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Saturday, October 18, 2014

'Most pro-Israel administration evah' refused to assist Israel in locating body of missing IDF soldier

I'm sure that many of you recall the incident from this past summer in which the body of IDF soldier Oron Shaul was snatched from a burnt out APC in Gaza City's Shujaiyya neighborhood. It now turns out that the IDF requested assistance from the FBI in finding Oron's body and was turned down. Why the FBI? Because Hammas hacked into Shaul's Facebook page and Facebook's servers are located in the United States. The IDF hoped that it could find out where Hamas was located using the IP address from which Hamas was posting to the Facebook page. Walla.com (via Israel Hayom) explains.

On July 22, as international news reports carried Hamas' claim of Shaul's capture, the IDF really had no idea whatsoever what happened to the Israeli soldier. The only statement made by the IDF at that point was that Shaul was missing in action. Even two days later, the IDF still did not know if Shaul had been kidnapped by Hamas or whether he was dead.
Kidnapping an Israeli soldier is one of the highest priorities for Hamas, since Israel has in the past proven willing to trade large numbers of imprisoned terrorists to get back just one soldier, as happened in the case of Gilad Schalit. The news of Hamas' alleged kidnapping triggered wild celebrations in Gaza.
The IDF and Israeli intelligence agencies initiated a massive man hunt for Shaul, but to no avail. "We simply did not know whether he was alive or not," an Israeli military official told me, "or whether Hamas had killed him or whether Hamas had simply kidnapped his body. But we had immediately set up a dragnet around the entire area to encircle the terrorists and prevent them from leaving the general area. We knew we did not have much time."
The dragnet proved porous, as Hamas terrorists had many ways of escaping especially through the network of underground tunnels they had built.
But in hacking Shaul's Facebook page, Hamas may have inadvertently given away the location of the terrorists who had Shaul or his body. That's because whenever a Facebook account is accessed, Facebook's servers would automatically keep a record of the Internet Protocol address where the account was accessed. IP addresses are leased, which then can provide a geographic location of the IP address where the Facebook account was hacked. In addition, there was also a remote possibility that Shaul had been carrying his cell phone although Israeli soldiers are not supposed to take their cell phones into battle. But if he had done so, then it was also theoretically be possible that Hamas had hacked into the mobile Facebook application on Shaul's phone. If the Israelis could obtain the Facebook server data as soon as possible, they thought they might have had a chance to find the whereabouts of the Hamas terrorists who took Shaul.
Israel made an urgent appeal to the FBI for help in trying to determine the remote source or information that would be stored on Facebook servers indicating the location where Shaul's page had been hacked. Upon receiving the request from Israel in Washington on July 21, the FBI immediately issued a "preservation letter" to Facebook ordering them to preserve all data saved on their server pertaining to the Shaul's account.
At 4:25 p.m. on July 21, the FBI contacted a United States Attorney's Office in a nearby district to initiate the legal process to get a court order to serve Facebook for server information on the account belonging to Israeli soldier Oron Shaul.
"Due to HAMAS status as a Designated Terrorist Organization (DTO), there is a great effort to locate those who kidnapped and/or killed ORON," read an FBI email to the U.S. Attorney's Office, "HAMAS is already using the kidnapping as propaganda, which is material support to a DTO."
In the email, the FBI noted there was unusual activity on Shaul's Facebook account after the time of his kidnapping and said it needed more information from Facebook that it could only obtain with a court order to be able to fully determine what "HAMAS was doing with Oron's Facebook account and possibly his phone." Was the U.S. Attorney's Office in a position, the FBI wanted to know, to immediately obtain a court order for the FBI to deliver to Facebook?
Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Attorney's Office thought it was near ready to be able to immediately obtain a court order. But before it could obtain such an order, it needed specific information on Shaul's Facebook account that it could present to the judge. 

But the next day, July 22, the U.S. Attorney's Office received a startling response from the FBI: "Thank You for your effort, input and assistance. I regret to inform you we have been denied approval to move forward with legal process. We were told by our management we need a MLAT [Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty] in order to continue to assist our partner with the request in question." Those words put an immediate halt to the Israeli request.
An MLAT is a standardized legal agreement between the United States and other countries that spells out the legal and diplomatic protocols in processing requests for legal information pertaining to court cases in either the United States or in another country. MLATs go through various bureaucratic channels, usually take weeks to process and would generally be used for non-pressing legal matters in which the United States or another country was carrying out a legal process such as a prosecution involving a citizen of another country. 
Prosecutors familiar with their use say that an MLAT would definitely not be used in an urgent life-or-death intelligence or counter-terrorist incident, especially with a close ally such as Israel. "In a pressing court matter, there is no way the USG would invoke an MLAT with a close ally," said a veteran prosecutor who has worked on international counter-terrorism cases. 
Law enforcement officials knowledgeable about this incident say both prosecutors and FBI were shocked at the sudden turn of events. "This sudden reversal was devastating," said one law enforcement official who was intimately familiar with this incident. "For those working this case, they felt this decision was tantamount to a death sentence. Nothing less." 
And thus, the FBI was never able to supply Israel with any information on Shaul's Facebook account that might have led to the location of the soldier or his remains that had been seized by Hamas.

 Most pro-Israel administration evah?

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