|Man Without Qualities|
Monday, May 27, 2002
In contrast to Mr. Adragna's reasoning, an article in today's New York Times indicates that FISA did not faciliate the FBI's counterterrorism efforts that some, especially Democrats, have argued might have stopped the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In fact, the Times says the FISA seems to have produced a quite alarming result with respect to Mr. Moussaoui - the so-called "Twentieth Hijacker":
"…recent interviews of intelligence officials by The New York Times suggest that the bureau had a reason for growing cautious about applying to a secret national security court for special search warrants that might have supplied critical information. The F.B.I., the officials said, had become wary after a well-regarded supervisor was disciplined because the court complained that he had submitted improper information on applications."
"The bureau's reluctance to press new applications for national security search warrants stemmed, some officials believe, from an incident late in the Clinton administration."
"In the fall of 2000, the seven judges on the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in Washington summoned Attorney General Janet Reno to their secure courtroom. The judges, in a letter signed by Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth, had complained to her of a serious breach. Misleading affidavits had been submitted to the court, which approves warrants to eavesdrop on people suspected of being foreign agents or international terrorists. At the meeting, Ms. Reno agreed that the problem was serious, the officials said."
"All of the flawed affidavits had been submitted by Michael Resnick, the F.B.I. supervisor in charge of coordinating the surveillance operations related to Hamas, the militant Palestinian group. The judges said they would no longer accept applications from Mr. Resnick."
"In response, the F.B.I. director at the time, Louis J. Freeh, ordered a broader review of the eavesdropping applications — including those related to Al Qaeda. That review, the officials said, turned up disturbing signs that Al Qaeda applications were also flawed."
"For Mr. Resnick, who had been a rising star in the bureau, the complaint from the judges and especially their refusal to have him appear before them again was a blow to his career that angered some of his colleagues. Ms. Reno turned over the complaint to the department's Office of Professional Responsibility, which is still investigating Mr. Resnick."
"Intelligence officials said the event resulted in making the bureau far less aggressive in seeking information on terrorists. Other officials said the Resnick case prompted bureau officials to adopt a play-it-safe approach that meant submitting fewer applications and declining to submit any that could be questioned. Several former and current officials said the F.B.I. legal counsel's office may have been correct, based on what was known at the time, in deciding not to apply for a warrant to search Mr. Moussaoui's computer. The office was not given any evidence that Mr. Moussaoui was acting on behalf of a foreign power, a requirement of the [FISA]. But the officials said it appeared that the bureau had not stirred itself to fill that gap."
The Man Without Qualities will return to this topic. But for now another note: This is the day that Cub Scouts learn to remember the men and women who have died to keep the country alive and great, especially the members of our own families. This year it is appropriate to include in that remembrance all who perished in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon attacks.
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