Despite a U.S. ban on ransom payments to terrorists, the White House is saying that helping to facilitate a payment is not the same as actually paying a ransom.

The White House is declining to confirm a Wall Street Journal report that the Federal Bureau of Investigation assisted the family of al-Qaida hostage Warren Weinstein pay a $250,000 ransom in an unsuccessful bid for his release.

Weinstein remained captive and President Barack Obama announced last week that he was accidentally killed in drone strike on an al-Qaida compound.

Obama spokesman Josh Earnest says U.S. policy is to ban ransom for hostages since extremists use the money to fund their terror activities. But he says helping with a ransom payment "is not tantamount to paying a ransom."