Saturday, December 17, 2005

A lot of people undoubtedly believe that the urbane, socially moderate Rudy Giuliani might be the best of a bad lot if we wind up electing a Republican president in 2008; this op-ed in today's New York Times tells you why he'd be bad news. The op-ed, which argues for renewal of the Patriot Act, shows that Giuliani, like the current president, loves government secrecy and is more than willing to lie and deceive the public in order to preserve that secrecy.

Here's what Giuliani writes:

...The central provisions of the Patriot Act allow law enforcement and the intelligence community to share information. This might seem elementary, but for years law enforcement had been stymied by a legal wall that prevented agencies from sharing information....

If the Senate fails to approve the extension, the government will be forced to revert in many ways to our pre-Sept. 11 methods....

The bipartisan 9/11 commission described a vivid example of how the old ways hurt us. In the summer of 2001, an F.B.I. agent investigating two individuals we now know were hijackers on Sept. 11 asked to share information with another team of agents. This request was refused because of the wall. The agent's response was tragically prescient: "Someday, someone will die - and wall or not - the public will not understand why we were not more effective."

How quickly we forget.

A compelling argument -- except for the fact that (1) Patriot Act opponents aren't trying to reinstate the "wall" and (2) Chapter 8 of the 9/11 Commission Report, where the e-mail cited by Giuliani is quoted, flatly contradicts his conclusion.

According to that chapter, the FBI agent in question, who was working on the case of the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, became aware of a lead involving one of the future 9/11 hijackers. That agent got in touch with "Jane," an FBI analyst.

One of the Cole case agents read the lead with interest, and contacted "Jane" to obtain more information. "Jane" argued, however, that because the agent was designated a "criminal" FBI agent, not an intelligence FBI agent, the wall kept him from participating in any search for Mihdhar....

"Jane" sent an email to the Cole case agent explaining that according to the NSLU [the FBI's National Security Law Unit], the case could be opened only as an intelligence matter, and that if [Khalid al] Mihdhar was found, only designated intelligence agents could conduct or even be present at any interview. She appears to have misunderstood the complex rules that could apply to this situation.

This is when the FBI agent sent his e-mail.

The report continues:

"Jane" replied that she was not making up the rules; she claimed that they were in the relevant manual and "ordered by the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] Court and every office of the FBI is required to follow them including FBI NY."

It is now clear that everyone involved was confused about the rules governing the sharing and use of information gathered in intelligence channels. Because Mihdhar was being sought for his possible connection to or knowledge of the
Cole bombing, he could be investigated or tracked under the existing Cole criminal case. No new criminal case was needed for the criminal agent to begin searching for Mihdhar. And as NSA had approved the passage of its information to the criminal agent, he could have conducted a search using all available information.

(Emphasis mine throughout.)

So Giuliani is lying about the rules in effect before 9/11. Giuliani, invoking the 9/11 Commission, arrives at a conclusion about the use of the "wall" in this case that the Commission flatly contradicts. All in the interest of demonizing Patriot Act opponents as opponents of all of the Act's provisions, and in the interest of preserving excessive and unnecessary infringement on civil liberties.

Maybe Cheney would like to be his running mate.

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