|Lawmaker Calls for Sept. 11 Panelist
FOX-News April 14, 2004
WASHINGTON — Jamie Gorelick (^) is causing a stir.
Gorelick, a commissioner on the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (^) probing the military and intelligence issues surrounding the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, served as a deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration.
Both the Clinton and Bush administrations are key targets of the investigation, and although the panel is comprised entirely of Washington insiders and elected officials, Gorelick, a Democrat, is the only one who was actively serving an administration during the time being investigated.
Some say Gorelick doesn't belong on the panel.
Gorelick recused herself from cross-examining some of the law enforcement and intelligence officials who testified before the commission on Tuesday, but to some, that's simply not enough.
"I think she has to recuse herself from everything," said Fox News senior judicial analyst, Andrew Napolitano.
During Tuesday's proceedings, Attorney General John Ashcroft (^) pointed out that a 1995 memo written by Gorelick during her tenure as a second in command at the Justice Department helped build the "walls" that, according to Ashcroft's testimony, prevented the FBI from being able to effectively communicate and go after terrorists.
"We did not know an attack was coming because for nearly a decade our government had blinded itself to its enemies," Ashcroft said in his opening remarks. "Our agents were isolated by government-imposed walls, handcuffed by government-imposed restrictions and starved for basic information technology."
Calling Gorelick's role in setting Clinton Justice Department policy an "inherent conflict of interest," House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., on Wednesday urged Gorelick to resign from the commission because of the conflict.
"I believe the commission's work and independence will be fatally damaged by the continued participation of Ms. Gorelick as a commissioner," Sensenbrenner wrote.
"Commissioner Gorelick's memo directing a policy that 'go[es] beyond what is legally required' indicates that her judgment and actions as the deputy attorney general in the Reno Justice Department are very much in question before the commission."
Sensenbrenner noted that Ashcroft called the Justice policy in question "the single greatest structural cause for September 11 ... [and] embraced flawed legal reasoning."
"Commissioner Gorelick is in the unfair position of trying to address the key issue before the Commission when her own actions are central to the events at issue," Sensenbrenner wrote, noting that it's "regrettable the conflict" wasn't brought to light sooner. "The public cannot help but ask legitimate questions about her motives."
Sensenbrenner said Gorelick would be more valuable and less controversial as a witness, not a commission member.
People like former FBI Director Luis Freeh and current FBI
Robert Mueller, Ashcroft, former presidential adviser Richard Clarke
and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, who have all testified,
"would have rightly sparked indignation about a conflict of interest
had these individuals also been members of the commission,"
Gorelick is currently a partner at the law firm of Wilmer Cutler and Pickering and stepped down as vice chairman of Fannie Mae when she took the position on the commission. She was appointed to the panel by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and former House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri.
Two groups — The 9-11 Family Steering Committee and 9-11 Citizens Watch — previously called for the resignation of the commission's executive director, Philip Zelikow, after it was discovered that he participated in Bush administration briefings on the Al Qaeda threat prior to Sept. 11.
Only Zelikow and Gorelick reportedly are allowed to read classified intelligence reports— known as the presidential daily briefs— in their entirety.
Fox News' Anna Stolley contributed to this report.