his public testimony before the 9/11 commission,
Attorney General John Ashcroft attempted to deflect
criticism from his own lackluster counterterrorism
efforts by pinning the blame on a 1995 memo written
by former deputy Attorney General (and current
9/11 commissioner) Jamie Gorelick. Ashcroft said,
"The 1995 guidelines and the procedures developed
around them imposed draconian barriers, barriers
between the law enforcement and intelligence communities.
The wall effectively excluded prosecutors from
intelligence investigations. The wall left intelligence
agents afraid to talk with criminal prosecutors
or agents." Ashcroft called the memo "the single
greatest structural cause for the September 11
problem." In their final report released yesterday,
the bi-partisan 9/11 commission concluded that
Ashcroft's public testimony was false and misleading.
commission bluntly stated that Ashcroft's public
testimony did not "fairly or accurately reflect
the significance of the 1995 documents and their
relevance to the 2001 discussions." Specifically,
"The Gorelick memorandum applied to two particular
criminal cases, neither of which was involved
in the summer 2001 information-sharing discussions."
Any barriers between the law enforcement and intelligence
communities were not created from written guidelines
by internal Justice Department conflicts which
"neither Attorney General [Ashcroft or Reno] acted
to resolve" prior to 9/11.
Ashcroft himself has recently backed away from
his April testimony before the commission. In
a recent document released by the Justice Department,
Ashcroft conceded that Gorelick's memo permitted
"interaction and information sharing between prosecutors
and intelligence officers" and allowed the FBI
to use the fruits of an intelligence investigation
"in a criminal prosecution." Ashcroft failed
to mention that guidelines issued by his own deputy
Attorney General, Larry Thompson, were more restrictive
because they affirmed the Gorelick memo and added
"Transcript: 9/11 Commission Hearing," The Washington
Post, 04/13/04, http://daily.misleader.org/ctt.asp?u=1208987&l=47468.
2. 9/11 Commission Final Report, p. 539, http://daily.misleader.org/ctt.asp?u=1208987&l=47469.
3. Report from the Field: The USA PATRIOT Act
at Work, U.S. Department of Justice, July 2004,
4. "Thompson Memo," U.S. Department of Justice,
Posted: July 29, 2004