In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Sotloff family spokesperson Barak Barfi revealed that American freelance photographer Steven Joel Sotloff was captured as he entered Syria and then sold to ISIS by ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels.
According to Cooper’s blog, Barfi, who is a research fellow at the left-leaning New America Foundation, and Sotloff were childhood friends.
The price tag paid by ISIS for Sotloff, according to Barfi, was “something between $25,000 and $50,000.”
“Somebody at the border crossing made a phone call. Barfi said Steven’s “name was on a list, people had said he was responsible for the bombing of a hospital, this was false, activists spread his name around,” and he was captured just after entering Syria.
While the news that Sotloff had been captured and then sold by moderates to ISIS was not known before, neither was the tension between the Sotloff family and the administration.
SOTLOFF FAMILY SPOKESPERSON SAID RELATIONS BETWEEN THE FAMILY AND THE ADMINISTRATION ‘VERY STRAINED’
Bakri said that the U.S. administration “made a number of inaccurate statements.” For example, the administration “said that the family has been regularly and consistently informed,” and that “these hostages were frequently moved.” But Barfi, speaking only for the Sotloff family, said neither of those statements are true.
In a voice tight with anguish, Barfi said that both Sotloff and James Foley, an American reporter who was beheaded the week before Sotloff, were “pawns” in a game being played between the Pentagon and the intelligence community, with the White House.
“We know the intelligence community and the White House are enmeshed in a larger game of infighting and Jim [Foley] and Steve are pawns in that game and that’s not fair. If there continue to be leaks the Sotloff family will have to speak out to set the record straight,” Barfi said.
The Sotloff family’s relationship with the administration was, according to Barfi, “very strained.” He mentioned leaks from the administration about what happened to the captives, and he also said the administration did not provide adequate resources or cooperation with the families.
Very specifically, Barfi said that “once Steve appeared in that video, the Sotloff family made one simple request of the administration and they were rebuffed on that.” Barfi would not say what the request was because he said it could threaten the hostages still being held, but he appeared confident the administration would know exactly to what he was referring.
When Cooper asked how the family felt about the statement issued by the administration expressing condolences to them for the ‘loss of Steven,’ this is what Barfi said:
Anderson, when your view into the largest and most powerful government in the world is two FBI agents, that’s simply not enough for 80 – 90 percent of the interaction you have with the government, that’s not enough.
The administration could have done more, they could have helped us, they could have seen them through. These are people of modest means. They are not cosmopolitan, they don’t have college educations, they don’t understand the larger ramifications of foreign policy and they just do not believe that they were afforded the opportunities and the respect they should have by this administration. [emphasis added.]
Barfi also had recommendations for the administration for how to deal with the families of hostages in the future. He was particularly pointed about there having been no coordination from the administration, and even no contact at all for many months.
On behalf of the Sotloff family, Barfi recommended that there be a central point person to whom families of hostages can go in order to obtain information and support. Apparently, nothing like this was in place as the Sotloff (and Foley) families experienced their respective hostage crises.