Zombie Lie: Right-Wing Media Revive “The 'Wall'” To Smear Gorelick As “Tied To 9-11”

Right-wing media have repeated the discredited claim that former Justice Department official Jamie Gorelick created a “wall” that blocked sharing of information between intelligence and law enforcement officials and used it to smear her as being “tied to 9-11.” In fact, Gorelick did not create the “wall”; it existed before her Justice Department tenure.

Right-Wing Media Cite Intelligence “Wall” To Smear Gorelick As “Tied To 9-11”

Hannity: Gorelick “Helped Institute The Infamous 'Wall Of Separation'”; Advances Ashcroft's Claim That “Wall” Was “The Single Greatest Structural Cause For September 11.” From the March 23 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

SEAN HANNITY (host): Team Obama is on the hunt for a new FBI director. Robert Mueller's 10-year term is coming to an end in September, and in an administration with a history of vetting problems, it may not be surprising that one of the candidates reportedly being considered is raising eyebrows.

Now, she is former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, who helped institute the infamous “wall of separation.” Now, that's the group of policies enacted in 1995 that prevented crucial information-sharing between intelligence and law enforcement before 9-11.

In fact, during his testimony before the 9-11 Commission, former Attorney General John Ashcroft actually argued that, quote, “The single greatest structural cause for September 11 was the 'wall' that segregated criminal investigators and intelligence agents.”


HANNITY: Her? Tell me, you know, with the history of vetting problems and their picking of extreme people, the person that set up this very wall that created a vulnerability is going to be the top cop in the country?

MICHELLE MALKIN (Fox News contributor): Well, in many ways, it makes perfect sense that an architect of failure, a Beltway fixture and crony, would be in the running and on the short list of an Obama administration slot. Yeah, it makes perfect sense because failure is the middle name of this administration.

There is an old saying in the Beltway bureaucracy. It's this: “Screw up, move up.” And when it comes to getting ahead after overseeing so many failures, Jamie Gorelick really wins a gold medal in that regard. And specifically, with regard to her tenure in the Clinton administration as a deputy attorney general under Janet Reno's Department of Justice -- what we had somebody who was more interested in turf protection, covering backsides, and protecting political interests over American interests. That's what the “wall” memo is all about, and it's very instructive as they consider her on the short list.

For every Republican in -- currently in office and in Washington and in a position of authority and responsibility to reread that entire memo -- it's their words. They're the ones that used the words “walled up” -- wall between counterterrorism officials and those who were investigating on the criminal side. And just as John Ashcroft pointed out, and the 9-11 Commission shed light on, it was this particular structure that did so much damage and hampered efforts to go after the likes of everyone from Mohamed Atta to Ramzi Yousef. [Fox News, Hannity, 3/23/11]

CNSNews Forwards Ashcroft's Claim That Gorelick's “Wall” Was A “Structural Cause” In The 9-11 Attacks. A March 23 CNSNews.com article stated that Ashcroft “testified before the 9/11 Commission that Gorelick's 'wall' was a 'structural cause' in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 being allowed to occur.” CNSNews did, however, go on to report that Gorelick later said that Ashcroft's claims were “false.” From CNSNews:

Rules stemming from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), under which the intelligence community was operating as part of its investigation, stipulates that information may only be gathered by way of surveillance for the primary purpose of intelligence, not to contribute to a criminal case under which defendants have more constitutional protections.

Gorelick sought to make clear in her memo that investigators of both stripes were adhering to FISA precedent and not misappropriating the authority to undermine the rights of any defendant.

“These procedures, which go beyond what is legally required, will prevent any risk of creating an unwarranted appearance that FISA is being used to avoid procedural safeguards which would apply in a criminal investigation,” Gorelick wrote.

Bush Attorney General John Ashcroft later testified before the 9/11 Commission that Gorelick's “wall” was a “structural cause” in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 being allowed to occur.

In his prepared testimony, he said, “In 1995 the Justice Department, imposing a series of restrictions on the FBI that went beyond what the law required. ... The single greatest structural cause for September 11 was the wall that segregated criminal investigators and intelligence agents. Government erected this wall. Government buttressed this wall. And before September 11, government was blinded by this wall.”

After Ashcroft's commission testimony, Gorelick published a commentary in The Washington Post saying that his accusations were false, and that the “wall” predated her tenure by decades. [CNSNews.com, 3/23/11]

Fox Nation Picks Up CNSNews Article, Claims Gorelick Is “Tied To 9/11.” On March 23, Fox Nation linked to the CNSNews article with the headline, “Woman Tied to 9/11, Fannie Mae on Obama's FBI Shortlist!” Fox Nation included an excerpt from an old version of the CNSNews article that has since been updated. The excerpt Fox Nation cited no longer appears in the current version:

But Gorelick is perhaps best known for her 1995 memo, written when she was deputy attorney general, that later became known as “Gorelick's Wall,” a policy prescription limiting the flow of information between intelligence gatherers and criminal investigators that some believe helped allow the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center to go unchallenged.

