While the Democrats Celebrate Their Filibuster of the Patriot Act…

…the House Republican conference reminds us why the act is so important:

If allowed to expire, the information-sharing provisions critical to breaking down the pre-9/11 “wall” between our law enforcement and intelligence personnel will be lost. This will have dire consequences.

Patrick Fitzgerald, a longtime United States Attorney and current special prosecutor, testified to his experience of how the “wall” worked in practice:

I was on a prosecution team in New York that began a criminal investigation of Usama Bin Laden in early 1996. The team … had access to a number of sources. We could talk to citizens. We could talk to local police officers. We could talk to other U.S. Government agencies. We could talk to foreign police officers. Even foreign intelligence personnel. And foreign citizens…. We could even talk to al Qaeda members—and we did. …. But there was one group of people we were not permitted to talk to. Who? The FBI agents across the street from us in lower Manhattan assigned to a parallel intelligence investigation of Usama Bin Laden and al Qaeda. We could not learn what information they had gathered. That was “the wall.”

The “wall” had deadly consequences. The 9/11 Commission Report contained an example that none of us should ever forget. According to the unanimous bipartisan report of that Commission, the “wall” thwarted the investigation of Khalid al-Midhdar and Nawaf alHazmi, two of the hijackers who flew an airplane into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. In June 2001, FBI agents investigating the U.S.S. Cole bombing met with the CIA. Even though the CIA knew that al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi were connected to the Cole bombing and had been in the United States, the CIA refused to give the FBI this information because of the “wall.” Even after the FBI learned from the CIA of al-Mihdhar’s and al-Hazmi’s presence in the United States and the FBI launched an effort to try to locate them, FBI Headquarters refused to allow criminal investigators in New York to participate. A New York FBI agent working on the case expressed his frustration with these restrictions in the following e-mail: “Whatever has happened to this – someday someone will die – and wall or not – the public will not understand why we were not more effective and throwing every resource we had at certain ‘problems.’”

That’s the wall (sometimes referred to as the “Jamie Gorelick wall”) that the Democrats want to re-erect.

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