for reasons of sovereignty and credibility as anti-imperialist stalwart, Cuba wants the land back.

3. The Internet: The announcements by Netflix and Airbnb that they would be operating in Cuba made headlines, but not a lot of sense. The island is barely wired. Ordinary citizens pass information by thumb drives loaded up by someone lucky enough to grab a signal. The Havana government likes to control information, and so distrusts the Web. Obama has repeatedly expressed his keenness for U.S. business to help Cuba go digital, and if Havana allows that, it will signal a huge breakthrough. But something has to give, and there’s hope in Castro’s state choice of the official who will succeed him when he steps down as president in 2018: Miguel Diaz-Canel, 55, is known to be a Web enthusiast. As one former Cuban official told me with a look of wonder, “I’ve heard that the first thing he does in the morning is check his email!”

4. Castro: “Sometimes we allow ourselves to be trapped by a certain way of doing things,” Obama said in the Rose Garden on Wednesday. He was referring to Americans, but could have been talking about Cuba’s 84-year-old president. Often described as more flexible than his brother, Fidel, Raul Castro is not exactly Gumby. His efforts to shift Cuba from stagnant socialism to a market economy have been glacial and halting, more chastened by the example of “shock therapy” in the former Soviet Union than guided by the examples of Vietnam and China. Cuban officials speak of fashioning a new way forward, one that preserves the social equality that has been the government’s major accomplishment of the last five decades. But it’s far from clear that Havana has a strategy to channel the changes that ordinary people are expecting now that America is no longer an enemy.

“Of course,” Obama said, “nobody expects Cuba to be transformed overnight.” Raul Castro expects it least of all. The question is whether it will be up to him.

TIME arctic oil exploration

Polar Bears and Walruses Are Spoiling Shell’s Arctic Drilling Plans

A Greenpeace activist covers the logo of
MICHAL CIZEK—AFP/Getty Images A Greenpeace activist covers the logo of the Shell oil company to protest Shell's Arctic oil drilling project in the north of Alaska.

Obama administration cites wildlife protections

Royal Dutch Shell’s Arctic oil exploration plans have been dealt a major blow after the Obama administration cited wildlife protections that prevent the company from drilling two wells into the Chukchi Sea this summer.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service issued a letter spelling out details of a 2013 regulation, highlighting that companies could not place two drilling rigs within 15 miles of each other, Reuters reported. This was put in place to protect animals in the area — walruses, polar bears, and other mammals — that are sensitive to the sound of drilling activity. Walruses, for example, are said to plunge into the sea during drilling, endangering the population.

The letter forces Shell to reevaluate its intention of using two drills off Alaska, which are currently about nine miles apart. The company had plans to invest $1 billion in its Arctic project this year, adding to the $6 billion the company has already spent over the past eight years. Shell told Fuel Fix that the company intends to move ahead with its plan: “We are evaluating the letter of authorization issued today and will continue to pursue the 2015 program,” said Shell spokesman Curtis Smith. “That includes drilling in the Chukchi Sea once open water permits.”

Environmentalists will count this as a small win in their battle to shelf the drilling project. “We think the Department of the Interior needs to rescind its approval because it was predicated on this double-drilling (scenario),” Earthjustice staff attorney Erik Grafe said to Fuel Fix.

TIME White House

Obama’s Approval Rating Cracks 50%

President Obama Joins Mourners At Funeral Of Rev. Clementa Pinckney
Joe Raedle—Getty Images President Barack Obama delivers the eulogy for South Carolina state senator and Rev. Clementa Pinckney during Pinckney's funeral service on June 26, 2015 in Charleston, S.C.

After he sang 'Amazing Grace' on television and had a big week in the Supreme Court

President Barack Obama’s approval rating cracked 50% following a week of dramatic news events, marking the highest ratings for his presidency since 2013.

A CNN/ORC poll found that 50% of Americans approve of Obama’s handling of the presidency, after a week that included Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage and the Affordable Care Act, as well as several statements on race and an emotional eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in the Charleston shooting. Obama rounded out the week by singing “Amazing Grace” on national television at Rev. Pinckney’s funeral Friday.

