A Book Celebrates James Foley and Confronts a Man Involved in His Murder

A Book Celebrates James Foley and Confronts a Man Involved in His Murder


“He was much bigger and messier than what I thought he would be,” McCann added. “I like those complications, and I think increasingly, we don’t want to talk about those complications.”

For McCann, the most remarkable moment in the encounters came at the conclusion of the third and final meeting, when Foley reached out to shake Kotey’s hand. To McCann’s surprise, Kotey clasped her hand — an act that would be prohibited under some interpretations of Islamic law. When McCann later questioned Kotey about the exchange, Kotey answered that Foley was “like a mother to us all,” thereby excusing the contact under a familial exemption.

“He’s touched the hand of a woman,” said McCann, “but he’s acknowledged her as a mother.”

Ultimately, Foley’s anger was directed more at her own country than at Kotey. When James Foley was taken hostage, she said she was often left in the dark by a government that maintained a strict policy of not negotiating with terrorists. Foley said she spent years being shuttled between agencies, and was even threatened with prosecution should her family try to pay her son’s ransom. “I was enraged at how our country had treated me, the way they treated Jim’s plight,” she said.

Through her foundation, Foley urged President Obama to reform the United States’s international hostage policy. It was in part on her instigation that Obama eventually formed hostage response groups at the F.B.I. and the National Security Council, and created the position of a hostage coordinator to support families. “She is pure guts,” said the broadcast journalist Judy Woodruff, who has interviewed Foley several times. “She’s able to look powerful government officials in the face and say, ‘This is what we’ve got to do.’”

More recently, Foley was among those who successfully argued for the passage of the Levinson Act through Congress, which further bolstered resources to bring back hostages.

“What we refer to as the hostage recovery enterprise would likely not exist at all without Diane Foley,” said Roger Carstens, the special presidential envoy at the State Department for hostage affairs. Carstens believes even the Biden administration’s negotiation process to secure the release last year of six Americans wrongfully detained in Venezuela can be directly traced to her advocacy. “She created the machinery that makes it possible to bring people like them home,” he said.



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