The U.S. government will no longer threaten to prosecute families who try to pay ransom to win the release of American hostages held by Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and other groups, officials said on June 23.
After reviewing U.S. policy on hostages, officials decided that the United States may in the future directly negotiate with militants holding hostages, but it will adhere to its longstanding policy of not paying ransom.
President Obama will announce the changes on June 24.
The Obama administration has faced sharp criticism from victims' relatives who have been threatened with prosecution if they pay ransom.
The changes follow the highly publicized beheadings of hostages from the United States and other countries by Islamic State in the past year.
Unlike some European nations, the United States insists it will not make concessions to hostage-takers and has a strict no-payments strategy, saying ransoms only encourage further kidnappings and put funds into the hands of militants.
Over the past decade, European governments are believed to have paid militant groups more than $100 million in ransoms.