Gorelick Answers Ashcroft Charges

Former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick (search), responding to critics who want her to quit the Sept. 11 commission, says she did not help put up a bureaucratic wall that impeded counterintelligence and criminal investigations.

"I have worked hard to help the American public understand what happened on Sept. 11," Gorelick wrote in an opinion column published Sunday in The Washington Post. "I intend - with my brethren on the commission - to finish the job."

While working in the Justice Department (search) during the Clinton administration in 1995, Gorelick wrote a memo that contained instructions for officials to keep counterintelligence "more clearly separate" from criminal intelligence.

Attorney General John Ashcroft (search), appearing before the commission last week, released the memo and said that a "wall" between counterintelligence and criminal investigations was a critical impediment to terrorism probes before Sept. 11.

"I did not invent the 'wall,'" Gorelick wrote.

She said the "wall" is really a set of procedures that carried out the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (search).

"In a nutshell, that law, as the courts read it, said intelligence investigators could conduct electronic surveillance in the United States against foreign targets under a more lenient standard than is required in ordinary criminal cases - but only if the `primary purpose' of the surveillance were foreign intelligence, rather than a criminal prosecution." Gorelick wrote.

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice did not call on Sunday for Gorelick's resignation. But she said the memo was further evidence that government agencies were not organized in a way that made them effective in preventing terrorism.

"The commission needs to look into what might have been done differently," Rice told "Fox New Sunday" "I do think that what is being exposed here is that we had problems in the way that the country was organized structurally. ... It's true, we were not really organized for homeland defense."

But Rice refrained from saying that Gorelick and her memo were part of the problem.