Gorelick & Conflict

by Andrew C. McCarthy

It looks as if Commissioner Gorelick, very
appropriately, is not participating in the questioning of the FBI and
DOJ witnesses — Louie Freeh and Janet Reno — whose testimony bears on
the TIME when she was an actor in the facts that the Commission is
inquiring into. Conflict, however, is not simply time specific; it is
also ISSUE-specific. The Commission is looking into the issues of
information sharing and the overall law enforcement approach to
terrorism, not just during the time of 1994 through 1997 (when Gorelick
was Deputy AG). It is also, unavoidably, getting into blame
assessment. The problem is that Gorelick has a powerful motive to focus
on blunders that occurred after she left office, and particularly after
the Bush administration entered office. That doesn’t necessarily mean
she will act on that motive — although I think one can fairly argue she
already has, unwittingly or not. But the fact that she has the motive
at all makes the Commission’s overall fact-finding and blame assessment
on the crucial issues suspect.

Being a Commissioner necessarily calls on one to ask: did a
catastrophe that happened in 2001 occur because of mistakes made at that
time; did it occur because of judgments made in years past; is it some
combination of both; and if it is a combination, what mistakes were
primary? Involvement in the facts of any of those judgments or mistakes
should be disqualifying. That doesn’t mean Gorelick wasn’t a valuable
public official; she was. It doesn’t mean she didn’t do some good here
that ought to be recognized; the 1996 anti-terrorism law, for example,
was a major advance. And it doesn’t mean that her perspective is not
one the Commission should have the benefit of; it is. But not as a

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