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FBI Director Robert Mueller ends his 10-year, nonrenewable term in September 2011.
President Obama may be inclined to choose a female candidate, and if he does, according to National Public Radio, the most likely candidate is Jamie Gorelick.
Not surprisingly, the NPR report documents the various controversies swirling around the heads of the likely male candidates, but cites none for Gorelick.
This is something of an oversight. In her most recent public outing, Gorelick represented BP in the Gulf oil mess. Nor is the first disaster with which the 60-year-old Gorelick has been involved.
Indeed, bloggers have taken to calling Jamie Gorelick “The Mistress of Disaster” and with good reason.
As deputy attorney general under President Clinton, Gorelick penned the infamous “wall” memo that prevented intelligence agencies from sharing information in the run-up to Sept. 11.
Less well understood, but even more problematic, was Gorelick’s role in the TWA Flight 800 disaster. This was the 747 that inexplicably blew up off the coast of Long Island in July 1996, killing 230 people.
As deputy attorney general under Bill Clinton, Gorelick’s assignment was to rein in the FBI. This had become increasingly necessary.
Although putting a “bomb” spin on his leaks to the New York Times, Jim Kallstrom, who headed up the FBI investigation, had spent the first five weeks after the crash pursuing the truth.
At that juncture, five weeks into the investigation, even if Gorelick knew no more than what she read in the Times, she would have known that explosive residue had been found all over the plane and that the possibility of a mechanical failure was more “remote” than ever.
Gorelick surely knew much more, specifically that the FBI had already interviewed more than 700 eyewitnesses. At least 244 of these people provided highly specific accounts of a missile strike on the aircraft.
On Aug. 22, 1996, Gorelick summoned Kallstrom to Washington and served up a dose of political reality.
To be sure, no account of the Aug. 22 meeting provides any more than routine detail, but behaviors began to change immediately afterward.
The FBI had already leaked to the New York Times information that would result in a headline on Aug. 23, top right: “Prime evidence found that device exploded in cabin of Flight 800.”
This article stole the thunder from Clinton’s election-driven approval of welfare reform in that same day’s paper and threatened to undermine the peace and prosperity message of the next week’s Democratic National Convention.
What followed in the next several weeks was the most ambitious and successful cover-up in American peacetime history. At its center was Jamie Gorelick. With the help of a complicit media, she transformed a transparent missile strike into a mechanical failure of unknown origin.
Given her role, the months after the crash had to have been emotionally harrowing. In May 1997, the Clintons appear to have rewarded Gorelick for her steely performance with a job that would pay her $877,573 in that first half-year alone.
According to a Lexis search, not one reporter even questioned why a middling bureaucrat with no financial or housing experience would be handed a sinecure that the Washington Monthly called “the equivalent of winning the lottery,” the vice chairmanship of Fannie Mae.
One does not have to be a cynic to suspect that a grateful Clinton had something to do with it.
Six years and an incredible $25.6 million later, having done her share to wreck the American economy, Gorelick responded to the call of duty once more and took just one of five Democratic seats on the 9/11 Commission.
In testifying before that commission, anti-terror czar Richard Clarke asked that intelligence analysts “be forgiven for not thinking about [aviation terror] given the fact that they hadn’t seen a lot in the five or six years intervening about it.”
Almost assuredly, Clarke had downplayed talk of aviation terror during those years to take Flight 800 off the table. Almost assuredly, Gorelick took the 9/11 post to keep it off.
If appointed to head the FBI, Gorelick will hook up again with the FBI General Counsel, Valerie Caproni. In 1996, Caproni served as chief of the criminal division for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York.
In that role, it was Caproni who executed the patently illegal White House strategy of pulling the NTSB off the TWA Flight 800 investigation and assigning it to the more easily controlled FBI.
To say the least, this is a pairing that spells trouble and a development that bears watching.