The secret mission earlier this summer involved dozens of elite personnel in a brazen helicopter attack into Syria.
Today, as Americans reel from the videotaped depiction of Foley’s gruesome execution, a military official tells ABC News the mission failed because Foley and the other targeted hostages weren’t there:
Intelligence is not a perfect science. The truth is, we don’t know. And that’s the truth. When we got there, they weren’t there. We don’t know why that is.
Advancing on foot toward a facility in an undisclosed location, the American forces met resistance and engaged in a firefight, killing several ISIS fighters. One American was injured.
President Obama spoke out Wednesday about the beheading of American journalist James Foley, saying the world was "appalled" by the actions of ISIS.Click here to read more
After determining the hostages were not on the premises, U.S. forces escaped in their helicopters.
The complex mission involved several branches of the military and included drones and fighter jets in addition to helicopters.
An Obama counterterrorism aide tells the Wall Street Journal the president pulled the trigger because the hostages were in peril and the intelligence seemed sound:
When the opportunity presented itself, the president authorized the Department of Defense to move aggressively to recover our citizens. Unfortunately, that mission was ultimately not successful because the hostages were not present.
Officials are withholding further details to keep from compromising future missions.
And at least one more American prisoner is now in imminent danger. At the end of the Foley beheading video, the executioner presents and threatens to kill another American journalist, Joel Sotloff, if Obama and America continue military attacks on ISIS.