The U.S. government obtained intelligence on the possible location of American captives held by ISIS in Syria last year, but Obama administration officials waited nearly a month to launch a rescue mission because of concerns that the intelligence wasn’t conclusive and some of it had come from a foreign service, U.S. and British officials told The Daily Beast.
British officials, as well as private security contractors, said they were frustrated by Washington’s hesitance to give the go-ahead for a rescue attempt, which eventually was carried out on July 4, 2014, by which time the hostages had been moved. The following month, ISIS began beheading its American and British prisoners in a series of grisly Internet videos.
Toward the end of May, the British government had identified two or three locations in and around the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the so-called Islamic State, where the militants had moved hostages during the previous weeks and months. But the British were not absolutely sure in which location the Westerners were held. The captives included American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, as well aid worker Kayla Mueller. The information—based on debriefings of European captives who had been released, satellite and drone surveillance, and electronic eavesdropping—was not definitive in May.
Then, in early June, London had a “positive identification and that information was shared with Washington,” said a British source. The delay of nearly a month before the rescue bid was mounted remains a source of bewilderment for British officials.
But a U.S. official said that inside the White House, Obama’s senior national-security advisers were not willing to base a raid on intelligence developed by a foreign service. “The issue was that they didn’t trust it, and they wanted to develop and mature the intelligence, because it wasn’t our own,” said the U.S. official, who asked to remain anonymous when discussing sensitive hostage-rescue efforts.