There is one known American citizen still being held hostage by the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, but much of her identity — including her name — has been kept under wraps over the last six months. Unfortunately, her anonymity crumbled on Sunday when White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough divulged the first name of the ISIS hostage on live television. Is that going to be a problem? Uh, maybe.
McDonough was appearing on ABC News' "This Week" with host George Stephanopoulos when he let out the crucial tidbit in a discussion about the unfolding ISIS hostage situation. It has been known since the death of freelance journalist James Foley, who was the first ISIS hostage to be executed, that a 26-year-old American woman was being held captive by the militant group. However, her family has requested for her name and other identifying details to be kept secret, as the U.S. government continues to work toward her safe release.
The White House chief gave Stephanopoulos an update on the woman's hostage situation, with one slight slip of the tongue:
As it relates to our hostages, we are obviously continuing to work those matters very, very aggressively. We are sparing no expense and sparing no effort, both in trying to make sure that we know where they are and make sure that we’re prepared to do anything we must to try to get them home. But [name's] family knows how strongly the president feels about this, and we will continue to work this.
At the time, McDonough seemed unaware of his mistake, but ABC News Foreign Editor Jon Williams later acknowledged the flub on Twitter.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council told Politico that there's really nothing to say at this point — except please don't say the American hostage's name. "We don’t have anything to add, other than to request again that you not use the name of the individual," spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said.
The U.S. government is currently aiding Japan in the negotiations for the release of Kenji Goto, a Japanese national and freelance journalist captured by ISIS last fall. A second Japanese national, Haruna Yukawa, was allegedly executed by the militant group over the weekend. Yukawa's death was announced on Saturday in an ISIS-made video featuring Goto, clad in an orange jumpsuit and holding a photo allegedly showing Yukawa's decapitated body.
A video of Yukawa and Goto, similar to the ones showing slain journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, first surfaced last week. The militant group initially demanded a $200 million ransom from the Japanese government by last Friday afternoon. Following Yukawa's execution, ISIS is now demanding the release of attempted suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi, who's currently imprisoned in Jordan.
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