Searching for Alex Jimenez
From the NY Post:
U.S. intelligence officials got mired for nearly 10 hours seeking approval to use wiretaps against al Qaeda terrorists suspected of kidnapping Queens soldier Alex Jimenez in Iraq earlier this year, The Post has learned.
This week, Congress plans to vote on a bill that leaves in place the legal hurdles in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — problems that were highlighted during the May search for a group of kidnapped U.S. soldiers.
n the early hours of May 12, seven U.S. soldiers – including Spc. Jimenez – were on lookout near a patrol base in the al Qaeda-controlled area of Iraq called the “Triangle of Death.”
Sometime before dawn, heavily armed al Qaeda gunmen quietly cut through the tangles of concertina wire surrounding the outpost of two Humvees and made a massive and coordinated surprise attack.
Four of the soldiers were killed on the spot and three others were taken hostage.
A search to rescue the men was quickly launched. But it soon ground to a halt as lawyers – obeying strict U.S. laws about surveillance – cobbled together the legal grounds for wiretapping the suspected kidnappers.
Starting at 10 a.m. on May 15, according to a timeline provided to Congress by the director of national intelligence, lawyers for the National Security Agency met and determined that special approval from the attorney general would be required first.
For an excruciating nine hours and 38 minutes, searchers in Iraq waited as U.S. lawyers discussed legal issues and hammered out the “probable cause” necessary for the attorney general to grant such “emergency” permission.
Finally, approval was granted and, at 7:38 that night, surveillance began.
“The intelligence community was forced to abandon our soldiers because of the law,” a senior congressional staffer with access to the classified case told The Post.
Notes Dreadpundit bluto (via Jawa Report):
The search for SPC Alex Jimenez was held up for nearly ten hours while lawyers quibbled querulously over the ramifications of FISA [...]
Even though the cell phones they wanted to tap were operating within Iraq, because the conversations were shunted through US hubs, they were subject to FISA restrictions.
Alex Jimenez has not been found. Al Qaeda says they murdered him and and buried him.
Those who surrender freedom for safety deserve neither, we’re constantly reminded — as if NSA surveillance of terrorist communications, the fruits of which are not usable in court (and so really should pose no civil rights problems) is some kind of civic moral dilemma that strikes right at the heart of What Our Nation Stands For™
Presumably, allowing the NSA to track phone traffic in and out of terrorist hot zones is a surrendering of our freedoms that real patriots (think Glenn Greenwald, or the Kossacks, who represent the “center” — and who oppose all violations of civil liberties, unless they happen to be imposed on neocons) should not be willing to trade for the safety that comes through the use of pattern analysis, etc, by an intelligence agency created for just that purpose.
Unless, of course, a FISA court gets around to saying it’s okay. In which case, the Constitutional problem disappears, with the President’s war time powers handed over to FISA judges and lawyers.
Some separation of powers are more equal than others.
None of which Alex Jimenez was able to weigh in on, of course. But given the chance, I’m sure he would have willingly sacrificed his life so that Congress, through its embrace of the FISA courts, could wrest away some power from the CiC operating under an Authorization of Military Force.
No word yet on whether or not Russ Feingold will read Alex Jimenez’s obituary into the Congressional Record.