Monday, April 19, 2004
Gorelick "testifies": Instead of sitting before the 9/11 commission to be grilled on what she knows of how the Justice Department dealt with counterterrorism operations in the wake of the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, commissioner Jamie Gorelick pens an op-ed piece in Sunday's Washington Post.
Gauging the truthfulness of Gorelick's account is reasonably easy -- she tells an unnecessary lie to start off her defense.
At last week's hearing, Attorney General John Ashcroft, facing criticism, asserted that "the single greatest structural cause for September 11 was the wall that segregated criminal investigators and intelligence agents" and that I built that wall through a March 1995 memo. This is simply not true.
Here's the relevant portion of Ashcroft's testimony:
But somebody did make these rules. Somebody built this wall.
The basic architecture for the wall in the 1995 guidelines was contained in a classified memorandum entitled "Instructions for Separation of Certain Foreign Counterintelligence and Criminal Investigations."
The memorandum ordered FBI Director Louis Freeh and others, quote, "We believe that it is prudent to establish a set of instructions that will more clearly separate the counterintelligence investigation from the more limited, but continued criminal investigations.
"These procedures," the memo went on to say, "which go beyond what is legally required, will prevent any risk of creating an unwarranted appearance that FISA is being used to avoid procedural safeguards which would apply in a criminal investigation."[emphasis added]
Ashcroft isn't referring to the underlying law upon which Gorelick's memo was based, he's clearly referring to Gorelick's superlegal rules which made it more difficult for the FBI to do its job.
It's telling that Gorelick claims that Ashcroft's deputy approved of the guidelines in August 2001 -- alarmist ACLUers were so sure that Ashcroft was plotting to undermine civil liberties, and it turns out he was continuing Clinton-era policies.
Third, Mr. Ashcroft's own deputy attorney general, Larry Thompson, formally reaffirmed the 1995 guidelines in an Aug. 6, 2001, memo addressed to the FBI and the Justice Department. Ashcroft has charged that the guidelines hampered the department's ability to pursue terrorists Zacarias Moussaoui, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi in August 2001, but his own department had endorsed those guidelines at the pivotal time.
OK, Ashcroft's deputy endorsed the Gorelick guidelines -- or did he?
From the next paragraph:
Had my memo been in place in August 2001 -- when, as Ashcroft said, FBI officials rejected a criminal warrant of Moussaoui because they feared "breaching the wall" -- it would have allowed those agents to obtain a criminal warrant without fear of jeopardizing an intelligence investigation. [emphasis added]
Wait a second, she was just damning Ashcroft's Justice Department for having approved the continuation of her guidelines as set down in the memo -- now she's saying they weren't using them. Which is true?
Unfortunately for everyone interested in preventing another 9/11, Gorelick's "testimony" cannot be cross-examined. I'm sure that, in the coming days, people with far more expertise on this matter will dissect the piece in an attempt to determine where the truth really lies. Gorelick's conflict-of-interest in this matter and her narrow recusal from "any consideration of my actions or of the department while I was there" is insufficient.
If Gorelick were truly concerned about the credibility of the 9/11 commission, she would resign. Instead, we will be left with a tainted report that cannot be trusted to fairly and accurately describe the failures that led to the 9/11 attacks. The American people will suffer from Gorelick's arrogance.
*UPDATE* Former U.S. Attorney Andrew McCarthy has dissected Gorelick's op-ed. Check it out here.