Jamie S. Gorelick was born to Jewish parents in New York City on May 6, 1950, and was raised in Great Neck, New York. She earned a BA degree from Harvard College in 1972, and a JD from Harvard Law School three years later.
After completing her legal studies, Gorelick worked as a litigator for the Washington, DC law firm Miller, Cassidy, Larroca and Lewin from 1975-93, except for a brief stint when she served as an assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Energy in 1979-80.
Gorelick was elected to the American Law Institute in 1987, and she served as president of the District of Columbia Bar from 1992-93. Under the Clinton administration, she served as General Counsel of the Department of Defense from 1993-94, and as Deputy Attorney General of the United States from 1994-97.
Gorelick and “The Wall”
Nearly from the moment Gorelick took office in the Clinton Justice Department, she began acting as the point woman for a large-scale bureaucratic reorganization of intelligence agencies that ultimately placed the gathering of intelligence, and decisions about what – if anything – would be done with it, under near-direct control of the White House.
At that time (1994), the CIA was reeling from the news that a Russian spy had been found in its ranks, and Congress was hungry for a quick fix. A month after Gorelick was sworn in, Bill Clinton issued Presidential Decision Directive 24 (PDD 24), which put intelligence gathering under the direct control of the president’s National Security Council, and ultimately the White House, through a four-level, top-down chain of command set up to govern (that is, stifle) intelligence sharing and cooperation between intelligence agencies. From the moment the directive was implemented, intelligence sharing became a bureaucratic nightmare that required negotiating a befuddling bureaucracy that stopped directly at the President’s office.
The directive effectively neutered the Central Intelligence agency (CIA) by creating a National Counterintelligence Center (NCI) to oversee it. NCI was staffed by an FBI agent appointed by the Clinton administration. It also brought multiple active international investigations under direct administrative control. The job of the NCI was to “implement counterintelligence activities,” which meant that virtually everything the CIA did, from a foreign intelligence agent’s report to polygraph test results, now passed through the intelligence center that PDD 24 created.
NCI reported to an administration-appointed National Counterintelligence Operations Board (NCOB) charged with “discussing counterintelligence matters.” The NCOB in turn reported to a National Intelligence Policy Board, which coordinated activities between intelligence agencies attempting to work together. The policy board reported “directly” to the president through the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.
The result was a massive bureaucratic roadblock for the CIA – which at the time had a vast lead on the FBI in foreign intelligence – and for the FBI itself, which was also forced to report to the NCOB. This hampered cooperation between the two entities. All this occurred at a time when both agencies were working separate ends of investigations that would eventually implicate China in technology transfers and the Democratic Party in a Chinese campaign cash grab.
And the woman charged with selling this plan to Congress, convincing the media, and ultimately implementing much of it, was Jamie Gorelick.
Many in Congress, including some Democrats, found the changes PDD 24 put in place baffling: the changes seemed to do nothing to insulate the CIA from infiltration while devastating the agency’s ability to collect information. At the time, Democrat House Intelligence Chairman Dan Glickman referred to the plan as “regulatory gobbledygook.” Others questioned how FBI control of CIA intelligence would foster greater communication between the lower levels of the CIA and FBI, now that all information would have to be run through a multi-tier bureaucratic maze that only went upward.
Despite their doubts, Gorelick helped the administration sell the plan on Capitol Hill. The Directive stood.
But that was not good enough for the Clinton administration, which wanted control over every criminal and intelligence investigation, domestic and foreign, for reasons that would become apparent in a few years. For the first time in Justice Department history, a political appointee, Richard Scruggs – an old crony of Attorney General Janet Reno’s from Florida – was put in charge of the Office of Intelligence and Policy Review (OIPR). OIPR is the Justice Department agency in charge of requesting wiretap and surveillance authority for criminal and intelligence investigations on behalf of investigative agencies from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. The court’s activities are kept secret from the public.
