Over the past week, we've been reporting that U.S. government sources
Mike McConnell's account to Congress that FISA Court rulings unreasonably delayed surveillance on Iraqi insurgents who kidnapped U.S. troops this spring. The sources blamed cumbersome bureaucratic hurdles for the delay, not the court, and questioned why obtaining an emergency surveillance order -- good for 72 hours before approval by a judge -- should have taken so long to acquire.
Late yesterday, under pressure from House intelligence committee chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), McConnell's office released a timeline of events that seems to vindicate our reporting. According to Pamela Hess of the Associated Press
The timeline, obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, showed that the Bush administration held "internal deliberations" on the "novel and complicated issues" presented by the emergency FISA request for more than four hours after the National Security Agency's top lawyer had approved it.
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, last week blamed the delay on unnecessary bureaucracy within the Justice Department. Justice Department and U.S. intelligence officials dispute that, and say the NSA decision alone was not legally sufficient to authorize an emergency request.
"It's not a done deal at that point," Dean Boyd, a spokesman for Justice Department, said Thursday. "We believed we needed additional information and needed to resolve novel legal questions before we were satisfied we could take this to the attorney general."
Another two hours passed when Justice Department officials had trouble tracking down Alberto Gonzales, then the attorney general. He was speaking at a conference of U.S. attorneys in Texas.
Justice Department officials had to make several phone calls to Gonzales' staff before they were able to speak directly with him to get his authorization for the surveillance, according to the timeline.
The delay resulted in the death of one of the kidnapped soldiers.