While the lawyers diddled and fiddled, American soldiers’ lives were endangered. The NYPost has the exclusive:
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.
In 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.
Nine hours and 38 minutes.
That’s how long it took to hash out probable cause.
“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 many lawyers does it take to rescue our soldiers?” he asked. “It should be zero.”