Terrorists Sent James Foley’s Family, GlobalPost Execution Threats

The U.S. was aware of his location, and reportedly launched a special mission to try and save the journalist.
GlobalPost CEO Philip Balboni/Photo via Associated Press

GlobalPost CEO Philip Balboni/Photo via Associated Press

The Boston-based international news organization that employed freelance journalist James Foley, who was decapitated by Islamic extremists on video as a warning to America to stop dropping bombs in Iraq, said they had correspondence with Foley’s captors in the weeks prior to his execution.

“We’d last week received an email from the kidnappers that was full of rage against the US for the bombings,” GlobalPost CEO Philip Balbon said during an interview with reporters on Wednesday. “They stated they would execute Jim. Obviously we hoped and prayed that would not be the case, and we communicated as quickly as we could with the captors; pleaded with them for mercy; and explained he was an innocent journalist and had done no harm to the Syrian people and asked them to give us time to find another means.”

But the pleas fell on deaf ears.

The militant group known as the Islamic State murdered Foley, who was captured in Syria while on assignment for GlobalPost in December of 2012. The video was then distributed widely online and used to send threats to President Barack Obama to put an end to continued airstrikes in northern Iraq, or more captives would be killed.

Obama addressed Foley’s execution on Wednesday during a press conference from Martha’s Vineyard, where he’s on vacation. Obama said he was “appalled” by the militant group’s actions, which shocked “the conscience of the entire world.”

“All of us mourn his loss,” said Obama, adding that he had spoken with Foley’s family, and expressed his sorrow for the death of their son.

According to the New York Times, the militants pushed for the U.S. to funnel them millions of dollars for Foley’s release, but federal officials refused to meet their demands. A special team of two dozen Delta Force commandos was also deployed in an effort to rescue the journalist, but the raid was “complicated” and unsuccessful, the report said.

Balboni said GlobalPost spent millions of dollars investigating the whereabouts of Foley, and learned he was being held captive in Syria by the Islamic State, but decided to keep the information private at the behest of both U.S. officials and Foley’s family members.

“We have been working on this case for almost two years with a team of investigators in the field in Europe and the Middle East, looking for his whereabouts and means of securing his freedom,” said Balboni.

He said they made all of their intelligence gathered available to both the FBI and the State Department.

When asked if the family was disappointed in how the U.S. handled negotiations with the terrorists, Balboni was hesitant to answer.

“There is no easy way to bring these hostages [home], and to have brought Jim back. I think there will be a time for the post mortem [investigation] on everything that transpired, and what else could have been done,” he said. “They were not in a position to take a hard line with the Islamic State, they just wanted to bring him home.”


Steve Annear Steve Annear, Digital Writer at Boston Magazine sannear@bostonmagazine.com