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.
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: