Peter Carr, Principal Deputy Director of Public Affairs at the Department of Justice, responded to Glenn Greenwald’s request for clarification as follows:
In a question-and-answer session after his Commonwealth Club speech last week, Attorney General Mukasey referenced a call between an al Qaeda safe house and a person in the United States. The Attorney General has referred to this before, in the letter he sent with Director of National Intelligence McConnell to Chairman Reyes on February 22, 2008. In that letter, contained in this link [.pdf], the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence explained that:
“We have provided Congress with examples in which difficulties with collections under [Executive Order 12333] resulted in the Intelligence Community missing crucial information. For instance, one of the September 11 hijackers communicated with a known overseas terrorist facility while he was living in the United States. Because that collection was conducted under Executive Order 12333, the Intelligence Community could not identify the domestic end of the communication prior to September 11, 2001, when it could have stopped that attack. The failure to collect such communications was one of the central criticisms of the Congressional Joint Inquiry that looked into intelligence failures associated with the attacks of September 11. The bipartisan bill passed by the Senate would address such flaws in our capabilities that existed before the enactment of the Protect America Act and that are now resurfacing.”
This call is also referenced in the unclassified report of the congressional intelligence committees’ Joint Inquiry into the 9/11 attacks.
Greenwald spills buckets full of indignation and continues beating his accusatory tom-tom, being absolutely in love with the notion that he has found a deliberate falsehood he can explode to the embarrassment of the evil Bush Administration, and he has a pretty good echo of his theory (accepting it as proven gospel) going in a number ( 1, 2, 3) of the standard cages making up the left blogosphere’s monkey-house, but (sorry, Glenn!) he has actually proven absolutely nothing.
At best (from Greenwald’s point-of-view), the Attorney-General offered an inelegantly-phrased hypothetical open to misinterpretation. On the other hand, it is not impossible at all that there really was a phone call from an al Qaeda safe house which was not intercepted because of legal red-tape. In which case, Mr. Greenwald is going to be very sorry that he has so heavily invested in this story.