Former acting FBI Director Thomas J. Pickard told the September 11 commission in a private interview earlier this year that he was surprised that Jamie S. Gorelick is serving on the panel because she had played a key role in setting the very counterterrorism policies being investigated.
According to a summary of that interview obtained by The Washington Times, Mr. Pickard said Ms. Gorelick — who was No. 2 in the Clinton Justice Department under Attorney General Janet Reno — resisted efforts by the FBI to expand the counterterrorism effort beyond simple law enforcement tactics and agencies.
“Mr. Pickard indicated that it was a growing concern that the international terrorism threat was ‘bigger than law enforcement,’” according to the notes from a Jan. 20 meeting at the commission’s New York office.
“Despite expression of these concerns by FBI executive management, Attorney General Reno and her Deputy Jamie Gorelick believed that a law enforcement approach was appropriate,” the notes say.
In a footnote, the FBI employee who attended the meeting and kept the notes wrote: “Mr. Pickard stated that he finds her ‘membership on your Commission surprising since it [the decision to counter international terrorism with a law enforcement-only approach] was her and Reno’s policy.’ ”
The notes show that concerns about Ms. Gorelick’s impartiality on the commission were raised months before House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, called for her resignation last week.
Mr. Sensenbrenner’s demand came after a memo Ms. Gorelick wrote was declassified by Attorney General John Ashcroft and blamed for hampering U.S. counterterrorism efforts.
Mr. Pickard, who spent most of his career at the FBI as deputy director during the Clinton administration, testified publicly before the commission last week and talked about his brief tenure as acting director of the FBI in 2001 before the terrorist attacks.
But in that open, televised testimony, he never mentioned Ms. Gorelick, her role in confining the counterterrorism effort, or his concerns about Ms. Gorelick’s service on the commission.
Nor did Ms. Gorelick recuse herself from Mr. Pickard’s testimony or refrain from questioning him, as she did when Miss Reno and former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh testified.
According to the commission guidelines on recusals: “Commissioners and staff will recuse themselves from investigating work they performed in prior government service.”
The rules also state: “Where a commissioner or staff member has a close personal relationship with an individual, or either supervised or was supervised by an individual, the commissioner or staff member should not play a primary role in the Commission interview of that person.”
Ms. Gorelick has defended her impartiality to sit on the panel and judge U.S. counterterrorism efforts even as she has strenuously defended her own actions in the past on some of those very efforts. She appeared last week on several TV programs to say she won’t step down from the board and has the support of the Republican chairman of the panel.
During one television interview, Chris Matthews of MSNBC asked her if the release of her 1995 memo and current calls for her resignation were in response to her tough questioning about Mr. Ashcroft’s policies and those of the Bush Justice Department.
Ms. Gorelick did not speculate on any political motives by her opponents, but said, “I’m not bringing a partisan ax to grind here.”
Yesterday, however, in an opinion piece that appeared in The Washington Post, Ms. Gorelick implied a link between Mr. Ashcroft’s release of the memo and prior questioning about his department.
“At last week’s hearing, Attorney General John Ashcroft, facing criticism, asserted that ‘the single greatest structural cause for September 11 was the wall that segregated criminal investigators and intelligence agents’ and that I built that wall through a March 1995 memo,” she wrote. “This is simply not true.”
In that column — as well as during her TV appearances last week — she also defended her role in fighting terrorism at the Justice Department, distancing herself from the “wall” separating law enforcement fighting terrorism and intelligence services that gather counterterrorism information.
She didn’t raise the wall, Ms. Gorelick said, and her memo was simply intended to define the boundaries between law enforcement and intelligence services so that cases against terrorists would not be thrown out of court because law enforcement had overstepped its bounds.
“Look: In my view, if we could have lowered that wall sooner, we should have,” she told Mr. Matthews.
But that was not what she was saying around the time she wrote her memo. Ms. Gorelick appeared in October 1995 before the Senate Intelligence Committee, where she testified that many people wondered why the government doesn’t merge law enforcement and counterintelligence agencies.
“I mean, they have a lot of resources. You have a lot of resources, you have all got the same enemies, why don’t you just merge to achieve greater efficiency?” she said to the assembled senators, including Sen. Bob Kerrey, Nebraska Democrat, who has since left the Senate and now sits with Ms. Gorelick on the 9/11 commission.
“I think on both sides of the river, if you will, we think this would be a serious mistake,” she said. “There are ample reasons, both in history and in constitutional principles, to maintain a clear demarcation between the missions of the two communities.”
Even in her 1995 memo, she noted that the separation procedures outlined “go beyond what is legally required.”