The Corner

Gorelick & Conflict

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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