Investigator or Obstructionist? Gorelick Laid Foundation of Intelligence Failures

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 19, 2004 | Go to article overview

Investigator or Obstructionist? Gorelick Laid Foundation of Intelligence Failures


Byline: David N. Bossie, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

When Attorney General John Ashcroft appeared before the September Commission, he revealed that the much criticized wall, the Department of Justice policy limiting communication between law enforcement and intelligence agents, was put in place by Jamie Gorelick, while serving as deputy attorney general for President Clinton.

Ms. Gorelick immediately defended herself in The Washington Post, claiming pre-existence of the wall while distancing herself from its heightening. She downplayed it as a critical issue while The Post complicity accused Mr. Ashcroft of a "smear."

But multiple sources show the wall was central to any failure to connect dots prior to September 11. Mr. Ashcroft revealed for the first time Ms. Gorelick's central role and exposed to the other commissioners their colleague's role in implementing this much-criticized policy.

Before the Senate Intelligence Committee in 1995, then-deputy attorney general Ms. Gorelick testified about taking on the "special project" relationship between law enforcement and intelligence and spending several months on the effort, principally to prepare Justice to fight transnational crimes, such as terrorism. Out of her project came the wall.

Documents just released by Justice trace the building of the wall, starting with Ms. Gorelick instructions to Mary Jo White, then prosecuting the blind sheik for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Ramsey Yousef for terrorist activities, to separate counterintelligence and criminal investigations.

Ms. Gorelick's direction to Ms. White created barriers "which go beyond what is legally required, will prevent any risk of creating an unwarranted appearance that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is being used to avoid procedural safeguards . . ." This was the very foundation of the wall.

Over Ms. White's complaints, this became the new Justice Department policy. Documents show Ms. Gorelick directly reviewed Ms. White's suggestions, some were changed, some rejected and some included. Ms. Gorelick then sent the policy with a hand-written note indicating her approval to the attorney general. The attorney general formalized Ms. Gorelick's new policy in July 1995.

Problems immediately surfaced of intelligence and law enforcement coordination and its hampering of terrorism investigations.

Justice Department investigators looking into the Wen Ho Lee fiasco examined this issue in their final report. In it, the relationship between Justice's criminal division and FBI intelligence is described as "dysfunction" and "broken." The General Accounting Office reached the same conclusion in a report, finding the policy led to "significant decline in coordination between the FBI and Criminal Division." Commission hearings have clearly established that the wall created extensive problems that remained until the Patriot Act tore it down.

Justice documents, and her testimony before the Intelligence Committee, prove Ms. Gorelick was directly involved in the building and guarding of the wall. …

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