Walling Off Intelligence

I’m not a fan of John Ashcroft, but his recent testimony to the September 11 Commission was nothing less than superior. Ashcroft points to the real reasons why the September 11 murderers were not caught:

The “simple fact” of Sept. 11 was, Ashcroft continued, in a thinly-veiled criticism of the Clinton administration, that “we did not know an attack was coming because for nearly a decade, our government had blinded itself to its enemy.”

Plus, he said that “walls,” or barriers between intelligence and law enforcement agents helped create the kind of culture that allowed Sept. 11 to happen.

Not only that, but Ashcroft brought proof to the table. He declassified this memo by Jamie Gorelick, who ironically enough is a member of the commission. The memo is a damning piece of evidence, a smoking gun that shows why the Clinton approach to terrorism weakened our ability to respond to threats:

Because the counterintelligence investigation will involve the use of surveillance techniques authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) against targets that, in some instances, has been subject to surveillance under Title III, and because it will involve some of the same sources and targets as the criminal investigation, we believe that it is purged to establish a set of instructions that will clearly separate the counterintelligence investigation from the more limited, but continued, criminal investigations. These procedures, which will go beyond what is legally required, will prevent any risk of creating an unwarranted appearance that FISA is being used to avoid procedural safeguards that would apply in a criminal investigation. (Emphasis mine)

In other words, the Deputy Attorney General of the US, Jamie Gorelick, created a direct division that ensured that information sharing between counterintelligence and law enforcement would be severely limited. It was precisely this kind of barrier that allowed the 19 hijackers to slip through the system.

As Ethan Wallison has noted, Jamie Gorelick should be in front of the commission rather than hiding behind it. She ordered these procedures, severely hampering America’s counterintelligence abilities. In one of the greatest moments in the Commission, Ashcroft unexpectedly dropped a bomb on Gorelick in unveiling the memo.

This is a smoking gun – it shows exactly how the Clinton Administration weakened the war on terror, directly contributing to the attacks of September 11. It is far more revealing that the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing, it is far more important than anything that Richard Clarke said, and it is damning to the extreme.

Just don’t expect the mainstream media to do anything with this information other than try to ignore or spin it into an attack on the Bush Administration.

UPDATE: And Reuters already has done exactly that.

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