September 11 commission member Jamie S. Gorelick, who recused herself from questioning some Clinton administration officials last week, still can help draft parts of the board’s final report on the “wall” between intelligence and law enforcement that she defended while in the Clinton Justice Department.
Al Felzenberg, spokesman for the commission, said Ms. Gorelick’s recusal applies to the time she was deputy attorney general at the Justice Department, so she is free to take part in the investigation and drafting of the report for anything that happened after she left.
That, he said, includes the legal barrier known as “the wall,” which prevented the sharing of information between law-enforcement and intelligence officials.
“The wall as it existed after she left, the wall as it existed in the beginning of the Bush administration, she’s perfectly free to ask questions about,” Mr. Felzenberg said.
Faced with her refusal to resign and what some of them have called a “circus” atmosphere at recent commission meetings, Republicans in the House, just back from a two-week recess, are stepping up their criticism.
At the weekly meeting of the House Republican Conference yesterday, Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas urged his colleagues to take the case to the public. And many of them already are doing that.
“The commission findings need to have truth and credibility, and with her remaining on the commission, that will not be the end result,” said Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, Florida Republican. “For her to recuse herself on several issues still does not answer what I think most Americans want to know — and that is what she knows.”
And Rep. Jack Kingston, Georgia Republican, said the commission’s members haven’t impressed anyone.
“The commission is a reunion of political has-beens who haven’t had face time since ‘Seinfeld’ was a weekly show,” he said. “In their scramble to make the evening news, they’ve turned this grave matter into a get-even-for-Monica investigation — a switch the American people see right through.”
Attorney General John Ashcroft last week released a memo that Ms. Gorelick wrote in 1995, which he said showed she was responsible for bolstering the wall, which he said was a critical problem that led to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Republicans in Congress immediately began calling for her to step down entirely.
Ms. Gorelick, the panel’s Republican chairman and its Democratic vice chairman have rejected those calls, saying her recusals are enough.
“Commissioners should not be investigating or judging themselves. Nor, should they be looking back and judging any decisions that were made during their time in government by the agency where they worked. I plan to adhere to that policy,” she said.
The commission’s policy calls on members and staff not to lead interviews of former supervisors or employees that they supervised. It also calls on them to recuse themselves when they have a financial interest at stake and “from investigating work they performed in prior government service.”
So far, Ms. Gorelick’s recusal publicly has meant not questioning her boss at the Justice Department from 1994 to 1997, former Attorney General Janet Reno, or former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh.
Mr. Felzenberg said she probably will be able to help draft the report’s recommendations concerning the “wall,” although he said it’s probably two months too early to address that question.
“I don’t see how a conflict, if it’s not a financial nature, affects the future,” he said.
Mark R. Levin, president of the Landmark Legal Foundation, which called for Ms. Gorelick’s resignation even before the most recent revelations, said that’s not enough.
“The fact that Jamie Gorelick recuses herself from a handful of cases doesn’t remove her influence,” he said. “No number of recusals — whether recusals from questioning witnesses or from subject areas — can save her from her conflict.”
And Andrew C. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor who has written several articles critiquing Ms. Gorelick’s role on the commission, said her conflict is more about what she was involved in than the time she was there.
“Issues, I think, transcend time frames,” he said.
Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican, said he was surprised that Ms. Gorelick was on the commission in the first place because of her role in the Clinton administration.
“Obviously, she’s got a vested interest in this to make sure this commission clearly comes out and blames somebody in some organization other [than] — and some policies other than — the ones she was integral in formulating,” he said.
He said partisanship on the commission means members are in danger of squandering a chance to contribute to the discussion of domestic intelligence gathering and whether there should be a Cabinet-level position coordinating all intelligence.
But key Democrats, asked to what extent she should recuse herself, said none at all.
“Zero,” said House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said, “None.”
“I don’t think there is a member on there who hasn’t made some statements about national security,” Mr. Hoyer said. “And Ms. Gorelick is obviously a very capable individual. And her experience clearly adds something to the mix.”
Paul C. Light, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, said at this point, she should participate in everything.
“The decision to put her on the commission was the key decision. Once she’s on the commission, I don’t see why she shouldn’t participate in all the decisions,” Mr. Light said.