The attorney general sounded almost contemptuous as he spoke of a “legal wall” put into effect in 1995 to separate criminal investigators from intelligence agents in an effort to safeguard individual rights.
Far from protecting individual rights, Mr. Ashcroft asserted, the wall has been an obstacle to protecting the American people.
Referring to the 1995 document that constructed the figurative wall, Mr. Ashcroft went on to say, “Full disclosure compels me to inform you that the author of this memorandum is a member of the commission.”
Mr. Ashcroft was a referring to Jamie Gorelick, a Democratic member of the independent, bipartisan, 10-member commission, who was an assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration.
Mr. Ashcroft also rebutted suggestions that the F.B.I.’s notoriously outmoded computer system â€” actually, 42 different “antique” systems, he said â€” could be blamed on Louis J. Freeh, the former F.B.I. director, who is an acknowledged computerphobe. Mr. Freeh testified earlier today.
The real blame, Mr. Ashcroft said, lies on the doorstep of the Clinton administration, whose last fiscal year budget â€” still in effect on Sept. 11, 2001 â€” allotted $36 million less for computer development than the budget of the first administration of the first President George Bush eight years earlier.
The attorney general also said that the time that has elapsed since the attacks had diluted neither his grief nor his rage.
“It is with great sorrow that I join this commission today,” he said. “Even today, 31 months after the attacks, I struggle to learn the lessons of that day without being overwhelmed by the losses of that day.
“I feel sorrow for the loss of life, sorrow for the loss of promise, sorrow for the loss of innocence, sorrow for the loss suffered by a nation that is forever scarred.
“My sorrow for the victims of Sept. 11 is equaled only by my rage at their killer. Osama bin Laden is to blame for my anger. I blame his hatred for our values, his perversion of a faith, his idolatry of death. It was his hand that took the lives of nearly 3,000 innocents on September 11. It is his face that is the face of evil.”
It’s about time somebody got up there and pointed the finger and Osama and at the “wall” we’ve all heard about. I did not realize a member of the 9/11 Commission authored the “wall” memo. I read the memo this afternoon. It’s pretty damning.
The basic gist is that Jamie Gorelick, the commission member, instructed the FBI that there had to be a wall between the intelligence gathering role of the FBI and the criminal investigations role of the FBI. This caused a failure to communicate within the agency.