Robert O’Brien, the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington on Tuesday that the U.S. government believes Tice is alive.
“As many of you know, Austin’s case is a tough one, he’s been missing, he’s been held captive, since Aug. 14, 2012,” O’Brien said.
“It’s now long past time for his captors to allow Austin to come home,” O’Brien said. He said that he and top officials have been meeting with the Tice family over recent months to keep them apprised of efforts to bring Austin home.
Marc Tice, Austin’s father, told the crowd that the consensus is that his son is alive. He thanked media members and government officials for keeping his son’s story in the spotlight.
Austin, 37, is a former Marine Corps infantry captain who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and was attending Georgetown University and freelance reporting for various media outlets at the time of his capture.
“Pariah states like Iran, terrorist groups around the world continue to take people hostage or unjustly detain them,” O’Brien said Tuesday.
When asked by journalists if he could identify what group was holding Tice and whether there had been any “proof of life” evidence received since shortly after Tice’s disappearance, O’Brien said he could not answer those questions.
O’Brien later confirmed that government officials believe that Tice is being held captive in Syria but declined to share further details, citing Tice’s safety and security.
Austin’s parents, Marc and Debra, have worked tirelessly to keep their son’s captivity in the spotlight. They made an appearance in August, on the anniversary date of his disappearance, on NBC’s “The Today Show.”
The family maintains a website with details of their son’s life and disappearance, including a countdown clock noting the days, hours, minutes and seconds that pass.
His parents are in the midst of planning their eighth trip to Beirut, Lebanon, to attempt to reach out to his captors. Part of that work includes a “Night Out For Austin,” being conducted by the National Press Club, which will be held in Washington.
The planners are scheduling the “night out” on May 2 — the day before World Press Freedom Day. The Press Club will donate 50 percent of revenue and is asking partner restaurants, which they hope to have come aboard in the D.C. metro area with plans for a nationwide night out drive, said Andrea Edney, club president.
In April the FBI posted a $1 million reward for information that leads directly to the “safe location, recovery and return of Austin Bennett Tice.”
In 2017, the New York Times had reported that the CIA had established a back channel with Syria to attempt to free Tice.
In 2016, the Syrian government released Kevin Patrick Dawes, a U.S. freelance photographer who’d been held for illegally entering the country for more than three years.
After that release, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told The Associated Press that the government had no information about Tice’s location.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.