Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Now, if Bin Laden enjoyed Snake Handling, he'd wanna hear that Let the Eagle soar... They said the draft reports, which are expected to be completed and made public during two days of hearings by the commission this week, show that F.B.I. officials were alarmed throughout 2001 by what they perceived as Mr. Ashcroft's lack of interest in terrorism issues and his decision in August 2001 to reject the bureau's request for a large expansion of its counterterrorism programs. The draft reports, they said, quote the F.B.I.'s former counterterrorism chief, Dale Watson, as saying he "fell off my chair" when he learned that Mr. Ashcroft had failed to list combating terrorism as one of the department's priorities in a March 2001 department-wide memo. Like she’s never soared before. ...Ashcroft seemed to lose interest in the terrorism issue, some bureau officials say. His predecessor, Janet Reno, demanded to be regularly briefed on the status of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act cases on terror suspects. Ashcroft told Justice lawyers he did not need to hear daily reports. "It's like a soap opera," Ashcroft said at one meeting, according to a former Justice official. "You can tune in once a week and catch up with what's been going on." (An Ashcroft aide denies that the A.G. made such a comment.) From rocky coast to golden shore, Let the mighty eagle soar. They said the reports would also quote from internal memorandums by Thomas J. Pickard, acting director of the F.B.I. in summer 2001, in which Mr. Pickard described his frustration with Mr. Ashcroft and what he saw as the attorney general's lack of interest in the issue of how the bureau was investigating terrorism suspects in the United States. Commission officials said the Justice Department, which was provided with a draft copy of the report, had mounted an aggressive, last-minute effort on Monday to persuade the commission to rewrite the parts of the report dealing with Mr. Ashcroft, describing them as one-sided and unfair to him. Soar with healing in her wings, As the land beneath her sings: 'Only god, no other kings.' Ashcroft never saw that Aug. 6, 2001, PDB warning of an Al Qaeda attack inside the United States. Why? Because President George W. Bush, with his penchant for secrecy, had restricted the distribution of the PDB to just seven national-security officials. The A.G. didn't make the cut. On July 12, it is true, Ashcroft had been briefed by Pickard about the rising number of Al Qaeda threats abroad. But when Ashcroft inquired, "Do you have any information indicating a threat to the continental United States?" Pickard responded no. This country’s far too young to die. We’ve still got a lot of climbing to do, Commission officials said that Mr. Ashcroft might also be asked about why he stopped flying commercially on government business in the summer of 2001 — the department has said the move was requested by the F.B.I. in response to threats to Mr. Ashcroft's safety unrelated to Al Qaeda — and his extensive use thereafter of a luxurious F.B.I. jet, a $40 million Gulfstream 5. The plane had been purchased for use in special investigations and for the transport of terrorists and other dangerous suspects. Current and former F.B.I. officials have told the commission that they were infuriated by Mr. Ashcroft's use of the jet and that it was seen as emblematic of his detachment from the needs of investigators. And we can make it if we try. Built by toils and struggles God has led us through." Commission officials said that there was irony in the panel's finding that before Sept. 11, Mr. Ashcroft may have been too timid about seeking electronic surveillance of terror suspects. They said their investigation suggested that until the attacks, Mr. Ashcroft had resisted signing emergency warrants that would have allowed eavesdropping in terrorism investigations, apparently because he had only a rudimentary knowledge of how the warrant process worked.... Current and former F.B.I. officials said that in the months before the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Ashcroft weighed whether to approve an elaborate counterterrorism plan that had been conceived with the support of his Clinton administration predecessor, Attorney General Janet Reno. The plan, known by the code name MAX CAP 05, or Maximum Capacity by 2005, had been assembled by Mr. Watson, the bureau's former counterterror chief, with the help of outside consultants and called for a huge build-up in the F.B.I.'s counterterrorism operations. On Aug. 20, they said, Mr. Pickard, the acting F.B.I. director, was told by Mr. Ashcroft and his then-deputy at the Justice Department, Robert S. Mueller III, that the budget increases had been rejected. Mr. Mueller is now the F.B.I. director. A senior F.B.I. official who was part of the counterterrorism division at the time said that Mr. Ashcroft's denial of the extra counterterrorism resources came as a "heavy blow to morale." He continued: "Given the resources we had at the time, it was hard to be enthusiastic or optimistic since we knew there was a clear possibility of an attack." Meanwhile, Ashcroft really wants to go after the porn. Sing it John.
Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com