The poll shows a significant jump since Obama’s 45% approval rating in May, and a dip in his disapproval rating, to 47%. This is the first time his approval rating has hit 50% since May 2013, and the second time his disapproval rating has fallen below 50% in that stretch of time.

The breakdown on specific issues is also going Obama’s way. 52% said they approve of how Obama is handling the economy, which is the first time that particular metric has exceeded 50% in six years of CNN/ORC polling. 55% said they approve of how Obama is handling race relations, up from 50% in May.

Yet there are still persistent challenges for Obama, especially on race. 74% of Americans say racial discrimination against black people is a serious problem in America, up from 47% five years ago– among African-American respondents, that number has jumped from 42% to 80%. And 42% of Americans think that race relations have gotten worse under Obama, compared to 20% who think they’ve gotten better.

[CNN]

TIME Religion

5 Lessons America Can Learn From Black Churches

Obama's eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney offered an illuminating glimpse into African American religious life

When President Obama sang the first few notes of “Amazing Grace” on Friday at the memorial service for Rev. Clementa Pinckney and the other 8 victims of the Charleston massacre, the mourners inside the church weren’t the only ones who rose to their feet and joined him. In that moment, much of America stood to her feet as well, supported by the smooth notes of the organ; united, comforted and hopeful.

It’s safe to say that for that brief moment, America went to black church.

And it isn’t the first time. Every so often – when tragedy strikes or when politicians perform – the nation gets a peek into the pews of a place that has for centuries uplifted spirits and soothed broken hearts, even those broken by hatred and evil. At times like this, even in the rich tapestry of our multi-ethnic, multi-racial, religiously pluralistic society, there remains a distinct appreciation for the colorful, thick threads of the black church. It is, in this way, among many others, an authentically American institution.

But outside of these galvanizing, transcendent events, it’s an institution that gets very little love and even less respect.

The mainstream narratives about the black church range from civil rights era relic to a manipulative made-for-tv mega-church. In TV and movies, on Twitter and Vine, it is a hilarious punchline full of shouting, dancing and excessive displays of emotion. In either case, it is rarely more than a caricature, one that either comforts, humors or repels.

As a pastor’s daughter, church leader and passionate, card-carrying lifetime member of the big, diverse community we call the black church, I know how deeply sad this reduction is. To see people misunderstand an institution that taught me my history, grounded me in my identity and gave me the tools to grow into a woman as well as a civic and moral being, is to see millions of people misunderstand the most valuable gift I have ever been given – and miss out on so much more.

So if, after turning off the TV you’d like to take some souvenirs home from the space that our ancestors spent years building and that today many (myself included) still fiercely love and find sacred, here are five that mean a bit more than just an organ and a drumbeat:

1. How to build community. Born at a time where there were few other places for African Americans demonstrate their full humanity with one another, today, the black church is where the hard work of building beloved community never stops. Where people show up for one another and have hard conversations. Where people offer money, food, emotional care, physical presence and touch. In an era when support often means no more than a tweet or a text, the black church is one of the few places where people still regularly come together to nurture one another, grow together and meet each other’s needs. It is where people share stories, wrestle with ideas, fight, forgive, break bread, and,literally and figuratively, wash one another’s feet. Where tears flow freely and accountability matters. The American community could learn so very much from this model and how wonderful would it be if our human community did the same?

2. How to honor the young and the old. This one seems oddly specific, I know, but in a society that often patronizes the young and isolates the old, the church is one of the few spaces that brings both together and holds each up on a pedestal of preciousness. How many other public spaces in America would have found a 26 year old out with his 87 year old aunt on a Wednesday night as was the case with Charleston victims Tywanza Sanders and Susie Jackson? Where else in America facilitates regular intergenerational dialogue and lift up the voices of both in the process? In the black church, each generation is appreciated for its unique wisdom and insight. Both the very young and the very old typically have seats reserved for them, are encouraged to take on roles of leadership and esteem. And most importantly, their happiness and engagement are seen as key measurements for the health of the community as a whole. Would that society at large operate the same way.

