FEBRUARY 19, 2010, 9:18 P.M. ET
Lawyers Cleared Over 9/11 Memos
By JESS BRAVIN
WASHINGTON—A senior Justice Department official cleared two Bush administration lawyers of professional-misconduct allegations in connection with memorandums the lawyers wrote authorizing harsh interrogations.
The decision by David Margolis, the deputy associate attorney general, overruled internal findings that the Bush officials committed professional misconduct and should be referred to their state bar associations for disciplinary proceedings.
The legal work was at the heart of the debate over Bush-era practices in the war on terror, with critics calling the practices approved in the memorandums torture. Mr. Margolis didn't endorse the legal work performed by the lawyers, John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who drafted the once-secret memorandums. But the men should not face punishment, Mr. Margolis decided, because the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks placed them under extraordinary pressure and it would be unfair to hold them to "best practices" after the fact.
November 13, 2009
Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey said today that it is highly likely that terrorists will attack New York City as a consequence of the Obama administration's decision to send five alleged Sept. 11 plotters there for trial in federal court.
During a question and answer period following a speech to a conservative legal group, Mukasey was asked about the possibility that there might be an escape by one or more prisoners.
"The [Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan] is a very secure place....Is it secure? Of course, it’s secure. They’re not going to escape," Mukasey told a conference of the Federalist Society. "The question is not whether they're going to escape. The question is whether, not only that particular facility, but the city [at] large, will then become the focus for mischief in the form of murder by adherents of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed--whether this raises the odds that it will. I would suggest to you that it raises them very high."
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Michael Mukasey blames 9/11 on the "civilian justice system":
"Nevertheless, critics of Guantanamo seem to believe that if we put our vaunted civilian justice system on display in these cases, then we will reap benefits in the coin of world opinion, and perhaps even in that part of the world that wishes us ill. Of course, we did just that after the first World Trade Center bombing, after the plot to blow up airliners over the Pacific, and after the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
In return, we got the 9/11 attacks and the murder of nearly 3,000 innocents. True, this won us a great deal of goodwill abroad—people around the globe lined up for blocks outside our embassies to sign the condolence books. That is the kind of goodwill we can do without."
More material has been added covering the NSA's surveillance of Ahmed al-Hada, father-in-law of alleged Pentagon hijacker Khalid Almihdhar. Both President Bush and Vice President Cheney used the non-exploitation of calls between his phone in Yemen and the hijackers in the US to justify the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program in January 2006. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell attributed the failure to trace the calls to a 1981 executive order earlier this year, and Mukasey bizarrely then claimed that one of the calls was between the US and Afghanistan, rather than Yemen. This confused the media somewhat, and a group of congressmen asked Mukasey for an explanation.
There are additional entries about the day of 9/11. A senior official later disputed Richard Clarke's account of the day's events, some Pentagon security cameras did not show the crash site, and the fighters who later responded to the Pentagon attack attended anti-terrorism training earlier in the day. There is a dispute over which gate American 11 left from at Boston airport, where suspicious passengers arrived on September 10, when Larry Silverstein's publicist cancelled an appointment at the WTC for 9/11. Other entries point out United 93's autopilot was turned off, top air force officials continued with a meeting when they learned the WTC had been hit, and crew on United 93 had previously attended antiterrorism training. Pilots on American 77, American 11 and United 93, were allocated to their flights shortly before 9/11.
There are several updates in the ongoing fallout from Michael Mukasey's patently false claims made in the speech he delivered several weeks ago in San Francisco regarding FISA and the 9/11 attacks. This week, Mukasey responded to a letter he received from John Conyers and two other Subcommittee Chair in which Mukasey acknowledged (because he was forced to) that the call he claimed originated from an "Afghan safe house" into the U.S. was fictitious, but he nonetheless vaguely asserted that his underlying point -- that FISA unduly restricted pre-9/11 eavesdropping and prevented detection of those attacks -- was somehow still accurate.
The Justice Department has acknowledged that Attorney General Michael Mukasey was mistaken when he told a San Francisco crowd that intelligence agencies couldn't trace a pre-9/11 phone call from Afghanistan to the United States.
Whether he was deliberately lying or simply misinformed is still an open question, but the administration is sticking to the general arguments Mukasey outline, provoking intense furor from House Democrats.
Mukasey's deputy said the attorney general was referring to a phone call placed not from Afganistan but another unidentified country before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In an April 10 letter to members of the House Judiciary Committee, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski stuck to the general line being advanced by Mukasey and others in the Bush administration -- that limitations on foreign intelligence collection within the US meant to protect Americans civil liberties hindered efforts to detect the 9/11 plot before it happened.
Two weeks after Attorney General Michael Mukasey tearfully told a San Francisco audience the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks could have been prevented if the government had been able to wiretap a phone call from Afghanistan, the Justice Department is still trying to explain what he meant, and a congressional leader is demanding answers.
Among the questions posed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., to Mukasey is whether any such phone call actually occurred and, if so, why the government wasn't able to use its legal and technological powers to monitor it.
The attorney general, speaking to the Commonwealth Club on March 27, defended President Bush's program of wiretapping calls between Americans and suspected foreign terrorists without court authorization and said no warrant should be needed to eavesdrop on a phone call from Iraq to the United States.
