As the voice of Washington’s permanent government, the Washington Post disciplines and punishes Republican appointees who have the audacity to upset the story lines in the formulaic melodramas that serve the town’s bureaucratic interests. Watergate is the template for the Post’s service in this regard to the permanent government.
Today’s Washington Post editorial on the testimony of Attorney General Ashcroft before the 9/11 Commission is a classic of the form, long on assertion and short on fact: “The Ashcroft smear.” Andrew McCarthy’s rejoinder to Jamie Gorelick’s Post op-ed, which the Post regurgitates itss faceless instituional voice, is definitive: “The wall truth.”
The subject of “the wall” is beset with technicalities that are conducive to the obscurantism of Gorelick’s op-ed and the Post’s editorial. As McCarthy observes:
To quote Gorelick’s 1995 memorandum (something she carefully avoids doing), the procedures her memorandum put in place “go beyond what is legally required….[to] 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.) As this rather straightforward English sentence illuminates, the wall exceeded the requirements of FISA and then-existing federal case law.
The single best account of the evolution of “the wall” is Heather Mac Donald’s Autumn 2002 City Journal article: “Why the FBI didn’t stop 9/11.” As Mac Donald explains:
[A] set of inhibitions gradually developed to regulate contacts among FBI agents who were gathering intelligence under a FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] order, FBI agents who may be investigating an already committed terrorist crime, and federal prosecutors.
Those inhibitions reached their peak destructiveness with Attorney General Reno