3. How to survive. This one speaks for itself. In the face of bombings, fires, shootings and attacks of all kinds, the people remain. Many black churches, still today meet in basements, movie theaters, schools, warehouses and storefronts. They push through obstacles and hardships to come together and commit to never letting go of their faith, their community, and most importantly, the act of living. This doesn’t just “happen”. It isn’t some superhuman, magical force that allows black churches to bounce back and hold on. They practice the deliberate, strategic art of survival every single day.

4. The nobility of faithfulness. How easy it is for us to abandon the hard things today. Work, relationships, causes that don’t yield immediate results – all can be discarded and replaced with the click of an email. But from the black church we learn the importance of commitment and faithfulness. The practice of showing up Sunday after Sunday, Wednesday after Wednesday, week after week and year after year, come rain or come shine builds the character necessary to stick with the fights that our livelihood and democracy depend on.

5. How to fight a righteous fight. I am not sure when or where the narrative of the “prayerful and passive” church mother came from, but I’m convinced it was created by the same kind of people who created the pernicious welfare queen stereotype (Don’t quote me on that. It’s my own personal conspiracy theory.) The idea of the black church only bowing on our knees in times of hardship, is not only a historical and theologically inaccurate, but it flies in the face of those who, like Rev. Clementa Pinckney did, work every day to combat injustice armed with faith and sharp, strategic action. From time immemorial, the black church has known how to fight and has been inherently activist and political, even in its very formation. It is that same history that has always made the church such a beacon for those who have wanted to engage large swaths of black America in campaigns – and also for those who want to stop it’s powerful civic organizing through efforts as subtle as voting rights restrictions and as extreme as shocking acts of violence. It is this history that makes me hopeful about those within the church who lift up their voices against sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, and all other forms of oppression that still exist.

These lessons are certainly not unique to the black church or to religious institutions in general for that matter. But they are central to the identity of a place that is often only acknowledged for it’s music and jubilee with no regard for the experiences and practices that root said joy.

All of this is of course, when the church is at its best. The black church is, like most American institutions, deeply flawed. For as many for whom it represents freedom and love, it also represents pain and shame. Anyone who has been hurt by abuses of power and dangerous religious interpretations that shackle and bind instead of liberate has also learned lessons worth sharing. That history too, must be reckoned with. But even for those who longer call it home, the church will always be more than a caricature. It will always be more than something to watch and admire for it’s “soul”. If you dare look a little closer, you will find a well of joy that most only briefly drank from last Friday. Underneath the surface you will find that the black church in America is so, so much more than just a funeral and a song.

TIME Crime

Thousands Expected For Obama’s Tribute to Charleston Victims

Gary Washington
David Goldman—AP Gary Washington holds up a rose before placing it on the casket of his mother, Ethel Lance, following her burial service, June 25, 2015, in Charleston, S.C.

"A hateful, disillusioned young man came into the church filled with hate ... and the reaction was love"

(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — The first black president of the United States is coming to Charleston to eulogize the victims of a mass shooting at a historic African-American church — a tragedy that one civil rights activist said was a sign of “how far yet” the nation has to go to put racial tensions behind it.

Thousands of mourners were expected to gather Friday to hear President Barack Obama pay tribute to the pastor and eight parishioners of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The nine were slain at the church during a Bible study session last week in what authorities are investigating as a racially motivated attack.

Friday’s service for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator, promised to be another wrenching but cathartic occasion for the community to say goodbye to the victims.

Police planned to close several streets around the college arena in downtown Charleston, and said they expect anyone who wants one of the more than 5,000 seats to be there by 9 a.m. The funeral was scheduled to start two hours after.

The first two funerals, for Ethel Lance and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, were held Thursday, with tight security and emotional responses to the eulogies and hymns.

Attendees included South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Sharpton noted that on the day of the shootings, he was in Washington watching Loretta Lynch being sworn in as the nation’s first black female attorney general. “That morning, I saw how far we have come,” Sharpton said. “That night,” after the shooting, “I saw how far yet we have to go.”

Police officers stood guard and checked bags as mourners filed in for the funerals, which were held as the debate over the Confederate flag and other Old South symbols continued around the region. A growing number of leading politicians said Civil War symbols should be removed from places of honor, despite their integral role as elements of Southern identity.

