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The independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks may be about to implode amidst partisan recriminations and charges of conflict of interest, with the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee calling on one of the panel's leading members to resign.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., demanded on Wednesday that former Clinton administration deputy attorney general Jamie Gorelick resign from the investigation, charging that she "has an inherent conflict of interest as the author of this memo [recommending a "wall" between U.S. intelligence agencies] and as a government official at the center of the events in question."
The Gorelick memo, issued under the authority of the Justice Department in 1995, was blamed by Attorney General John Ashcroft on Tuesday for hampering the ability of the FBI and CIA to cooperate in terrorist investigations. [Ms.Gorelick's memo recommended the notorious communications "wall" between the FBI and CIA which prevented exchange of information between the two agencies on terror findings and may well have been the biggest cause of the intelligence breakdown preceding 9/11. In other words, if not for Ms. Gorelick's untimely and legalistic intervention, 9/11 may well have been stymied by American intelligence agencies co-operating with each other.]
Other aspects of Gorelick's tenure suggest more conflicts, such as questions about what role, if any, she played in advising President Clinton that there was no legal basis to extradite Osama bin Laden to the U.S. when he was offered by Sudan in 1996.
Another problem: Gorelick's law firm represents Saudi Prince Mohammed al Faisal, a potential defendant in the litigation being brought by the 9/11 families. A finding by the commission that 9/11 was preventable could take some of the heat off of Gorelick's Saudi clients.
Commission Chairman Tom Kean on Wednesday, however, dismissed suggestions that Gorelick was unfit to serve, complaining that Sensenbrenner and other Commission critics should "stay out of our business."
Gorelick apparently enjoys a special relationship with Kean. She boasted last week that she was the only other commissioner besides Kean and co-chair Lee Hamilton who had access to every one of the presidential daily briefings.
Gorelick's public conduct in recent days has only exacerbated perceptions of impropriety.
Last Thursday, when asked whether the commission's findings would impact on the presidential election, Gorelick told MSNBC "Hardball" host Chris Matthews, "[The report] will raise some very fundamental issues."
Minutes later, Gorelick beamed as Matthews referred to her as a "former deputy attorney general [who] may well be attorney general again."
Reproduced with the permission of NewsMax.com. Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.