FISA Update: Mukasey and ‘One Missed Call’

By March 29, 2008Briefly Legal, Communications

An editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal, “One Missed Call.”

In Michael Mukasey, President Bush finally seems to have an Attorney General worthy of the current moment. In Nancy Pelosi’s hometown this week, the former judge who once tried terror cases told the Commonwealth Club audience that even he had no idea of the extent of the threat.

Speaking of what he hears in his national security briefings, Mr. Mukasey said, “It is way beyond – way beyond anything that I knew or believed. So, if I was picked for the level of my knowledge . . . that was a massive piece of false advertising.”

As reported by the New York Sun, he also offered a perspective, partly personal as a former Manhattanite, on the necessity of warrantless antiterror surveillance. Before 9/11, Mr. Mukasey said, “We knew that there had 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. We’ve got” – here the Attorney General paused with emotion – “we’ve got 3,000 people who went to work that day, and didn’t come home, to show for that.”

The AG also addressed why immunity from lawsuits is vital for the telecom companies that cooperated with the surveillance after 9/11. “Forget the liability” the phone companies face, Mr. Mukasey said. “We face the prospect of disclosure in open court of what they did, which is to say the means and the methods by which we collect foreign intelligence against foreign targets.” Al Qaeda would love that. The cynics will call this “fear-mongering,” but most Americans will want to make sure we don’t miss the next terror call.

  • New York Sun editorial, “Mukasey’s Emotion.”
  • Andy McCarthy comments in National Review’s The Corner blog.
  • Mukasey’s prepared remarks for delivery at the Commonwealth Club.
  • Join the discussion 2 Comments

    • Blaine Kinsey says:

      Subsequent to Attorney General Mukasey’s speech on March 27, it has been reported by reliable sources that if this telephone call from Afghanistan ever occurred, it was never reported to the 9/11 Commission. If this phantom telephone call occurred, it could have been intercepted under FISA as FISA existed at the time of the alleged telephone call. Rep. John Conyers, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, requested an explanation from Mr. Mukasey, who has been slow to respond.

    • Steve says:

      So our chief law enforcement officer argues that we should peg our failure to stop the September 11 attack on a single missed phone call from Afghanistan.

      This one phone call seems to have just emerged, over six years later, as an excuse to justify wiretapping.

      How about the well-publicized August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing with the not particularly subtle headline “Bin Laden determined to strike inside U.S.”?

      How about Bush and Cheney’s disbandment of the Bin Laden Unit shortly after their inauguration?

      There were dozens of other warnings, including the Phoennix memo, the reports from the FBI agents who were sharing an apartment with one of the hijkackers to be, the calls from watchful citizens who were concerned about flight students learning to steer but not land 747s.

      So now we’re to forget all that because – suddenly, more than six years later – there may ahve been a single phone call.

      Doesn’t anyone remember the call that we did intercept, the one that didn’t get translated until September 12, 2001? Why didn’t it get translated? Oh, yeah – the Bush administration considered it more important to hound gay CIA analysts out of the intelligence service, and we worse than decimated our Arabic, Pashto and Farsi intercept translation and analysis because some men don’t like men who like men.

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