“A hateful, disillusioned young man came into the church filled with hate … and the reaction was love,” Riley said at the funeral for Coleman-Singleton, 45. “He came in with symbols of division. The Confederate battle flag is coming down off our state Capitol.”

Before the second service, more than 100 members of Coleman-Singleton’s Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority formed a ring around the main part of the large sanctuary as part of an Ivy Beyond the Wall ceremony. One by one, the women, clad all in white, filed past the open casket with green ivy leaves, then clasped hands and sang.

Lance had served as a sexton at Emanuel for the past five years, helping to keep the historic building clean. She loved gospel music, watched over a family that grew to include her five children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, and pushed them to earn advanced degrees.

“I want my grandmother’s legacy to be what she stood for,” said granddaughter Aja Risher. “She is going to be a catalyst for change in this country.”

Haley started the groundswell against Confederate icons Monday by successfully calling on South Carolina lawmakers to debate taking down the Confederate battle flag flying in front of the Statehouse. Then Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, also a conservative Republican, brought down four secessionist flags at the Capitol in Montgomery.

Some authorities have worried openly about a backlash as people take matters into their own hands.

“Black Lives Matter” was spray-painted on a monument to Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond, Virginia, on Thursday, only the latest statue to be defaced. On Tuesday and Wednesday, African-American churches in Charlotte, North Carolina; and Macon, Georgia; were intentionally set afire.

But in Charleston, the early gestures of forgiveness by the victims’ families toward a shooting suspect who embraced the Confederate flag set a healing tone that has continued through a series of unity rallies.

The suspect, 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, appears with a Confederate license plate, waving a Confederate flag, burning and desecrating U.S. flags, posing at Confederate museums and with the wax figures of slaves on a website created in his name months before the attacks.

Attorney Boyd Young, who represents Roof’s family, issued a statement saying they will answer questions later, but want to allow the victims’ families to grieve. “We feel it would be inappropriate to say anything at this time other than that we are truly sorry for their loss,” the statement said.

TIME White House

Watch a Mashup of President Obama Getting Heckled

"As a general rule, I am just fine with a few hecklers—but not when I’m up in the house"

President Obama is no stranger to hecklers.

But, every man has his limits. Watch the video above to see how the Commander-in-Chief has responded to various interruptions throughout his two terms in office.

One key takeaway: You can heckle him all you want, but when you’re an invited guest to the White House, too much heckling can get you thrown out.

As Obama said after being heckled at a recent event at 1600 Pennsylvania: “I am just fine with a few hecklers—but not when I’m up in the house. You know what I mean? You know, my attitude is if you’re eating the hors d’oeuvres—you know what I’m saying?”

 

TIME Iran

Why the Nuclear Experts Who Sent an Open Letter to Obama Are Really Talking to Iran

Ali Khamenei
AFP/Getty Images Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, addresses country's top officials during a meeting in Tehran in which he restated his country's red lines for a nuclear deal with world powers on June 23, 2015.

In the Iran nuclear talks, your intended audience isn't always who you think it is

Much is made of how skillful the Iranians are at negotiating—and they are. But the Americans aren’t bad either, at least by the evidence of the latest news from the nuclear talks: an open letter signed by 18 former U.S. officials and experts, including five former advisers to President Obama, warning the president against accepting a deal that fails to include certain vital elements, such as inspections of Iranian military bases and ensuring that relief from sanctions comes only after Iran complies with an agreement.

It’s not the kind of thing you see much in American foreign policy—a group advisory like this, setting out red lines and reminding the nation’s leader of his obligations. You do, however, see it all the time somewhere else—in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Iran’s news media is lousy with these things: Sober, sage proclamations directed to the pinnacle of the political leadership. People talk about the opacity of Iran’s governing structure, and it’s true that between the Council of Guardians, the Assembly of Experts and the Expediency Council—just to name three of Iran’s non-elective bodies —there are more moving parts than a Rube Goldberg mousetrap. But that doesn’t mean things are opaque—just complicated. Ultimate power may rest with the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but his own political survival requires consultations with the groups and individuals who make up his own political base, and a sound reading of the larger Iranian society that ultimately will find a way to hold him accountable. So decisions by Iran’s leaders often take a long time to gestate, and sometimes even longer to emerge.

