Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Crisco Johnny, Pants Ablaze

We all remember John Ashcroft's opening statement before the September 11th commission, in which he lambasted commission member Jamie Gorelick over a Justice Department memo she wrote in 1995:

In 1995, the Justice Department embraced flawed legal reasoning, imposing a series of restrictions on the FBI that went beyond what the law required. The 1995 Guidelines and the procedures developed around them imposed draconian barriers to communications between the law enforcement and intelligence communities. The wall "effectively excluded" prosecutors from intelligence investigations. The wall left intelligence agents afraid to talk with criminal prosecutors or agents. In 1995, the Justice Department designed a system destined to fail.

Now he's out pimping the Patriot Act, and as the Center for American Progress points out he has changed his story:

To be sure, the procedures [outlined in the 1995 memo] were intended to permit a degree of interaction and information sharing between prosecutors and intelligence officers, while at the same time ensuring that the FBI would be able to obtain or continue FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] coverage and later use the fruits of that coverage in a criminal prosecution. Over time, however, coordination and information sharing between intelligence and law enforcement investigators became even more limited in practice than was allowed in theory under the Department’s procedures. Due both to confusion about when sharing was permitted and to a perception that improper information sharing could end a career, a culture developed within the Department sharply limiting the exchange of information between intelligence and law enforcement officials.

Hmmm. Under oath, he says that Gorelick erected a "wall" and created "draconian measures" that hamstrung terrorism investigations. Now he says the memo was written to permit and encourage "information sharing" and "interaction", but confusion and misperceptions in the Justice Department limited such exchanges.

Did Ashcroft perjure himself twice in April?