Dems Demand Mukasey Explain Sept. 11th Call Claim

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee want Attorney General Michael Mukasey to clarify his claim that the the government failed to act on a phone call about the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Mukasey said last month in San Francisco that the government failed to wiretap a phone call from an Afghanistan "safe house" to somebody in the United States prior to the September 11th strike. Mukasey made the claim while arguing that that Congress should renew a 2007 expansion of government surveillance capabilities.

On Monday, House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Robert "Bobby" Scott (D-Va.) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to Mukasey asking what he was referring to. Mukasey's statement, they wrote, was "very disturbing" because it was the first time someone had referred "to a call from a known terrorist safe house in Afghanistan to the United States which, if it had been intercepted, could have helped prevented the terrorist attacks.

They added: "If such calls were known about and not intercepted, serious additional concerns would be raised about the government's failure to take appropriate action before 9/11."

Here's Mukasey's quote under scrutiny, as reported by the New York Sun:
Officials "shouldn't need a warrant when somebody picks up the phone in Iraq 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."

Mukasey made the claim while calling on Congress swiftly renew an amendment to the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA) that had allowed for expanded surveillance activities.

House Democrats have bucked the Bush administration's request, passing their own FISA update last month that does not include retroactive legal immunity for telecom companies that participated in the government's domestic warrantless wiretapping program. President Bush has said he would veto any FISA bill that lacks immunity for the companies.

Read the Democrats' letter to Mukasey here (.pdf).