Sunday, April 18, 2004

Actually, I'd like to see some of them behind walls...

The warden walked by and said son don't try
I'd hate to see you fall
For there is no doubt they'll carry you out
If you ever touch that wall
If you ever touch that wall

There's been another issue gnawing at me lately that I'd slotted for an extended Sunday rant, but it'll keep. While cruising my blogroll today, I stumbled on Oliver Willis' pointer to this.

"WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Jamie Gorelick, a member of the commission investigating the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, said Saturday that she received death threats this week after a number of conservatives alleged that her former work in the Justice Department may have contributed to failures leading to the attacks."

Let's place the blame for this out of hand, over the top, anti-Democratic, outrage squarely where it belongs -- on John Ashcroft led the charge with a bald-faced lie to the 9/11 Commission while under oath, and on the Congressional scumballs, notably Tom Delay, Jim Sensenbrenner and Mitch McConnell who followed him into the fray.

When Bob Kerrey heard about McConnell's initial attack, his reply was succinct. "Mitch McConnell is the Republican whip of the Senate and he's accusing us of being too partisan? He can go to hell for all I'm concerned." The same sentiment applies to the whole lot, as far as I'm concerned.

What they claim this is all about is Gorelick's involvment in drafting a memo on a law which required a separation between intelligence and criminal investigations at the Department of Justice. What it's really all about, of course, is providing political cover for an Administration that was so narrow minded in it's assessment of intelligence, ignoring or rejecting anything that didn't fit into their predetermined policy view, that they seriously undermined the safety of the American people and the security of American borders. They're seriously afraid that an objective report from the Commission could be an election killer for the Bush administration. They should be.

But what about that memo? And what about that 'wall.'

Gorelick forthrightly states the facts in a Washington Post op-ed today. After stating that "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," she offers these salient points:

It is "...not a wall but a set of procedures implementing a 1978 statute (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA) and federal court decisions interpreting it."

Moreover, " was the justice departments under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in the 1980s that began to read the statute as limiting the department's ability to obtain FISA orders if it intended to bring a criminal prosecution.

And "...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."

The March 1995 memo, which concerned only two particular cases "...permits freer coordination between intelligence and criminal investigators than was subsequently permitted by the 1995 guidelines or the 2001 Thompson memo... My memo directed agents on both sides to share information -- and, in particular, directed one agent to work on both the criminal and intelligence investigations -- to ensure the flow of information "over the wall."

In fact "nothing in the 1995 guidelines prevented the sharing of information between criminal and intelligence investigators."

Mitch McConnell has asserted that the 9/11 Commission has "become a political casualty of the electoral hunting season." That's not, unlike Ashcroft's testimony about 'the wall,' completely untrue. The work of the Commission has been injured by the efforts of Republican hacks to do electoral damage control as the inadequacies of the Bush Administration's organization and response has become increasingly clear.

It's not simply a matter of partisanship, though. The Republican Chair of the Commission, Tom Keane, has been as honest about the objectivity and sincerity of the Commissions efforts as the GOP hatchetmen have been destructive and duplicitous.
When Keane writes "None of our votes have been cast on partisan lines. All of us are striving to achieve a set of recommendations that can win the support of all commissioners. We are committed as well to the integrity of our work," and when he expresses, as he consistently has, direct defenses of Commissioner Gorelick, he rebukes those hacks and scoundrels, and provides a glimmer of hope that people of honor can still find a home, however tight and temporary it might be, in the Republican Party.

They have some clearly dishonorable company in their ranks, though, and I'm one Democrat who thinks that Keane is to be commended for taking a clear stand against that dishonorable cohort.

Jamie Gorelick's standing firm. Her position on the Commission is, she says, "not negotiable." She's got more guts and integrity than any of those issuing anonymous threats, and more than any of the GOP hacks who are using lies and distortions that inspire such threats in their desparate effort to defend an indefensible Administration.


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