Question: Who would have the clout in the Clinton Administration to squelch an intelligence report that the military wanted to pass on to the FBI?
That’s got to be a pretty short list. First, it would have to be someone with the required security clearance. And second, it would have to be some kind of gatekeeper, someone who would liaise between both the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice.
Such an individual would almost have to work for the White House. Several bloggers are pointing to Jamie Gorelick as a possible culprit but I don’t think she would have had the authority to act on her own in such a sensitive matter. Her name may be on a memo somewhere but an interesting question is would the Justice Department have had the authority to act unilaterally in a matter of national security like this? I think not which brings us back to the White House and the possible involvement of Sandy Berger in preventing this intel from reaching the FBI.
The first is the time that Berger was in the National Archives stealing documents compared to when staff members for the 9/11 Commission were interviewing Congressman Weldon’s source for Able Danger. Berger is accused of stealing the documents “during two visits to the National Archives in September and October 2003.” The 9/11 staff people visited the Afghan-Pakistan border in October of 2003 to interview the Able Danger team member.
Coincidence? Or Connection?
It would depend on what Berger knew about the Committee’s plans. Would Berger have known that they were going to interview the Able Danger team member? If so, who would have tipped him off? It would have to have been a partisan who was privy to the comings and goings of the investigative staff, many of whom were current and former Justice Department attorneys.
Curiouser and curiouser, no?
Try this on for size. Commission member Jamie Gorelick worked in the same high-powered Democratic party law firm as 9/11 Commission Staff General Counsel Daniel Marcus. The firm includes such luminaries as Lloyd Cutler, known as “the ultimate Washington power broker” who passed away in May. Gorelick joined the firm in 1997 while Marcus left in 1998. If Berger was tipped off by someone with specific knowledge of both the Able Danger operation and Commission staff travel plans to interview one of the AD team members, it would make sense for this someone to have had access to documents so that all traces that the Clinton administration knew of the operation’s warning but didn’t tell the FBI could be removed.
That someone could have been Berger himself.
Perhaps its time to reopen one of the really nagging questions surrounding the formation of the 9/11 Commission itself; why was Jamie Gorelick the only member of the Commission from either the former or current administration who had an axe to grind? In a March 5, 1995 memo to the FBI Director Louis Freeh, Gorelick reminded the director of the “wall” between foreign intelligence gathered and the FBI investigation into the first World Trade Center attack:
In the memo, Ms. Gorelick ordered Mr. Freeh and Ms. White to follow information-sharing procedures that “go beyond what is legally required,” in order to avoid “any risk of creating an unwarranted appearance” that the Justice Department was using Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants, instead of ordinary criminal investigative procedures, in an effort to undermine the civil liberties of terrorism suspects.
Could one of the reasons Gorelick was placed on the Commission be that she would have been perfectly positioned to give a heads up to some of her friends in the Clinton Administration when troubling questions were coming up? Remember the context here. This was an election year. It was one of the major Democratic themes that 9/11 happened because the Bush Administration ignored warnings given by their predecessors. It would certainly be inconvenient if it came out that the Clinton White House had known of Mohammed Atta almost a year before the attacks.
The other curious thing that jumps out at you when looking at the timeline was that the second meeting with the Able Danger team member took place on July 12, 2004. Berger resigned from the Kerry campaign on July 21 after the document story came out. The Commission released its Final Report the very next day. Can’t say for sure if it means anything. After all, the FBI had been investigating Berger since February. It’s just curious that the information about the investigation would have come out when it did. It was remarked at the time that a probable culprit for leaking the Berger investigation was the Bush Administration trying to distract attention from the release of the 9/11 Commission report due the next day. That makes sense. But how about a little different take.
However, let me ask this—when would people prefer to have the information that the 9/11 Commission was denied access to highly classified material relating to the Clinton Administration’s response to terrorism—after the report came out, or before? For that matter, when would the commission itself prefer to find this out? I’d say it’s better to have this information in the public eye now, especially since the commission made such a show about public testimony, including that of Sandy Berger. If they publish a report based on incomplete evidence, I want to have that information in hand before assessing its credibility.
In this scenario, the Commission itself (who had been informed of the Berger matter) leaked news of the investigation to bolster its credibility. Possible, but let’s try a “wag the dog” scenario.
Suppose you had a PR problem with a former Clinton national security official who was being mentioned as the probable next Secretary of State in a Kerry Administration. You know that once the investigation comes to light that this officials dream of heading up the State Department is finished. But in order to minimize PR damage, you leak news of the investigation into this official’s conduct the day before some other news is absolutely going to swamp it; say, the release of a much anticipated bi-partisan report on the 9/11 attacks?
Just thinking out loud…