Tuesday, November 10, 2009


A few years ago, right-wingers became obsessed with the notion that a memo written by Clinton-era deputy attorney general Jamie Gorelick put in place a "wall" that prevented intelligence agencies and law enforcement from sharing information that might have prevented the 9/11 attacks. In fact, the 9/11 Commission report stated that the "wall" was "a series of restrictions between and within agencies constructed over 60 years," and its principles were reauthorized by John Ashcroft's Justice Department. What's more, the "wall" did not actually restrict the sharing of information between the FBI and the Defense Department.

None of this, of course, has stopped the right from continuing to howl. However, if what Newsweek's Mike Isikoff reported last night is true, there is a real "wall" that might have kept authorities from intervening to prevent the Fort Hood shooting -- but don't expect any star-spangled right-winger to demand its removal:

...since last December, the FBI monitored from 10 to 20 “communications” between suspected Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan and an overseas terror suspect...

But ... counterterror officials were never told about one key piece of investigative information: that Hasan had purchased a high-powered semiautomatic pistol on Aug. 1, just weeks after he was transferred by the Army to Fort Hood. Such gun purchases automatically trigger a federally mandated background check.

Absent the federally collected data that Hasan was arming himself with a Belgian-made FN Herstal 5.7 pistol -- a weapon that gun-control groups have portrayed as a "cop killer" -- the bureau's counterterrorism officials found there was insufficient grounds to raise additional concerns about Hassan within the government.

"From an investigative standpoint, there’s all kind of information we'd like to know," said one senior U.S. government investigator when asked whether the federally collected gun data about Hasan’s weapons purchase might have influenced the bureau's handling of his case.

... investigators stressed that under existing federal law, there are tight restrictions imposed by Congress about sharing any such information even within the FBI.

... after the check is conducted, and an individual is cleared to buy his gun, the FBI cannot retain the data or share any information about the gun purchase -- even with other bureau officials charged with preventing terror attacks.

The FBI has chafed under these restrictions in the past....

Whether the Hasan case prompts another look at those restrictions -- by the Democratic controlled Congress or the Obama Justice Department -- is one question sure to be asked in the weeks ahead.

You're joking about that last part, aren't you, Michael? Do you actually believe anyone in power would dare to propose tightening a restriction on firearm ownership in this country? Even if a series of terrorist attacks took advantage of this restraint on information-sharing, nothing would be done. This is America; the gun is sacred. Nothing to see here -- move along.

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