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Senate Republicans call on Gorelick to testify

Lawmakers cite commissioner's prior role

From Ed Henry
CNN Washington Bureau

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The 9/11 commission cited fragmented intelligence-gathering prior to the September 11, 2001, attacks.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve reports efforts are being made to improve the tenuous relationship between the CIA and FBI.
Jamie Gorelick
Tom DeLay
Justice Department
September 11 attacks

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Eleven Senate Republicans fired off a letter Thursday to the 9/11 commission demanding that Jamie Gorelick, a Democratic member of the panel, be forced to testify.

The senators want Gorelick to testify about her role in strengthening the so-called "wall" between the FBI and CIA that some say hampered government efforts to prevent terrorist attacks.

The letter, which was spearheaded by Sen. Kit Bond, R-Missouri, asserts that the commission's final report "will be incomplete without public testimony by Ms. Gorelick about her activities while serving as deputy attorney general" in the Clinton administration.

"It is imperative the committee explore with Ms. Gorelick these many initiatives and procedures pursued at her direction and any analysis leading to their formulation," the letter said.

During her tenure at the Justice Department, Gorelick wrote a memorandum establishing distinctions between intelligence that could be used for law enforcement purposes and intelligence that could be used for national security purposes.

The senators' letter marked a significant ramping up of GOP efforts to go on the offensive against Gorelick and the work of the commission itself. Gorelick has already faced a demand by House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, that she step down from the panel because of her alleged conflict-of-interest.

Commission Chairman Thomas Kean, a Republican and former governor of New Jersey, dismissed that demand as "silly" and praised Gorelick's work on the panel.

Earlier this week, Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia, a member of the GOP House leadership, released a scathing statement about the Democratic members of the commission.

"The commission is a reunion of political has-beens who haven't had face time since Seinfeld was a weekly show," he said, suggesting they were more interested in pointing fingers than finding solutions.

He said they had turned the commission's work into a "get-even-for-Monica investigation," a reference to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which led to President Clinton's impeachment.

The Bush administration was the focus of some critical testimony and questions at a recent series of public hearings by the commission. U.S. intelligence efforts and the work of the FBI were faulted.(Full story)

Some commissioners and witnesses questioned whether the Bush administration -- as well as the earlier Clinton administration -- had done enough to thwart terrorism.

Earlier this week, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, stood up at a private House GOP Conference meeting and urged his Republican colleagues to be more aggressive about attacking the 11-member, bipartisan commission.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, charged this week that Republicans are "afraid the commission will get the facts" so they are now trying to "undermine the credibility" of the panel, known formally as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

"There are those who have expressed concern that this has become politicized," Daschle said Tuesday, responding to some GOP criticism that Gorelick was hard on some witnesses. "I think you have to ask the tough questions to get the right answers."

The separation that Gorelick outlined originally was required as a safeguard against abuse of citizens' rights by government investigative agencies. But passage of the Patriot Act in the wake of the attacks eliminated the requirement.

This separation or "wall" governing intelligence has been a key subject at hearings of the commission. It has been blamed for being a main obstacle to better sharing of information in connection with the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The existence of the memo was disclosed last week by Attorney General John Ashcroft in his testimony before the commission.

The letter was also signed by Republican senators: Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Trent Lott of Mississippi, Conrad Burns of Montana; Bob Bennett of Utah; Pete Domenici of New Mexico; Don Nickles of Oklahoma; Ted Stevens of Alaska; Mitch McConnell of Kentucky; John Cornyn of Texas and Norm Coleman of Minnesota.

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