Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Well, since we happen to be talking about Attorney General John Ashcroft here, it ain't the sex. Via Zemblan patriot K.Z.:
The 9/11 commission is busy writing its final report, but is still investigating critical facts, including the conduct of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. NBC News has learned that the commission has interviewed two FBI officials who contradict sworn testimony by Ashcroft, about whether he brushed off terrorism warnings in the summer of 2001.
At issue is a July 5, 2001, meeting between Ashcroft and acting FBI Director Tom Pickard. That month, the threat of an al-Qaida attack was so high, the White House summoned the FBI and domestic agencies, and warned them to be on alert.
Yet, Pickard testified to the 9/11 commission that when he tried to brief Ashcroft just a week later, on July 12, about the terror threat inside the United States, he got the brush-off.
"Mr. Ashcroft told you that he did not want to hear about this anymore," Democratic commission member Richard Ben-Veniste asked on April 13. "Is that correct?"
"That is correct," Pickard replied.
Testifying under oath the same day, Ashcroft categorically denied the allegation, saying, "I did never speak to him saying that I didn't want to hear about terrorism."
However, another senior FBI official tells NBC News he vividly recalls Pickard returning from the meeting that day furious that Ashcroft had cut short the terrorism briefing. This official, now retired, has talked to the 9/11 commission.
NBC News has learned that commission investigators also tracked down another FBI witness at the meeting that day, Ruben Garcia, head of the Criminal Division at that time. Several sources familiar with the investigation say Garcia confirmed to the commission that Ashcroft did indeed dismiss Pickard's warnings about al-Qaida.