A year after PDD 24, with the new bureaucratic structure loaded with administration appointees, Gorelick drafted a 1995 memo that – along with other supporting memos released in the preceding weeks – not only created walls within the intelligence agencies that prevented information sharing among their own agents, but effectively walled these agencies off from each other and from outside contact with the U.S. prosecutors instrumental in helping them gather the evidence needed to make the case for criminal charges.
The only place left to go with intelligence information – particularly for efforts to share intelligence information or obtain search warrants – was straight up Clinton and Gorelick’s multi-tiered chain of command. Thus, information lethal to the Democratic Party languished inside the Justice Department, trapped behind Gorelick’s walls.
The implications were enormous. In her letter of protest to Attorney General Reno over Gorelick’s memo, United States Attorney Mary Jo White spelled them out: “These instructions leave entirely to OIPR and the (Justice Department) Criminal Division when, if ever, to contact affected U.S. attorneys on investigations including terrorism and espionage,” White wrote.
Without an enforcer, the walls that Gorelick’s memo put in place might not have held. But Scruggs acted as that enforcer, and he excelled at it. Scruggs maintained Gorelick’s walls between the FBI and Justice's Criminal Division by threatening to automatically reject any FBI request for a wiretap or search warrant if the Bureau contacted the Justice Department's Criminal Division without permission. This deprived the FBI, and ultimately the CIA, of gathering advice and assistance from the Criminal Division that was critical in espionage and terrorist cases.
It is no coincidence that this occurred at the same time that both the FBI and the CIA were churning up evidence (in more than a dozen active investigations) damaging to the Democratic Party, its fundraisers, the Chinese, and ultimately the Clinton administration itself. Between 1994 and the 1996 election, as millions of Chinese dollars illegally poured into Democratic coffers, Clinton struggled to reopen high-tech trade to China. Had agents confirmed Chinese theft of weapons technology or its transfer of weapons technology to nations like Pakistan, Iran and Syria, Clinton would have been forced by law and international treaty to react.
Gorelick’s appointment to the job at Justice in 1994 occurred during a period in which the FBI had begun to systematically investigate technology theft by foreign powers. For the first time, these investigations singled out the U.S. chemical, telecommunications, aircraft and aerospace industries for intelligence collection.
By the time Gorelick wrote the March 1995 memo that sealed off American intelligence agencies from each other and the outside world, all of the most critical Chinagate investigations by American intelligence agencies were already underway. Some of their findings were damning:
- In an investigation originally instigated by the CIA, the FBI was beginning its search for the source of the leak of W-88 nuclear warhead technology to China among the more than 1,000 people who had access to the secrets. Despite Justice Department stonewalling and the Department’s refusal to seek wiretap authority in 1997, the investigation eventually led to Wen Ho Lee and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
- The FBI first collected extensive evidence in 1995 linking illegal Democratic Party donations to China, according to the Congressional Record. But Congress and the Director of the CIA did not find out about the Justice Department’s failure to act upon that evidence until 1997, safely after the 1996 election.
- According to classified CIA documents leaked to the Washington Times, between 1994 and 1997 the CIA learned that China had sold Iran missile technology, a nuclear fission reactor, advanced air-defense radar, and chemical agents. The Chinese had also provided 5,000 ring magnets (used in producing weapons-grade uranium) to Pakistan, and uranium fuel for India's reactors.
In many cases the CIA resorted to leaking classified information to the media, in an effort to bypass the administration’s blackout.
Gorelick knew these facts well. While Clinton may have refused to meet with top CIA officials, Gorelick did not. According to a 1996 report by the legal news service American Lawyer Media, Gorelick and then-Deputy Director of the CIA George Tenet met every other week to discuss intelligence and intelligence sharing.
But those in the Clinton administration were not the only ones to gain from the secrecy. In 1994, the McDonnell Douglas Corporation transferred military-use machine tools to the China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation that ended up in the hands of the Chinese army. The sale occurred despite Defense Department objections. McDonnell Douglas was a client of Miller Cassidy Larroca & Lewin, LLP, the Washington, DC law firm where Gorelick had worked for 17 years and was a partner. Ray Larroca, another partner in the firm, represented McDonnell in the Justice Department’s investigation of the technology transfer.
