The Russian terrorists want their leader General Radek, whom the Americans helped capture three weeks prior, released from prison. Radek's second in command Ivan Korshunov vows over the phone to Vice President Bennett he will kill one hostage every hour until Radek is freed.
One hour later and there has been no word from Washington about Radek and Ivan's friend Vladimir Krasin has been gunned down by what the terrorists think is a rogue Secret Service agent.
Fed up, Ivan goes into the conference room where the hostages are being kept, informing a subordinate to transfer Washington's call there should they phone. From amongst the hostages, Ivan chooses First Lady Grace Marshall and her daughter, Alice. Everyone thinks he has chosen them to be executed (in reality, he just wants them to come with him up to the command deck) and National Security Adviser Jack Doherty comes forward in an attempt to diffuse the situation. Doherty tells Ivan that the Vice President isn't authorized to negotiate with terrorists. Only the National Security Adviser, he, is.
Whether or not this is true is not gone into. There is a tense moment where it seems as if Doherty's ploy won't work, when suddenly the phone rings, startling everyone. Ivan answers it and speaks to Vice President Bennett.
Inquiring about General Radek, Ivan is told he isn't out of prison yet. He responds to this by putting a bullet into Jack Doherty's forehead, cementing himself as a complete monster by committing this brutal murder in front of the young Alice Marshall. To Bennett over the phone, he snaps that Doherty is a "good negotiator," since his death has given Washington one more hour to release Radek.