Let's see. Henry Kissinger, refused to name the clients of his consulting firrm, so he was hounded off the 911 commission for "conflicts of interest":
"Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has resigned as chairman of a commission investigating events leading up to the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States. Mr Kissinger, who had been in the job for just 16 days, had been criticised for refusing to release the names of clients at his consulting firm. ... The BBC's Tom Carver in Washington says the episode is enormously embarrassing for Mr Bush, adding questions will be asked about why possible conflicts of interest were not raised before Mr Kissinger's appointment."BBC Online, 14 December 2002
Naming Kissinger might even have been a political ploy by Bush to "contain" the commission:
"In naming Henry Kissinger to direct a comprehensive examination of the government's failure to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush has selected a consummate Washington insider....his affinity for power and the commercial interests he has cultivated since leaving government may make him less than the staunchly independent figure that is needed for this critical post. Indeed, it is tempting to wonder if the choice of Mr. Kissinger is not a clever maneuver by the White House to contain an investigation it long opposed."New York Times, 29 Nov 2002
Kissinger's own statement that he resigned to "remove any questions about even the appearance
of a conflict of interest regarding his ties to several organizations and public figures" is all but lost in the noise. (From CNN
, emphasis added.)
Now comes Jaime Gorelick, who was instrumental in codifying the virtual "wall" between law enforcement and intelligence and is named to the commission. Here's her memo
(in PDF format), which states that it goes "beyond what is legally required ... [in order to] ... prevent any risk of creating an unwarranted appearance that FISA [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which authorizes more snooping on spies than is generally permitted against mere criminals] is being used to avoid procedural safeguards which would apply in a criminal investigation." In English: The Department of Justice prevented the FBI from fully disclosing to the CIA what it found in a domestic counter intelligence investigation. This is not an unreasonable position to take pre-911. But clearly, allowing the FBI to disclose to the CIA (and vice versa) everything it knew or thought it knew about al Qaeda cells in the US prior to 911 might have led to the discovery of the plot in time to derail it. That's what the 911 commission is supposed to be investigating.
But wait, there's more!. Ms. Gorelick is a litigation partner in Wilmer Cutler and Pickering
. That's one of the big time DC lawfirms. According to Newsweek
, that firm has agreed to defend Prince Mohammed al Faisal against legal claims by the 9/11 families that al Faisal has legal responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. (From PLA Blog
Is there not an actual conflict of interest (as opposed to a mere appearance of a conflict) here? Might not Gorelick be more interested in protecting her reputation and career in light of her actions at the Department of Justice rather than a coldly logical look at what could have been done or done better to avoid the attack? Might she be more interested in benefiting one of her firms wealthiest and most important clients than in finding structural or procedural flaws in our intelligence and counter intelligence systems? Surely there is as much or more of a conflict of interest here than there was in Kissinger's case.
When will the New York Times editorial page speculate as to whether this was a ploy by the Democrats to divert the commission from its bipartisan "what do we need to fix and how do we fix it" mandate into a political tool in an election year?