Just how long did the White House sit on intelligence on where ISIS held American hostages? Allahpundit asked that question yesterday, when the difference in sources put it between four and seven weeks. The mother of James Foley tells the Daily Beast’s Jamie Dettmer and Shane Harris that it may have been closer to four months:
But Diane Foley, the mother of James Foley, who was the first American to be shown murdered on camera, also raised questions about the timing of the rescue effort, telling The Daily Beast that French officials had developed information about the hostages’ location as early as March, but that the U.S. government didn’t act on it.
“That was part of our frustration,” she said. “The State Department said they were connecting with the French and everybody at the highest levels.” And yet, there was no movement on the U.S. side. “Very specific information was available as early as mid-March. And that’s what’s been so tough for us as families, because apparently they were held in the same place all those months,” Foley said.
So it’s not just British afflicted with “bewilderment,” as Dettmer and Harris put it, over the lack of initiative from Barack Obama. And it may be more than bewilderment — it might be anger over a lack of trust among allies:
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.
“They got the information. They just didn’t trust it. And they did sit on it, there’s no doubt about that,” the official said.
Perhaps this is a lingering aftershock from the collapse of the CURVEBALL intel almost 12 years ago. The Germans developed CURVEBALL, who claimed to have detailed information on the scope and location of Saddam Hussein’s new WMD programs, especially in chemical and biological weapons (and the Germans became skeptical of Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi’s claims before the war began, too). It turned into a wild-goose chase after the invasion, and when that well came up dry, suddenly everyone either had lots of reasons why no one should have relied on the information, or claimed that the US and the British lied about it.
This, however, was a different story. We work closely with British intelligence — so closely that our own NSA scandal involves them, too — and they rated this information as solid. According to Diane Foley, the French had also developed similar intelligence long before that corroborated MI-5. That would be two different agencies developing the same intelligence, and the CIA’s contacts with former hostages who had been ransomed should have confirmed the reliability of the information — at least enough to attempt a mission there. We eventually did attempt a mission, but weeks and months too late to do any good.
It’s one thing to work to minimize risks. It’s another to be risk-averse to the point of paralysis. That matches closely to the months of indecision and waffling that allowed ISIS to rampage through the Iraq-Syria desert and threaten Baghdad, Kirkuk, and sack Mosul. President Obama doesn’t need a new AUMF — he just needs the will to act.