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U.S. vows killers of James Foley will be ‘held accountable’

August 21, 2014 at 6:05 PM EDT
The Justice Department opened a criminal investigation into the murder of American journalist James Foley in Syria. That news came after word that earlier this summer a U.S. raid targeted an Islamic State site in Northern Syria in hopes of rescuing the reporter and other captives. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel defended the mission, saying it was not an intelligence failure. Judy Woodruff reports.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. government announced today that it is going after the man who beheaded American journalist James Foley. This word came after news that American special forces tried and failed to rescue the reporter and others from his Islamic State captors.

CHUCK HAGEL, Secretary of Defense: We all regret that the mission didn’t succeed, but I’m very proud, very proud of the U.S. forces that participated in it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: News of the failed hostage rescue brought Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army General Martin Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the Pentagon briefing room this afternoon.

CHUCK HAGEL: This operation, by the way, was a flawless operation, but the hostages were not there. So, we will do everything that we need to do, that the American people would expect from their leaders, to continue to do everything we can to get our hostages back.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The raid targeted an Islamic State site in Northern Syria earlier this summer, but found no sign of James Foley or any other hostages.

CHUCK HAGEL: As to your question, was this a failure of intelligence, no. The fact is, as you all know, intelligence doesn’t come wrapped in a package with a bow.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In a statement last night, the National Security Council said it never intended to disclose the operation. Rather, it said, “We only went public when it was clear a number of media outlets were preparing to report on the operation.”

The news leaked after the Islamic State group posted a video titled “A Message to America,” showing Foley being beheaded. Today, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department is going after the killers.

ERIC HOLDER, Attorney General: We have an open criminal investigation. And those who would perpetrate such acts need to understand something. This Justice Department, the Department of Defense, this nation, we have long memories, and our reach is very wide. We will not forget what happened. And people will be held accountable one way or the other.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The New York Times reported today the United States rejected an Islamic State demand to pay a multimillion-dollar ransom for James Foley’s release.

Other Western countries have funneled millions to the militants in exchange for the release of their citizens. Meanwhile, the British accent of the militant in the beheading video raised new questions about the Islamic State’s reach.

MAN: We have brothers from Bangladesh, from Iraq, from Cambodia, Australia, U.K.

JUDY WOODRUFF: This video released by the group in June shows militants identifying themselves as British urging Westerners to join them and saying, the cure for depression is jihad. The video was removed from YouTube shortly after its release.