Attorney General Michael Mukasey made an astonishing statement in San Francisco last Wednesday during a question and answer session following a routine propaganda speech (a demand that Congress grant warrantless eavesdropping powers to President Bush and retroactive immunity to telecoms so that the sky doesn’t fall on our heads):
Officials “shouldn’t need a warrant when somebody with a phone in Iraq picks up a phone and calls somebody in the United States because that’s the call that we may really want to know about. And before 9/11, that’s the call that we didn’t know about. We knew that there has been a call from someplace that was known to be a safe house in Afghanistan and we knew that it came to the United States. We didn’t know precisely where it went.”
At that point in his answer, Mr. Mukasey grimaced, swallowed hard, and seemed to tear up as he reflected on the weaknesses in America’s anti-terrorism strategy prior to the 2001 attacks. “We got three thousand. . . . We’ve got three thousand people who went to work that day and didn’t come home to show for that,” he said, struggling to maintain his composure.
This story pretty much slipped under the radar last week. The New York Sun reported it on Thursday, The San Francisco Chronicle got around to it on Friday, Glenn Greenwald picked it up on Saturday, and Keith Olbermann had it front and center on MSNBC’s Countdown last night.
Both Greenwald and Olbermann questioned whether Mukasey was telling the truth about this call (which seems to have become standard operating procedure with Attorneys General appointed by George Bush; of course, both Alberto G. and Mukasey earned this treatment by their own diligent behavior). Greenwald said: “If what Muskasey said this week is true — and that’s a big ‘if’ …” while Olbermann went: “Either the attorney general just admitted that the government for which he works is guilty of malfeasant complicity in the 9/11 attacks, or he’s lying. I’m betting on lying.”
(By the way, Greenwald also explains at length why Mukasey’s entire remarks are dishonest because “(even) under the “old” FISA, no warrants are required where the targeted person is outside the U.S. (Afghanistan) and calls into the U.S.”)
Both Greenwald and Olbermann are essentially saying “We’re not sure we believe Mukasey that there was any such call, but at this point, of course, nobody knows for sure.” However, it seems to me that Mukasey’s claim that there was this specific call about 9/11 that the government knew about but wasn’t able to listen in to is self-evidently a lie. For the simple reason that if we weren’t able to listen in, then we obviously have no way of knowing that the call was about 9/11.
Note that I’m not saying there was obviously no such call. I’m saying that the pair of statements together cannot be true: that there was this call but we didn’t listen in.
So what’s the truth? That there was no such call? Or that there was a call but we have no idea what was said, and Mukasey just picked a known non-intercepted call at random and fabricated out of whole cloth the story that it was related to 9/11? Or that there was a call, and we listened in without a warrant and, for whatever reason, we did not act on the information that was intercepted? Paraphrasing Olbermann, Condi Rice and George Bush knew about 9/11, before 9/11, and they didn’t do anything about it?
The Chronicle reports:
Mukasey did not specify the call to which he referred. He also did not explain why the government, if it knew of telephone calls from suspected foreign terrorists, hadn’t sought a wiretapping warrant from a court established by Congress to authorize terrorist surveillance, or hadn’t monitored all such calls without a warrant for 72 hours as allowed by law. The Justice Department did not respond to a request for more information.
As Olbermann said last night: “somebody in Congress better put that man under oath right quick!”