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April 14, 2004

MITCH BERG:

John Ashcroft shredded the 9/11 commission yesterday, all but dragging Jamie Gorelick from behind the rostrum by her hair and yelling "This woman wrote part of the policy that erected the wall between intelligence and prosecution", even declassifying one of Gorelick's memos (read: "smoking gun") which called for, as Ashcroft put it, "Draconian barriers" between the two parts of government most responsible for fighting the war before it became a military war.

So what did the media report? If anything, variations on "Ashcroft on the defensive", and "The FBI blew it".

Never - not in one account I've read so far, and I've read a bunch - did they read "One of the inquisitors on the 9/11 commission was a key architect of the system that made the FBI and CIA's job completely impossible." Not one example of "This commission's work is fatally compromised" - as they would if Gorelick had been a Republican, and the President a Democrat.

For more on Gorelick's multiple conflicts of interest, including unfortunate Saudi ties, go here and follow the links. I agree that the press is giving her a pass -- as I wrote last summer, she shouldn't have been on the Commission at all. She should resign now, but she won't.

UPDATE: Ed Morrissey is surprised that media, beyond the New York Times, are ignoring this story:

It appears that the primary culprit of the intelligence failure will be the structural hurdles placed recklessly in our counterterrorism efforts by a string of people, which neither starts nor ends with Gorelick, but certainly deeply involves her. Under those circumstances, the American public can have no confidence in any report in which she plays a significant part in shaping. No other member of the commission had this much impact on such a critical flaw. The public should demand the withdrawal of Gorelick from the 9/11 Commission, and they probably would if the media actually reported the story of the day anywhere near as well as the New York Times.

He's got a survey of how other outlets are spinning the story, and it's not pretty.

ANOTHER UPDATE: For an example of totally dropping the ball, read this piece by Fred Kaplan, which actually lionizes Gorelick (and, coincidentally, numerous other Clinton appointees) while completely ignoring this issue. Of course, he's not alone, but it's interesting that the Times coverage -- which usually sets the tone for other outlets -- is being ignored here. Why?

MORE: By the way, I think I should stress that the "wall" wasn't necessarily a bad idea at the time -- at least, the purpose of separating law enforcement and intelligence reflected a longstanding tradition. In hindsight, we wish it had been different, but it's not fair to employ hindsight that way. But if this is true for Gorelick, it's true for Bush, too, and Gorelick -- and the other anti-Bush partisans on the Commission -- want to have it both ways on the hindsight front.

What bothers me is that Gorelick is accusing Bush of living in a pre-9/11 mindset before 9/11 when she was occupying that mindset too. And her complicity in this sort of thing -- coupled with her obvious motive to deflect blame, and her less-than-forthcoming treatment of these issues -- makes her, in my opinion, unfit to serve on the Commission. (And that's leaving the Saudi issue aside). That's not because she authored the "wall" policy to begin with, but because of her behavior since.