Searching for FISA Excuses
According to Roll Call, the Republicans are planning on using the story of the May 12 2007 kidnapping of three soldiers as justification for further declawing of FISA:
Specifically, Republicans are planning to use the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three U.S. soldiers in Iraq earlier this year to put a “human face” on the issue, the House staffer explained.
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.
“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.
How very compelling, eh? Except that it is complete bullshit. The ACLU and others have explained how FISA did not block tapping the related calls but there’s more …
When this story of GOP claims that the search was held up while they waited for a warrant surfaced, I was pretty startled since I remember the coverage of the incident and search rather well. It was striking because the events caused a lot of uproar on several fronts. First, there was the claim that the soldiers were taken in an “ambush” – something that both Pat Lang and Larry Johnson critiqued vigorously.
And the reactions in Iraqi sources was scathing – since the response to the kidnapping was a massive and pretty unrestrained series of actions in the area of the attack – beginning not after an “excruciating wait” for lawyers on May 15, but on May 13 and 14.
Reuters reported on May 14:
Backed by helicopters and jets, U.S. and Iraqi troops combed through lush palm groves, searched cars and went door-to-door looking for any signs of the missing soldiers in an area known as the “Triangle of Death”. Residents said the town of Yusufiya and surrounding rural areas have been sealed off.
And again on May 14th, one day before the GOP tale claims the search “… soon ground to a halt as lawyers – obeying strict U.S. laws about surveillance – cobbled together the legal grounds for wiretapping the suspected kidnappers” here’s what PBS reported was actually going on:
EDWARD WONG, New York Times: Well, the U.S. military is saying that it’s putting a lot of resources into the search for the three missing men. They say that there are 4,000 troops involved in the search, that they’re sweeping through villages and towns that are south of Baghdad in this Euphrates River valley area.
And they’re using a lot of overhead resources. They’re putting out aircraft. They’re using surveillance drones, and they’re having a lot of helicopters fly over the area. It’s not an easy area to cover. There are a lot of palm groves in this area, in villages, as well as tributaries to the Euphrates River, and so they have a lot of work ahead of them.
RAY SUAREZ: Along with that high-tech surveillance I guess goes the more old-fashioned, door-to-door searching?
EDWARD WONG: That’s right. There are some areas where they’ve been going to houses. We understand that they’ve been arresting groups of people, questioning them. It’s very intense at the moment.
Yesterday, we heard reports that they have surrounded the town of Yusufiya, which is fairly rife with insurgents, and that they were not letting people in or out of the town, and that they were going house-to-house there, searching for the abductees.
As Larry Johnson wrote at the time:
The response of U.S. troops in the area–going house to house and taking people into custody–is understandable but counterproductive. The odds are high that we are taking men into custody who had nothing to do with the attackers or the attack. But, by taking them into custody their honor is insulted and they are more likely to support insurgent activities in the future. It is a Catch-22.
Perhaps Mr. Hurt at the Post would like to correct his story about how the constitution blocked the search? His willingness to parrot GOP talking points sure deserves a note from firepups – and you can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org. But first, call and fax the contacts in Christy’s post and made sure your reps are not buying this latest GOP spin.
Video: The Youtube above is of search activities on May 13 and 14th – it was shot by combat photographers. About half way in, you can see the helicopter support for the search. More footage from May 14th and 15th (which given time zone differences is also prior to the warrant discussion at DOJ) is available here.
Update: Read Selise’s comment here about the Holt bill and Congressional kabuki. The sleight of hand goes on – and we need to say no.