White House Appoints 1st Hostage Envoy

White House Appoints 1st Hostage EnvoyWhite House Appoints 1st Hostage Envoy

US President Barack Obama appointed a career diplomat to the newly created post of hostage envoy Friday as part of an effort to overhaul the way the government handles US citizens taken hostage overseas.

Jim O’Brien was a special envoy to the Balkans for former president Bill Clinton and served as a senior adviser to former state secretary Madeleine Albright, USA Today reported.

Obama created the position in June when he signed an executive order on the handling of hostage incidents overseas. That order allows the families of hostages to privately arrange payments for their release without threat of prosecution and followed complaints from families of hostages killed by Islamic State militants that the federal response was uncoordinated and ineffective.

O’Brien’s formal title will be “special presidential envoy for hostage affairs.” But despite calls by some hostage families and members of Congress to create a hostage “czar” with broad power across government agencies, the position will not report directly to the president.

Instead, O’Brien will answer to the secretary of state and work with a “fusion cell” of representatives from the FBI, the military, the US Treasury Department and intelligence agencies.

White House Homeland Security Adviser Lisa Monaco said O’Brien’s job would be to “synchronize diplomatic efforts in support of comprehensive strategies to bring home American hostages” and to communicate those efforts directly to the families of hostages.