This was the logic behind U.S. policy, and yet the government has paid ransoms to criminal organizations, such as drug cartels.Every Federal Reserve branch in the U.S. maintains a stash of bills to be used to pay ransoms. Corporations routinely take out ransom insurance for employees stationed abroad, and the F.B.I. even facilitates such payments. It’s only when the kidnappers are part of an acknowledged terrorist group that payments become illegal.
Hovering silently over this wrenching discussion was the fact of Bradley’s fortune. He was already bankrolling the team that was trying to free the hostages; he was absorbing the families’ travel expenses; he was flying to foreign destinations himself. His generosity was without question but not, apparently, without limits. Prudent and conservative by temperament, he had forbidden his staff to discuss ransoms. Carl Mueller hinted that he was willing to sell his house, but Bradley didn’t bite. The risk of prosecution that made Bradley wary of ransoms posed an obstacle to other potential donors as well. And there was an additional complication: if Bradley was known to be involved, the ransom demands would inevitably increase.
Source: New Yorker