OTR Interviews

Bolton: Revelation of failed rescue mission for American journalist a 'stunning breach of security' for America, motivated by politics

Former US ambassador to the U.N. says the failed US mission to rescue the journalist executed by ISIS never should have been revealed to the public, was motivated by White House politics. #JamesFoley


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," August 20, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: The U.S. and Britain trying to identify the ISIS killer who beheaded James Foley, the executioner speaking with the British video. It is a disturbing reminder that ISIS is recruiting members from western nations.

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, joins us. Good evening, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: Prime Minister David Cameron coming off vacation, rushing back to London.

BOLTON: Well, I think it demonstrates a sense of responsibility that this could well be a British citizen who is involved in this execution and it could well be beyond that that British intelligence does have some idea who this person is, who he might be connected to inside Britain so that the prime minister wants to be there in case there are other operations that have to take place against people in a larger conspiracy already in London.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I assume that they are doing very sort of sophisticated analysis on the accent, because even, you know, an American speaking you can tell whether the person is from the south or the Midwest or the east. I imagine they are doing everything they can to almost identify the neighborhood.

BOLTON: Yeah, I think they want to find out what locality, what nationality this person's parents were from. Did he come as a small child? Has he been there? And, you know, there is a question whether they have other videos or tapes or intercepts or whatever of this person and other contexts, too.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you make of the breaking news tonight that the Pentagon has released the information that they had a failed rescue mission, supposedly trying to get, perhaps, Mr. Foley?

BOLTON: I think this is a stunning breech of security for the United States. Obviously, ordered by the White House, I cannot conceive of the Pentagon releasing this on their own. This is exactly the sort of thing that should remain completely confidential for 50 years, number one, because it tells people what we try to do. Number two, it's an admission of failure. Well, the United States tried again and couldn't do it. Number three, whoever was -- we relied upon, whoever gave us the tip is now in jeopardy from the Islamic State and they will be dead already. This is just not something do you.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think -- you know, I'm always hammering the administration for not being transparent.

BOLTON: This is a covert operation. It's not supposed to be transparent.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm just trying to avoid being as much as a hypocrite sometimes I find myself unfortunately being. I tried not to be. But the thing that disturbs me here is the failed intelligence and what in the world -- I mean, is our intelligence so bad? I mean, I'm very hard on the CIA director, who has now admitted to domestic spying which is a crime, and getting off an apology. You know, is our intelligence that bad that we could show up on a rescue mission and nobody is there.

BOLTON: Well, it's happened before. It happened to Vietnam. We know these things are possible, but I think over the years, our intelligence -- our ability to gather intelligence through the United States and its agents itself has deteriorated markedly. And what we need is a vast expansion of our own intelligence gathering capability, not relying on other countries.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think this was information about the failed thing was really for political reasons? Is it to make it look like the administration was really engaged in trying to find him? Is that why?

BOLTON: I can't think of any other reason to release this? The whole nature of clandestine operations rests on the belief that you can conduct an operation and keep it from coming out. And if you fail to do that, you are telling your adversaries what your capabilities are and even worse here, to say that it was a failed operation. I think these guys probably got in. They found that the target area was empty of the prisoners and they got out without anybody knowing about it or at least without anybody understanding what it happened. That's a success from a clandestine operation point of view. Even if you didn't get the prisoners, they got out without being detected. Now, we have given it up. I'm just stunned at this.

VAN SUSTEREN: And what in the world could trigger it tonight, but anyway, we will work on that one.

BOLTON: Politics.

VAN SUSTEREN: Politics. Anyway, ambassador, thank you, sir.

BOLTON: Thank you.