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August 12, 2005
The Wall, The White Memo, And The DoD

With the 9/11 Commission reeling from the revelation that it deliberately ignored the information regarding the Army's secret Able Danger program and its identification of Mohammed Atta and three other 9/11 hijackers as an al-Qaeda cell, the speculation on their motive for omitting that vital data while blaming the intelligence communities for failing to stop 9/11 has centered on Commissioner Jamie S. Gorelick and her role in building and overstating "the wall", the policy that forbade any hint of cooperation between law enforcement and intelligence operations far beyond the requirements of the FISA statute.

The conflict of interest surrounding Gorelick's appointment as Commissioner rather than witness or target in the 9/11 investigation came up during the public hearings in 2004. Senators Jon Cornyn and Kit Bond openly called for her testimony at the time, as did CQ and a number of other bloggers and pundits who also demanded her resignation. Deborah Orin reminds us of the problem in today's New York Post in her analysis of the deliberate omission of Able Danger:

IT'S starting to look as if the 9/11 Commission turned a blind eye to key questions that could embarrass one of its own members Clinton-era Justice Department honcho Jamie Gorelick. ...

Gorelick's defenders might argue that hindsight is 20-20. But that excuse doesn't work in this case, because she was warned way back then when the see-no-evil wall was created.

That warning came right from the front line in the War on Terror from Manhattan U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, who headed up key terror probes like the prosecutions for the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.

White herself a Clinton appointee wrote directly to Reno that the wall was a big mistake.

White had firsthand knowledge about the critical value of open sharing between law enforcement and intelligence. After all, she provided the first American counterattack against al-Qaeda -- in the law-enforcement model espoused by Democrats to this day. She successfully prosecuted Ramzi Yousef and several others involved in the first WTC bombing in 1993, a prosecution available only through the bumbling of the AQ cell survivors who stupidly tried to recover their security deposit on the rental truck used as the car bomb.

White knew that prevention should take place over prosecution if the US intended on keeping its citizens safe. She wrote her first memo objecting to the political decision to create an almost-insurmountable barrier that far exceeded the requirements of FISA as interpreted by earlier administrations. When that got her nowhere, she wrote a second memo, giving specific and prescient warnings about what would happen as a result:

That memo surfaced during the 9/11 hearings. But The Post has learned that White was so upset that she bitterly protested with another memo a scathing one after Reno and Gorelick refused to tear down the wall.

With eerie foresight, White warned that the Reno-Gorelick wall hindered law enforcement and could cost lives, according to sources familiar with the memo which is still secret.

The 9/11 Commission got that White memo, The Post was told but omitted any mention of it from its much-publicized report. Nor does the report include the transcript of its staff interview with White.

And here the Commission engages in its second covert act of omission in order to protect those who made it impossible for the intelligence community to act on its findings. What happened to the second White memo? Mary Jo White gets three mentions in their final report, all of them in the footnotes, and none of them refers to her warnings to Gorelick or Janet Reno. Nowhere does the Commission reveal her objections to the wall or her efforts to reverse the Gorelick decision.

The DoJ decision undoubtedly influenced the political appointees serving as the Pentagon's legal counsel. When the Able Danger team asked for permission to approach the FBI with this information, the Defense attorneys reviewed the material and refused them permission -- three times, as the New York Times first reported. Their concern reflected military restrictions known as "intelligence oversight", as CQ reader Debbie K. pointed out in an e-mail. Intelligence Oversight is the military counterpart to FISA that keeps the military from engaging in domestic spying except in specific circumstances. However, in this case the activity had already been performed and a danger appeared to have been identified -- and the political and legal appointees at the DoD refused to pass it along.

Without a doubt, the policy instituted by the holier-than-thou attitude of the Clinton administration contributed mightily to the inability of the security services to protect the US from the 9/11 attack. The developments now before us showing that the Commission deliberately omitted evidence of this from their report strongly suggests that one or more of its members (and their staff) had a vested interest in keeping that as quiet as possible.

UPDATE: Jim Geraghty at TKS has a good analysis of the knowns and the known unknowns, as Donald Rumsfeld undoubtedly would say. He also links to some good work going on in the blogosphere analyzing the knowns and known unknowns. Check them all out.

UPDATE II: Captain V has more background on Intelligence Oversight, in a way. (via Tom Maguire)

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 12, 2005 5:27 AM

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» Able Danger, Gorelick Update VI from The Strata-Sphere
This story seems to continue at warp speed and heading straight at Berger/Clarke/Gorelick. Today’s item concerns a reminder by Debrah Orrin at the NY Post that the Gorelick ‘wall’ memo did not go over well with one US Attorney Mary ... [Read More]

Tracked on August 12, 2005 7:02 AM

» 9-11 Commission Coverup? from Sister Toldjah
Deborah Orin, in today’s New York Post, takes a look at the revelation this week that elite military unit known as "Able Danger" were on the trail of 9-11 terrorist Mohammed Atta over a year before 9-11. This information mysteriously did not m... [Read More]

Tracked on August 12, 2005 8:06 AM

» Able Danger Scandal from Secure Liberty
This one seems to be gathering quite a head of steam. It is being reported that the Able Danger data mining project identified the 9/11 cell sometime in 1999, and the 9/11 comission knew about it and still omitted it from their reports. From NRO's T... [Read More]

Tracked on August 12, 2005 10:04 AM

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