President Barack Obama’s “hesitation” to make a decision about American reporter James Foley’s rescue mission delayed the failed operation, according to a report.
Toby Harnden, a reporter at The Sunday Times, tweeted Friday that a senior Pentagon official confirmed that Obama’s “hesitation” delayed the failed mission, which took place July 4.
Foley, an American freelance reporter, went missing in Syria in 2012 and was executed by ISIS militants, who posted the video of his beheading online. The Obama administration revealed that U.S. special forces had attempted a mission to rescue Foley and other Americans held by the ISIS, including Time reporter Steven Sotloff, but that intelligence failed and the hostages weren’t present.
The White House said in a statement on the attempted rescue that the “hostages were in danger with each passing day.”
Harnden reported earlier this week that Obama took almost 30 days to approve the mission, according to Anthony Shaffer, a former lieutenant-colonel in U.S. military intelligence.
“I’m told it was almost a 30-day delay from when they said they wanted to go to when he finally gave the green light,” Shaffer told Harnden. “They were ready to go in June to grab [Foley] and they weren’t permitted.”
Now current senior Pentagon officials have reportedly confirmed that President Obama delayed the rescue operation.
The National Security Council press team denied Harnden’s report, tweeting Friday that the senior Pentagon official’s comments were “not true” and that the operation took place as soon as President Obama and national security advisers were “confident it could be carried out successfully.”
Harnden called the statement a “non-denial denial” and reported that while it’s not clear whether Foley could have been saved, “top Pentagon officials think maybe” an earlier mission would have been successful.
As of last November, New York nonprofit the Committee to Protect Journalists estimated that at least 30 journalists have been taken captive in Syria.