(CNN) – U.S. Special Forces conducted a clandestine raid this summer, but were unable to rescue their target.
On July 4 weekend, a daring nighttime raid just outside the city of Raqqa in northern Syria, a stronghold of ISIS.
U.S. Special Forces were sent into danger because the intelligence showed the target was “a likely location where hostages were being held. A senior U.S. official tells CNN it was not certain.
The intelligence failed.
"Intelligence doesn't come wrapped in a package with a bow. It is a mosaic of many pictures, of many factors,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said.
The mission is unprecedented.
"In a situation where you are going into a country which is fraught with danger, which is potentially going into a city which is controlled by a nefarious and horrific force like ISIS, the risk levels go up considerably,” CNN military analyst Ret. Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said.
It began under the cover of darkness and several dozen elite commandos from units like Army Delta forces and the Navy's Seal Team Six landing in specially equipped radar evading helicopters.
They quickly made their way to a building where they were told James Foley and other American hostages were being held. No one was there. A firefight with nearby militants broke out where several ISIS militants were killed.
The U.S. team got back to their helicopters and left.
The operation, including the helicopters, is similar to the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Fighter jets patrolled overhead and Syrian radars were jammed. Team members moved to block nearby access roads. The entire mission lasted about two hours.
Now, questions about whether other hostages lives are at risk from the administration's revelations take over.
"It's the responsibility of our government and our leaders to do all we can to take action when we believe there might be a good possibility of, a good chance to make a rescue effort successful,” Hagel said.
U.S. officials say a number of options are being reviewed about how to deal with ISIS, including stepped up airstrikes in Iraq and possibly even Syria, but they strongly emphasized no decisions have been made.
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