Former al Qaida hostage recounts nightmare — of dealing with FBI

Credit: TISH WELLS — McClatchy

NANCY A. YOUSSEF

The only thing as bad as being tortured for months as a captive of jihadists in Syria was dealing with the U.S. government afterward, according to one former American hostage.

Matt Schrier, 36, a freelance photographer held by extremists for seven months in 2013 until he escaped, has told McClatchy that the bureaucracy he endured upon his return home was a second kind of nightmare following the months of abuse he suffered while he was a hostage.

“I never thought it would get this bad,” Schrier said.

The FBI never told his father that he had been kidnapped. It waited six months into his capture to produce a wanted poster, and only after his mother prodded. It allowed jihadist forces to empty his bank account — $17,000 — with purchases on eBay, even as the government warned hostage families not to pay ransom so as not to run afoul of anti-terrorism laws.

After his escape, the government made him reimburse the State Department $1,605 for his ticket home just weeks after he arrived in the United States. The psychiatrist assigned to help him readjust canceled five appointments in the first two months. And when he had no means to rent an apartment, FBI victims services recommended New York City homeless shelters.

The FBI declined to comment on the specifics of Schrier’s complaints but said in a statement that “When an American is detained illegally overseas, the FBI’s top priority is ensuring the safe return of that individual.”

“To that end,” the statement said, “the FBI provides support services to victims and their families, to include help in meeting short-term exigent needs, and shares information about their loved ones that is timely and appropriate.”