The San Francisco Chronicle became one of the few media outlets to report on the multiple false claims about 9/11 and FISA in Michael Mukasey's speech two weeks ago, as they adeptly summarized the key events in this article today. As the article, using the Lee Hamilton and other quotes reported here, put it: "It seemed like a sensational disclosure -- a phone call that, if traced and monitored, could have allowed authorities to thwart the attacks -- but it has proved difficult to verify."
Also, Mukasey appeared yesterday before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee and was questioned on this matter by Pat Leahy:
On his third question, Leahy asked Mukasey to clarify a recent comment he made in San Francisco where he implied that the failure to listen in on a phone call from Afghanistan to the United States prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks had cost 3,000 lives.
"Nobody else seems to know about this. Can you tell me what the circumstances were and why?" Leahy said.
Attorney General Michael Mukasey has admitted that he garbled his claim about the pre-9/11 intercept of a call between an al-Qaeda facility overseas and the 9/11 hijackers in the US last week. Today he told the Senate:
"One thing I got wrong. It didn’t come from Afghanistan. I got the country wrong."
I have been all over this and I know the other end of the call was in Yemen. Here is the timeline we compiled:
This is a huge issue for us. If people knew that the NSA was intercepting calls between the 9/11 hijackers in the US and a phone registered to a guy (Ahmed al-Hada) who had previously helped bin Laden murder about 240 people (including 29 Americans), but didn't bother to trace the calls, what would they think about 9/11?
The 9/11 Commission knew about this, but included only two cryptic references to it in its report. This reflects very badly on the 9/11 Commission.
Glenn Greenwald has a new piece out about the Mukasey comments at his blog:
In response to the growing controversy over plainly misleading comments by Attorney General Michael Mukasey last week in San Francisco, and in response to the questions I submitted, the DOJ's Peter Carr, its Principal Deputy Director of Public Affairs, sent me the following email:
In a question-and-answer session after his Commonwealth Club speech last week, Attorney General Mukasey referenced a call between an al Qaeda safe house and a person in the United States. The Attorney General has referred to this before, in the letter he sent with Director of National Intelligence McConnell to Chairman Reyes on February 22, 2008. In that letter, contained in this link [.pdf], the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence explained that:
Continued at link:
A letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey demands he explain a recent public statement in favor of warrantless wiretapping that suggests that federal authorities, prior to the 9/11 attacks, failed to intercept a call from suspected terrorists in Afghanistan, when doing so could have prevented the attacks from taking place.
The FISA law that existed at the time, the letter points out, would have allowed such a call to be intercepted and permission granted by the courts retroactively to do so.
Also in the letter is a repeated demand that a secret 2001 Office of Legal Counsel memorandum, outlining the Executive Branch's authority in combating terrorism, be provided to Congress.
The letter, signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and Subcommitee Chairmen Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Robert C. Scott (D-VA), appears below.
April 3, 2008
The Honorable Michael Mukasey
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Mr. Attorney General:
"This isn't just a matter of academic and historical interest about the 9/11 attacks, although it is that. One of two things almost certainly happened here, each of which is of great importance. Either Mukasey is lying about the 9/11 attacks in order to manipulate Americans into believing that FISA's warrant requirements are what prevented discovery of the 9/11 attacks and caused 3,000 American deaths -- a completely disgusting act by the Attorney General which obviously cannot be ignored. Or, Mukasey has just revealed the most damning fact yet about the Bush's administration's ability and failure to have prevented the attacks -- facts that, until now, were apparently concealed from the 9/11 Commission and the public."
Mukasey backs Bush efforts on wiretapping (Commonwealth Club; Claims Bush Admin 9/11 Foreknowledge, Criminal Negligence)
Attorney General Michael Mukasey defended the Bush administration's wiretapping program Thursday to a San Francisco audience and suggested the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks could have been prevented if the government had been able to monitor an overseas phone call to the United States.
The government "shouldn't need a warrant when somebody picks up a phone in Iraq and calls the United States," Mukasey said in a question-and-answer session after a speech to the Commonwealth Club.
Before the 2001 terrorist attacks, he said, "we knew that there had been a call from someplace that was known to be a safe house in Afghanistan and we knew that it came to the United States. We didn't know precisely where it went. You've got 3,000 people who went to work that day, and didn't come home, to show for that."
By Larry Chin
Online Journal Associate Editor
Mar 31, 2008, 00:18
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In a recent speech at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club, Attorney General Michael Mukasey defended the Bush-Cheney administration’s illegal domestic spying agenda by proclaiming that the 9/11 attacks could have been prevented if the government had been able to monitor overseas phone calls to the United States.
Like every other member of the Bush-Cheney administration, Mukasey is lying. Lying about the fact that the “war on terrorism” is a fabrication. Lying about the pervasive worldwide eavesdropping capabilities of US intelligence agencies. Lying about the fact that 9/11 was a long-planned Anglo-American false flag covert operation.
According to Mukasey’s spin on the now-classic 9/11 fiction, Bush-Cheney “knew there had been a call from some place that was known to be a safe house in Afghanistan and we knew that it came to the United States. We didn’t know precisely where it went. We’ve got 3,000 people who went to work that day, and didn’t come home, to show for that.”