When Attorney General Mukasey delivered a speech last week demanding that Congress grant the president warrantless eavesdropping powers and telecom immunity, the question and answer session afterwards included one extraordinary but little-noticed claim.
Mukasey argued that 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."
Blogger Glenn Greenwald picked up on Mukasey's statement, suggesting, "If what Muskasey said this week is true -- and that's a big 'if' -- his revelation about this Afghan call that the administration knew about but didn't intercept really amounts to one of the most potent indictments yet about the Bush administration's failure to detect the plot in action. Contrary to his false claims, FISA -- for multiple reasons -- did not prevent eavesdropping on that call."
Keith Olbermann has now featured the story on MSNBC's Countdown. "What?" Olbermann asked incredulously after quoting Mukasey. "The government knew about some phone call from a safe house in Afghanistan into the U.S. about 9/11? Before 9/11? ... You didn't do anything about it?"
"Either the attorney general just admitted that the government for which he works is guilty of malfeasant complicity in the 9/11 attacks," Olbermann commented, "or he's lying."
"I'm betting on lying," concluded Olbermann. "If not, somebody in Congress better put that man under oath right quick."
After September 11, 2001, it was revealed that the CIA and FBI had intercepted a variety of messages including phrases such as "There is a big thing coming," "They're going to pay the price" and "We're ready to go." None of these messages gave specific details and none reached intelligence analysts until after the destruction of the World Trade Center.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "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."
This video is from MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, broadcast March 31, 2008.