Photo Credit: YouTube
Steven Joel Sotloff as a hostage of ISIS, before his beheading.

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.


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.


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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email:


  1. We just don't know anything, do we? What goes on behind the scenes in politics is probably so horrific that perhaps we're better off not knowing. One's heart goes out to both the Foley and Sotloff families – but what good does that do for them? As far as the Sotloff family is concerned, it is difficult to believe that Barack Obama would go out of his way to do anything even remotely decent for Jews, let alone for Israelis.

  2. No thanks…I much rather have a more diverse government…where a good a robust economy, jobs, infrastructure, are just as important as National Security!
    And where a political party isn't always trying to privatize every aspect of American life, or create a theocratic police state…where Christian fanatics, who are even worse then ISIL, can live in their biblical fantasy land!!!

  3. You are an ignorant idiot and need to know the simple fact that the United States does NOT NEGOTIATE with Terrorists! The only person being disrespectful seems to be you. As for Lying, there is not one single republican in the government today who tells the truth about anything, NOT A SINGLE THING! They practice the Nazi Big Lie, Lie to them often enough, make it outrageous enough and they will believe it! If the repubs did not lie about everything, no one would ever vote for them!

  4. Rivkah Lange You are simply and ignorant idiot if you think President Obama is anti-Semitic. As for a failure, I think you may have forgotten that the repubs on the first day that Obama was elected (2 1/2 months before he was sworn in) that the republicans met and agreed to do everything possible to make him fail. The economy was in shambles (thanks to bush and his repub friends) and the repubs voted against every single thing that the President put forth, including things they they wanted! The ACA was a repub idea and they have spent several years wining about it. Mitch McConnell even voted against a bill he submitted because he was afraid it would pass and that it would mak Obama look good. You need to stop hating a person who only has you in mind. I see you are retired (good for you, so am I,) ARE YOU AWARE THAT REPUBLICANS WANT TO DO AWAY WITH SOCIAL SECURITY. THEY WANT TO DO AWAY WITH MEDICARE! Before I retired I had a "Cadilac" medical insurance program and even though my company paid for half of the policy, It still cost me almost $15,000 a year. My Medicare and supplemental plan and drug plan are even better that the "cadilac" plan I had and it costs me about $3,600 a year and if the repubs are elected not only will I lose that but my social security will be taken away AND SO WILL YOURS! Rivkh, I know Barback and if you don't like him that's OK, but to say he is anti-Semetic is simply not true!

  5. What happened to Steven Joel Sotloff is despicable and President Obama is doing the only thing he can do and that is bomb ISIS back to the beginning of time and even then the repubs will give him a hard time. The United States does not Negotiate with Terrorists and to be mad with the President because the US would not come up with $25,000 to $50,000 is not the answer. I personally did not know this was in the area of possibility of getting him free! If people knew that why was there no publicity? Why was there no place to contribute? Did anyone approach any of our wealthy lansmen and ask for help. Adleson, Bloomberg, and don't forget there are several billionaires who are Jewish and if called upon to help in this instance I'm sure that they could have come up with this money in a matter of seconds. So blaming President Obama who could not legally do anything is not the right thing to do.

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