By James Lakely
Pressure is growing for Jamie S. Gorelick to resign from the September 11 commission for what the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has called "an inherent conflict of interest."
Ms. Gorelick, who served in the No. 2 position in the Clinton Justice Department under Attorney General Janet Reno, was the author of a 1995 directive to the FBI, which repeatedly has been cited in testimony as a major hindrance to antiterrorism efforts prior to the 2001 attacks.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, said yesterday he thinks "the commission's work and independence will be fatally damaged by the continued participation of Ms. Gorelick as a commissioner."
"Commissioner Gorelick is in the unfair position of trying to address the key issue before the commission when her own actions are central to the events at issue," Mr. Sensenbrenner said. "The public cannot help but ask legitimate questions about her motives.
"Testifying before the commission is Ms. Gorelick's proper role, not sitting as a member of this independent commission," he said.
The Gorelick directive is credited with thickening the "wall" that prevented federal prosecutors and counterterrorism agents from communicating even though their separate investigations could help catch terrorists.
"These procedures, which go beyond what is legally required, will prevent any risk of creating an unwarranted appearance that [federal law] is being used to avoid procedural safeguards which would apply in a criminal investigation," Ms. Gorelick wrote in the previously secret memo.
Appearing on CNN's "Larry King Live" last night, Ms. Gorelick said, "All of the commission members have some government experience. Everyone is subject to the same recusal policies. You could have had a commission with nobody who knew anything about government. And I don't think it would have been a very helpful commission."
Attorney General John Ashcroft declassified the four-page document just before his testimony to the commission on Tuesday to help make his point that Ms. Gorelick's directive created "draconian barriers" to uncovering the September 11 plot.
"If the commission doesn't take this issue seriously, undoubtedly a large segment of the American people will see its findings as incomplete and partisan," said Mark Levin, president of the Landmark Legal Foundation, which also has demanded that Ms. Gorelick step down.
Commission Chairman Thomas H. Kean and Vice Chairman Lee H. Hamilton both dismissed the calls for resignation.
"Of course not. That's a silly thing," said Mr. Kean, who said Ms. Gorelick has followed the same rules as every other commission member and has, in fact, been one of the most "nonpartisan" members.
Ms. Gorelick was appointed to the commission by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, and former House Democratic leader and presidential candidate Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri.
She has been criticized by Republicans for what they see as the partisan tone of her questioning of witnesses from the Bush administration.
During the testimony of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice last week, Ms. Gorelick characterized the White House's attempts to coordinate intelligence gathering as "feckless" and argued with Miss Rice's contention that President Bush put the federal government at their "battle stations" when terrorist chatter increased in summer 2001.
Ms. Gorelick took as much time making comments and asking questions as Miss Rice did answering them and finished her session with Miss Rice by saying that "the debate will continue" over whether the Clinton or Bush administrations better thwarted terrorist attacks.
In an interview on Sean Hannity's national radio show yesterday, Mr. Ashcroft also suggested that Ms. Gorelick should resign from the commission
"I think that individuals who are the actors whos