In 1995, General Electric, a former client of Gorelick’s, also had much to lose if the damaging information from the CIA and the FBI were to have reached Congress. At the time, GE was publicly lobbying for a lucrative permit to assist the Chinese in replacing coal-fired power stations with nuclear plants. A 1990 law required that the president certify to Congress that China was not aiding in nuclear proliferation before U.S. companies could execute the business agreement.
Moreover, in 1995, Michael Armstrong, then the CEO of Hughes Electronics – a division of General Electric and another client of Miller Cassidy Larroca & Lewin – was publicly lobbying Clinton to switch satellite export controls from the State Department to the Commerce Department. After the controls were lifted, Hughes and another company gave sensitive data to the Chinese, equipment a Pentagon study later concluded would allow China to develop intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles aimed at American targets. Miller Cassidy Larroca & Lewin partner Randall Turk represented Hughes in the Congressional, State Department, and Justice Department investigations that resulted.
The Cox Report, which detailed Chinese espionage for Congress during the period, revealed that FBI surveillance had caught Chinese officials frantically trying to keep Democratic donor Johnny Chung from divulging any information that would be damaging to Hughes Electronics. Chung had funneled $300,000 in illegal contributions from the Chinese military to the DNC between 1994 and 1996.
It was this web of investigations that led Gorelick and Bill Clinton to erect the wall between intelligence agencies – a wall that ultimately resulted in the success of the 9/11 al-Qaeda attacks.
Gorelick After The Clinton Presidency
Gorelick served as vice chairman of the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) from 1997-2003, during which time she was paid $26,466,834 in salary, bonuses, performance pay and stock options.
In a March 25, 2002 Business Week interview about the fiscal health of Fannie Mae, Gorelick was quoted as saying: “We believe we are managed safely. We are very pleased that Moody's gave us an A-minus in the area of bank financial strength – without a reference to the government in any way. Fannie Mae is among the handful of top-quality institutions.” Just one year later, however, government regulators accused Fannie Mae of improperly failing to record some $9 billion in losses. In an additional scandal wherein falsified financial records helped Fannie Mae meet earnings targets for 1998, an accounting “manipulation” triggered multimillion-dollar bonuses for top executives, including $779,625 for Gorelick.
In 2002, Democratic U.S. Senator Tom Daschle appointed Gorelick to serve as a commissioner on the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (a.k.a., the 9/11 Commission), which sought to investigate the circumstances leading up to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Gorelick has been a partner at law firm of Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale, and Dorr since July 2003.
In February 2006, Gorelick was added to Duke University's defense team in the aftermath of the 2006 Duke lacrosse scandal. In that case, more than 45 unaccused members of the university's lacrosse team charged that the school was trying to “railroad” them as either “principals or accomplices” in the false rape allegations that had been made by a young black woman. As WRAL.com reports, the athletes wanted “a jury trial and unspecified compensation for past and future economic loss, harm to their reputations, loss of privacy and other damages.” (Gorelick and her law firm left the defense team in July 2011, three months after Judge Beatty had denied Duke's motions to dismiss.)
Gorelick served on the advisory council of British Petroleum (BP), as the company's top legal counsel after the infamous 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
In 2012 Gorelick became a board member of Amazon.com, a post she continues to hold.
Following Donald Trump's election as U.S. President in November 2016, Gorelick represented Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as he considered the possibility of taking a role in the White House.
In addition to her aforementioned activities, Gorelick over the years has served on the boards of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the National Park Foundation, the Urban Institute, and the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless.
Gorelick was also a member of the Defense Legal Policy Board at the U.S. Department of Defense; the CIA's National Security Advisory Panel; former President George W. Bush's Review of Intelligence Committee and his CIA National Security Advisory Panel; former President Clinton's Advisory Committee to the Presidential Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection (which she co-chaired); the Commission on Science and Security at the Department of Energy; and the Continuity of Government Commission.
Moreover, Gorelick once co-chaired the American Bar Association's Commission on Legal Ethics 20/20, and was vice chair of the Defense Department's Task Force on the Audit, Inspection and Investigation Components.