Does the News of Foley's Failed Rescue Put Troops At Risk?

Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon Flickr user Talk Radio News Service

A senior House Republican is demanding an investigation into the possible leak about the failed U.S. military operation to rescue American journalist James Foley from terrorist kidnappers in Syria.

Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, on Thursday issued a statement calling it "outrageous" for someone to have told reporters about the classified mission.

Successful or not, such operations are incredibly sensitive, even after they have concluded.  Disclosure of these missions puts our troops at risk, reduces the likelihood that future missions will succeed, and risks the lives of hostages and informants alike.  While I believe it was unwise for the White House and Department of Defense to formally acknowledge this operation; it is outrageous that someone would be so selfish and short sighted to leak it to the media.  Secretary [Chuck] Hagel should investigate this matter immediately and thoroughly to determine who, if anyone, at the Department of Defense was the source of this damaging leak.

Obama administration officials acknowledged the rescue attempt only after they said news outlets were preparing to report on it. “We never intended to disclose this operation," a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, Caitlin Hayden, said Wednesday night.

An overriding concern for the safety of the hostages and for operational security made it imperative that we preserve as much secrecy as possible. We only went public today when it was clear a number of media outlets were preparing to report on the operation and that we would have no choice but to acknowledge it.”

Foley was executed earlier this week by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which is holding other Americans captive and has threatened to kill at least one, Steven Soltoff.

In a statement on Wednesday, a Pentagon spokesman said the rescue attempt failed because the hostages were not there.

 This operation involved air and ground components and was focused on a particular captor network within ISIL. Unfortunately, the mission was not successful because the hostages were not present at the targeted location.

In a press conference Thursday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the mission was otherwise "flawless" and that the decision to acknowledge the mission – but not its specific methods – was "unanimous."

Two Defense Department officials anonymously criticized the disclosure to The New York Times, saying it would hinder future rescue efforts and gives ISIL too much information.

“This only makes our job harder,” the official said.  “I’m very disappointed this was released. We knew any second operation would be a lot harder.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., also criticized the leak on Thursday, saying on Fox News that it was an attempt by an embattled administration to "help their PR."

(Image via Flickr user Talk Radio News Service)

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