But that process is more public than you’d think for an official theocracy. Iran has a lot of newspapers, several TV stations and its share of news sites. Most may be linked to the state, but they fairly throb—or pulse, at least—with the words of a governing structure talking to itself. Most of the chatter is in Persian, of course, but it’s all public. That means it has to be read, and the State Department has people just across the Persian Gulf, in Dubai, to follow a lot of it. State quietly pays people in Iran to translate even more, so that folks back in Foggy Bottom can read it too. (“Intelligence” is a sexy word, but the CIA itself says that up to 95 percent of what it knows it finds out by reading the papers—known in the spy game as “OSINT,” for Open Source Intelligence.)

The point, though, is not what American officials read, but what Iranian officials read: “The Public Statement on U.S. Policy Toward the Iran Nuclear Negotiations Endorsed by a Bipartisan Group of American Diplomats, Legislators and Experts,” the heading of the open letter compiled by the impressive, and impressively bi-partisan group assembled by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank. It’s the kind of discourse that speaks to Iranians, relatable and familiar. Which is fortunate, because while its authors addressed it to President Obama, the real audience was Khamenei and the rest of the government of Iran.

The June 30 deadline for a final nuclear pact is just days away, and Khamenei on June 23 delivered a speech that cast the entire enterprise into doubt—reinforced the next day with a helpful chart listing “Major Red Lines in Nuclear Negotiations,” posted on Twitter with the words “Red Lines” in red type. His timing was impeccable. The Leader pounced six days after Secretary of State John Kerry showed a bit of weakness, suggesting publicly that in a final deal Iran might not have to account for past research on a nuclear weapon.

Knowing when to exploit an opening is, of course, one mark of a formidable negotiator. But another is speaking to the other side in a language it understands—which is exactly what the U.S. side is doing with its own Open Letter.

TIME Foreign Policy

White House to Release Review of Hostage Policies

US-IRAQ-SYRIA-CONFLICT-FOLEY
Dominick Reuter—AFP/Getty Images Diane Foley, mother of James Foley, pauses for a moment during an interview at her home in Rochester, N.H. in 2014.

According to reports, the president will also make it easier for the federal government to communicate with families of hostage victims

The White House will release a long-awaited review of U.S. hostage policy on Wednesday, spokesman Josh Earnest confirmed Tuesday.

Earnest said the report would include a policy directive and an executive order from President Obama, months after the White House ordered the review in response to several brutal murders of Western hostages by the terror group the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, or ISIS.

At Tuesday’s press briefing, Earnest confirmed several media outlets’ reporting that the report would be released, but refused to offer details on what it does—and does not—specifically change. Families of some citizens held hostage, Earnest said, would be meeting with members of the Obama Administration who had worked on the report on Tuesday in an effort to “give them the opportunity to see for themselves the contents of the report.”

“Our goals entering into this process was to both better integrate the variety of federal government resources dedicated to securing the safe return of American hostages,” Earnest said Tuesday. “And also to improve communication with families of those held captive overseas.”

Though Earnest wouldn’t go into detail, several media outlets have already reported details of the coming directive and report. According to Foreign Policy, which reported the story on Monday, the new policy would make it clear that families should not fear prosecution for paying ransoms.

The Wall Street Journal says the White House will also establish an office to ease communication between the government and families of American hostages based at the Federal Bureau of Investigations known as thr “hostage recovery fusion cell.”

The New York Times reports that though the directive will not backtrack on the U.S.’s long-held “no-concessions” policy to keep funds out of the hands of terror groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS, it will clarify that family members and the government can communicate and negotiate with groups holding Americans hostage.

Elaine Weinstein, whose husband Warren was taken hostage by Al-Qeada and killed in an American drone strike, released a statement Tuesday calling their interactions with the government while Warren was held hostage “inconsistent at best and utterly disappointing.”

“This review will not bring Warren back, she said. “It is our most sincere hope that it was conducted fully and frankly so the U.S. Government can have an honest conversation about the areas where it falls short. Our benchmark for this review’s success will be the actions arising from it more than its specific findings.”

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