Senior officials in Washington denied that the FBI failed to cooperate with Israel in locating an IDF soldier missing during last summer’s fighting in Gaza, Haaretz reported on Monday.
Several Israeli media reports claimed that the FBI had declined to provide information about IDF soldier Oron Shaul, Hy”d, that might have helped to determine his location after his APC was blown up in the Shujaiyeh quarter of Gaza City during Operation Protective Edge.
The IDF feared that if still alive, Shaul would be in the hands of Hamas, and mounted an all-out effort to find and rescue him while it may have been possible to do so. Part of that effort was a request to the FBI to retrieve data from Shaul’s Facebook page, which had been hacked by Hamas, who posted on it a claim that they’d kidnapped him. Israel thought it might be possible to track down his captors using relevant information from the internet server.
But, according to Steven Emerson, executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, who was the source of the story, the court order neccesary to obtain that information was refused by the U.S. Justice Department. Citing “senior law-enforcement officials,” Emerson said that the Attorney General’s office, for reasons unknown, would not issue the needed court order to the FBI.
Senior officials in the U.S. administration dismissed Emerson’s claims as “incorrect and misleading.” On the contrary, they maintained, the FBI did convey the information Israel wanted.
“The FBI did immediately pass useful intelligence information to Israeli authorities related to Corporal Shaul’s social media account which answered the initial Israeli request,” the officials said.
A senior American official added that in trying to locate Shaul, the FBI conducted additional investigative activities “consistent with its legal powers,” following additional Israeli requests for information.