Wesley Clark has been claiming that 9/11 could have been prevented with “the right leadership.” I don’t know about that. However, former General Counsel of the National Security Agency Stewart Baker argues that 9/11 might well have been prevented had a “wall” not been in place that prevented intelligence and law enforcement agents from working together on terrorism investigations. Baker acknowledges that “in 1994, after I left my job as general counsel to the National Security Agency, I argued that the wall should be left in place because I accepted the broad assumption that foreign intelligence-gathering tolerates a degree of intrusiveness, harshness, and deceit that Americans do not want applied against themselves.” He now recognizes that “in hindsight, that choice seems little short of feckless, for it made the failures of August and September 2001 nearly inevitable. . . .We should know that we can’t prevent every imaginable privacy abuse without hampering the fight against terror; that an appetite for privacy scandals hampers the fight against terror; and that the consequence of these actions will be more attacks and more dead, perhaps in numbers we can hardly fathom.”
The Justice Department has finally announced new FBI guidelines that would allow intelligence and law enforcement agents to work together on terrorism investigations. The ACLU is screaming and Attorney General Ashcroft will no doubt be treated to new rounds of vilification. But Baker, the former support of the wall, warns that, in the absence of such guidelines, doubts about legal authority are denying CIA analysts access to law enforcement information in our new Terrorist Threat Integration Center [and] we are recreating the political and legal climate of August 2001.” Unless we wish to recreate the events of September 2001, the wall must go.
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