"President Barack Obama conceded Wednesday that the U.S. government had let down the families of Americans held hostage by terrorists and promised they would not face criminal prosecution for paying ransoms to their loved ones' captors," according to the Associated Press .
"The president said for the first time that U.S. government officials can communicate directly with terrorists and help families negotiate for the release of hostages. More than 30 Americans are being held hostage abroad, White House officials said."
"The review was sparked by sharp criticism of the Obama administration from families of Americans kidnapped by the Islamic State, al-Qaida and other groups. Families have complained about receiving confusing and contradictory information from the government and bristled at threats of prosecution for considering paying terrorists to secure the release of hostages."