The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Commission on Hostage Taking and Wrongful Detention explores responses to the growing phenomenon of hostage taking. Over the next 18 months, the bipartisan commission will meet to explore and consider tools to strengthen U.S. policy, with the goal of:

  • Proposing new U.S. government policies that could deter further hostage taking;
  • Studying the efficacy of different strategies toward diverse actors;
  • Developing additional tools and authorities to empower U.S. officials and the families of hostages.

Former national security adviser to President Trump Robert O’Brien co-chairs the commission alongside Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who serves in an honorary capacity. The Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian, who was held hostage in Iran when serving as Tehran bureau chief, will help direct the effort, in cooperation with Dr. Jon B. Alterman, a senior vice president and the Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy at CSIS. The commission includes returned hostages, hostage family members, former law enforcement and national security officials, diplomats, academics, and journalists, all of whom have a long track record working on hostage and detainee issues. The commission will meet for 18 months and ultimately release a report with findings and policy recommendations.


  • Amb. Robert O’Brien, Larson LLP
  • Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (Honorary), D-New Hampshire

Executive Directors

  • Jon Alterman, CSIS
  • Jason Rezaian, Washington Post/CSIS


  • David Bradley, National Journal Group
  • Mickey Bergman, Richardson Center for Global Engagement
  • Col. (Ret.) Chris Costa, International Spy Museum
  • Amb. Jeffrey Feltman, Brookings Institution and UN Foundation
  • Prof. Danielle Gilbert, Northwestern University
  • Emily Horne, Allegro Public Affairs
  • Eric Lebson, Camden Advisory Group
  • Cynthia Loertscher, James W. Foley Legacy Foundation
  • Sarah (Levinson) Moriarty, New America
  • Jason Poblete, Poblete Tamargo LLP
  • Tim Rieser, U.S. Senate staff
  • David Rohde, NBC News
  • Joel Simon, Journalism Protection Initiative, Newmark School
  • Jonathan Wackrow, Teneo
  • Nizar Zakka, Hostage Aid Worldwide

Contact Information

Featured Analysis



Just Call Them Hostages

The U.S. government should start calling a spade a spade. When foreign nations illegally detain Americans simply to gain leverage over the United States, the government should call them what they are: “state hostages.”

Commentary by Daniel Sharp and Jason Rezaian — July 20, 2023

In the News