Jamie Gorelick purports to tell “The truth about ‘the Wall'” in a column for the Washinton Post this morning. The column performs an exercise in bobbing and weaving that recalls the glory days of the Clinton administration and that can stand as a lesson to spinmeiesters everywhere.
The column addresses the controversy raised by Gorelick’s 1995 memo on the investigations and prosecutions related to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The subject is beset with technicalities conducive to obscurity and spin, and Gorelick exploits them to the hilt. At the outset, however, Gorelick accurately observes that the ground rules dividing intelligence gathering from law enforcement derive from the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Act; Gorelick is not herself the mother of “the wall.”
Gorelick simply omits reference to the statement in her 1995 memo that straightforwardly describes the instructions set forth in her memo as “go[ing] beyond what is legally required” in order to avoid the appearance that the Justice Department was seeking to evade FISA. Why does Gorelick omit mention of this self-explanatory statement? Gorelick’s maneuvers show that Gorelick has learned from the president she served but whose name she also omits to mention in the column.
Gorelick’s column points a finger back to the Reagan/Bush administrations that, “according to the FISA Court of Review” first “began to read the statute” in the way she did in her 1995 memo. According to Gorelick, those administrations therefore set the precedent for the instructions set forth in her 1995 memo.
Gorelick’s column also points a finger forward to the current Bush administration as ratifying Janet Reno’s similar July 1995 guidelines in August 2001:
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.
Gorelick then seems to claim that she herself might have prevented 9/11:
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.
Doesn’t this point, as her previous points, establish Gorelick’s centrality as a witness?
Gorelick’s column comes to a useful conclusion. The PATRIOT Act is the deus ex machina that tears down a wall that should never have been erected:
The Patriot Act, enacted after 9/11, together with an unprecedented appeal to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, paved the way for the Justice Department to permit largely unrestricted information-sharing between intelligence and criminal investigators because the law changed the legal standard that had given rise to the guidelines in the first place. The Patriot Act says that electronic surveillance can be conducted in the United States against foreign threats as long as a “significant purpose” — rather than the “primary purpose” — is to obtain foreign intelligence.
Gorelick’s ultimate dodge is straight from the Clinton playbook. This is all information everyone knew all along (except that her memo was classified and undisclosed):
This history has all been well-rehearsed in publicly available briefs, opinions and reports, all available to the 9/11 commission. I have — consistent with the policy applied to all commissioners — recused myself from any consideration of my actions or of the department while I was there. My fellow commissioners have spoken for themselves in rejecting the call by a few partisans that I step aside based upon false premises. I have worked hard to help the American public understand what happened on Sept. 11. I intend — with my brethren on the commission — to finish the job.
Hmmm. Let’s see. She’s going to go back to work to finish the job. Why does this sound familiar?
HINDROCKET adds: We spent a half-hour on our radio show yesterday bashing Ms. Gorelick. The text of her 1995 memo can be downloaded here; it’s mostly boring bureaucratic stuff, but, as the Trunk notes, does contain one very clear and very damning sentence which Ms. Gorelick inexplicably fails to mention in her op-ed piece.
We shouldn’t overstate Ms. Gorelick’s culpability in the Sept. 11 attacks. I think that her raising of the bar on communications between intelligence and law enforcement officials was probably a minor contributor; I suspect that her apparent involvement in the incorrect decision that it was illegal to use special ops troops to go after al Qaeda’s leadership, when she was the head attorney for the Department of Defense, was far more significant.
What Gorelick really represents is the mind-set of all Democrats before Sept. 11, and many Democrats even today. To say that she failed to take terrorism seriously is an understatement; from today’s perspective, the idea that the U.S. government should be deterred from going after bin Laden on the basis of legal arguments–specious ones, at that–seems absurd. In her own 1995 memo, Gorelick acknowledged the frightening information that was being developed in counter-terrorism investigations. She wrote:
[S]ignificant counterintelligence information has been developed related to the activities and plans of agents of foreign powers operating in this country and overseas, including previously unknown connections between separate terrorist groups….[I]t has become overwhelmingly apparent that there is a compelling need to further develop and expand that foreign counterintelligence information.
The counterintelligence investigations referred to in the memo include the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the 1995 al Qaeda plot to blow up twelve American airplanes simultaneously over the Pacific Ocean, which had been uncovered shortly before the memo was written. Notwithstanding the acknowledged seriousness of the terrorism problem addressed by those investigations, Gorelick responded not by trying to enable sharing of information among agencies, but rather by “go[ing] beyond what is legally required” to raise barriers to such communication. Also, while manifesting no concern for the potential victims of terrorist attacks, she was solicitous of the welfare of criminal defendants in terror-related cases:
An Assistant United States Attorney…will continue to be assigned to work with OIPR and the FCI agents to review such foreign intelligence information to ensure that evidence that might be exculpatory to any defendants currently under indictment is promptly considered for dissemination to criminal investigative personnel….
The Democrats are, pre-eminently, the party of lawyers and bureaucrats, and Gorelick perfectly exemplifies the blinkered perspective of that party’s leaders. What I find sickening is her complicity in the suggestion by the Democrats on the Commission that the fact that the Bush administration received a memo titled “Bin Laden Wants to Attack America,” or whatever, is some kind of smoking gun, when she herself was well aware of al Qaeda’s intentions at least six years earlier, and not only failed to respond effectively, but consistently put bogus legalisms and bureaucratic turf-obsession ahead of her country’s security.