From Fox Nation:

FN Gorelick

[Fox Nation, 3/23/11]

Drudge: Gorelick “Tied To 9/11.” The Drudge Report also linked the CNSNews article about Gorelick under the headline, “Obama considering woman tied to 9/11, Fannie Mae for FBI head.” From the Drudge Report:

Drudge Gorelick

[The Drudge Report, 3/23/11]

Beck: Gorelick “Tied To 9-11.” On the March 24 edition of his radio show, Glenn Beck claimed that Gorelick is “tied to 9-11.” After co-host Stu Burguiere responded by saying, “She's not tied to 9-11,” Beck stated, “She is definitely tied to 9-11. ... When I say 9-11, what happened on 9-11, how come the CIA and the FBI couldn't talk to each other, what would you respond?” Beck and Burguiere then referred to “Gorelick's wall.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 3/24/11]

“Wall” Predated Gorelick -- She Did Not Create It

Congressional Report: “Wall” Constructed Over 60 Years And Did Not Originate In Clinton Administration. A joint report from the House and Senate intelligence committees on pre-September 11 intelligence failures did not find that the “wall” originated in the Clinton administration. The report states: “The 'Wall' is not a single barrier, but a series of restrictions between and within agencies constructed over 60 years as a result of legal, policy, institutional and personal factors.” [Report of the Joint Inquiry Into the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, Page 363; retrieved 3/23/11]

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review Traced “Wall” To 1980s. Similarly, a ruling by the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review -- when it met for the first time in 2002 -- traced the origin of the “wall” to “some point during the 1980s,” when the Justice Department began to read the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 “as limiting the Department's ability to obtain FISA orders if it intended to prosecute the targeted agents -- even for foreign intelligence crimes.” [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, In re: Sealed Case No. 02-001, retrieved 3/23/11]

9-11 Commission: 1995 Justice Department Memo Was “Misunderstood and Misapplied.” From the 9-11 Commission Report:

In July 1995, Attorney General Reno issued formal procedures aimed at managing information sharing between Justice Department prosecutors and the FBI. They were developed in a working group led by the Justice Department's Executive Office of National Security, overseen by Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick. These procedures -- while requiring the sharing of intelligence information with prosecutors -- regulated the manner in which such information could be shared from the intelligence side of the house to the criminal side.

These procedures were almost immediately misunderstood and misapplied. As a result, there was far less information sharing and coordination between the FBI and the Criminal Division in practice than was allowed under the department's procedures. Over time the procedures came to be referred to as “the wall.” The term “the wall” is misleading, however, because several factors led to a series of barriers to information sharing that developed. [9-11 Commission Report, retrieved 3/23/11]

Ashcroft Deputy In August 2001: “The 1995 Procedures Remain In Effect Today.” From Ashcroft's April 12, 2004, testimony before the 9-11 Commission:

SLADE GORTON (9-11 Commission member): Your second issue is a severe criticism of the 1995 guidelines that, as you say, imposed draconian barriers to communications between law enforcement and the intelligence communities, the so-called wall.

I don't find that in the eight months before September 11th, 2001, that you changed those guidelines. In fact, I have here a memorandum dated August 6th from Larry Thompson, the fifth line of which reads, “The 1995 procedures remain in effect today.”

If that wall was so disabling, why was it not destroyed during the course of those eight months?

ASHCROFT: The August 6th memorandum of Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson made possible significantly more information sharing by mandating that those individuals involved in intelligence investigations who came across information relating to a felony federal offense immediately provide notice of that felony federal offense to people on the criminal side of the house.

It was a step in the direction of disabling the wall. It was a step in the direction of lowering the wall, providing for greater communication. [9-11 Commission hearing, 4/12/04]

9-11 Commissioner: Gorelick “Had Nothing To Do With Any 'Wall' Between Law Enforcement And Our Intelligence Agencies.” From a 2005 letter to the editor from former Sen. Slade Gorton (R-WA), a member of the 9-11 Commission:

[T]he assertion that the commission failed to report on this program to protect Ms. Gorelick is ridiculous. She had nothing to do with any “wall” between law enforcement and our intelligence agencies. The 1995 Department of Justice guidelines at issue were internal to the Justice Department and were not even sent to any other agency. The guidelines had no effect on the Department of Defense and certainly did not prohibit it from communicating with the FBI, the CIA or anyone else. [The Washington Times, 8/15/2005]