“I’m relieved and incredibly grateful that justice prevailed,” Diane Foley told me after the verdict.
Bergen: What’s your reaction to the verdict?
Foley: Well, I’m relieved and incredibly grateful that justice prevailed. It was not an easy case to prove because members of ISIS were very savvy about their security. They always wore black hoods. They also always made the hostages turn away from them when they came in the cell. They knew how to cover their tracks and protect their identities. So, it was a difficult case to prove, and it really required Scotland Yard as well as the FBI and the best of our prosecuting attorneys to make this happen. It was quite a feat in many ways.
Bergen: Were you surprised that Elsheikh was found guilty on all counts?
Foley: I wasn’t surprised, but I was concerned that it was tough for witnesses to physically identify him because he was always hooded. So, he really protected himself and it was not easy to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was one of the brutal Beatles.
Bergen: The interviews that he gave was when he was first in custody in the Middle East helped implicate him?
Bergen: What do you think the most damaging statements that he made freely in those interviews were?
Bergen: Did you ever think that they would get inside a US courtroom and be tried?
Foley: Well, we kept hoping. The FBI kept telling us that they were collecting information. Scotland Yard certainly was also doing so, but this really was a team effort with a lot of committed people on both sides of the Atlantic working to make this happen. When the Trump administration’s Attorney General William Barr waived the death penalty, that was a big step because that allowed us to work together with the Brits to really make this happen and get a strong case.
Bergen: Because the Brits would not allow Elshiekh to come to the United States if the death penalty was on the table?
Bergen: What was the reaction to the guilty verdicts in the courtroom?
Foley: Well, relief, exhaustion, deep gratitude on my part. The prosecution worked on this for years. So, it’s been a long time coming, and we’re particularly grateful because mercy and justice prevailed. We didn’t use any armed drones or bombs to achieve accountability. We were able to prove in a courtroom beyond a reasonable doubt that Elsheikh was, in fact, guilty. Now, he’ll be able to spend the rest of his life incarcerated and be able to ponder what he did. And who knows, maybe he’ll be remorseful at some point?
Bergen: It is rare for somebody to have been involved in these kidnappings and murders to be prosecuted successfully?
Foley: It is. Impunity is what normally happens, and that’s why this is such a big deal, because without any accountability, this terror continues, right?
Bergen: Are there other points that would be important for CNN’s readers to understand?
Foley: Well, I think the biggest one is that there are 60-plus publicly known cases of US nationals currently in the same situation [that Jim, Steve, Kayla, and Peter were in, and I can’t help but think how many Americans must die before our country prioritizes their return.
Bergen: These detainees are held both by authoritarian regimes and by terrorist groups?
Foley: Yes. But most are held by states at this moment, by the Russians, the Syrians, the Iranians, Venezuela, and China. Because they’re states, it makes it more complicated because negotiations involve much more than ransom or even the exchange of prisoners. There’s often lots of other things other countries want from the United States. So, it makes it incredibly complicated but incredibly important that we get them out as soon as possible because we are finding the longer, they’re held, the more the captors want from our government.