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April 23, 2004
Gorelick: More Calls For Her Testimony

Eleven Republican Senators have now publicly called for 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick to resign her position on the panel and instead provide sworn testimony to the commission:

Eleven Senate Republicans fired off a letter Thursday to the 9/11 commission demanding that Jamie Gorelick, a Democratic member of the panel, be forced to testify. The senators want Gorelick to testify about her role in strengthening the so-called "wall" between the FBI and CIA that some say hampered government efforts to prevent terrorist attacks.

The letter, which was spearheaded by Sen. Kit Bond, R-Missouri, asserts that the commission's final report "will be incomplete without public testimony by Ms. Gorelick about her activities while serving as deputy attorney general" in the Clinton administration.

"It is imperative the committee explore with Ms. Gorelick these many initiatives and procedures pursued at her direction and any analysis leading to their formulation," the letter said.

Gorelick wrote a long and intellectually dishonest editorial in the Washington Post instead of testifying under oath and in public to the commission -- a move that brought swift condemnation when Condoleezza Rice wrote her own Post editorial instead of testifying publicly. People ignored the fact that Rice had already given four hours of private testimony and had offered to give more, while Gorelick hasn't testified at all despite her integral role in separating intelligence and law-enforcement efforts. However, Gorelick has pontificated from both the commission hearings and on television interviews about the failure of the administration to "connect the dots" -- a task she made all but impossible.

Under any definition of an "independent commission" you like, political or judicial, having material witnesses sitting on the panel passing judgment on actions in which they took part makes the commission a joke. It's indefensible and it will only have the effect of making the panel's resulting report an exercise in political posturing. Nor has the rest of the panel helped, as Jonathan Rauch points out in Reason:

A shrewder 9/11 commission would have turned its back on demands for public hearings, swearings-in, and the rest of the Watergate-style apparatus. Instead, it would have stressed:

Discretion. Partisanship is inevitable in Washington. Instead of complaining about it, the commission should have planned for it and taken care to avoid making public comments that might fan the flames. The partisan snipers are out there, but it does no good to give them ammunition. And any administration, Republican or Democratic, will treat as a threat a commission whose members are holding forth as Sunday-morning pundits and competing for quotes in The New York Times.

Confidentiality. This is especially important if the commission hopes to solve problems rather than point fingers. Backward-looking, punitive investigations use high-wattage publicity and legal jackhammers to penetrate stone walls and cover-ups. But a forward-looking, problem-solving investigation needs to foster a climate in which officials can be self-critical without undue fear of being prosecuted or keelhauled. Putting witnesses under oath induces them to weigh every word with lawyerly care rather than freely volunteer information. And public testimony sends everybody into blame-deflecting and political-maneuvering mode. Confidential, unsworn testimony may not explore every discrepancy or mine every document, but it elicits more self-criticism and candor.

It's probably too late to save the 9/11 Commission, given the high-wattage publicity hounds that populate it now, like Bob Kerrey and Richard Ben-Veniste and Gorelick herself. But one step in the right direction would be to acknowledge that the evidence uncovered makes Gorelick unable to continue sitting on the panel and place her on the witness list. If they're not willing to acknowledge that, then they aren't paying attention to the evidence and testimony presented -- which means that the whole exercise has only been about finger-pointing from the start.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 23, 2004 6:15 AM

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