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Jamie Gorelick

Amazon.com just added a new board member: Jamie S. Gorelick, a veteran of the U.S. government and no stranger to controversy.

The company announced the appointment in an SEC filing a short time ago. Gorelick, a litigator at the law firm WilmerHale, was a long-running U.S. Deputy Attorney General who worked as vice chair of Fannie Mae from 1997 to 2003, served on the 9/11 Commission and represented BP following the Gulf oil spill.

Her current roles including serving as co-chair of a key American Bar Association Commission on Legal Ethics.

Amazon’s board, led by founder Jeff Bezos as chairman, previously had nine members, including investor Tom Alberg, former Microsoft and Gates Foundation executive Patty Stonesifer, former Apple and Palm executive Jon Rubinstein, video-game vet Bing Gordon and Sling Media vet Blake Krikorian.

The election of Gorelick would bring the total to 10. We’re checking with Amazon to see if any other changes are being made. Venture capitalist John Doerr left the Amazon board in 2010.

“Ms. Gorelick’s career has spanned the legal, policy and corporate landscape,” notes her WilmerHale bio. “Over the course of her career, she has represented diverse interests in complex civil and criminal litigation, internal corporate investigations and counseling on issues at the intersection of law, policy and governance. As one of Washington’s best-known litigators, Ms. Gorelick has represented corporations and individuals in a wide array of problems, particularly in the regulatory and enforcement arenas.”

In a 2002 interview, Gorelick defended the proportion of the U.S. mortgage market held by Fannie Mae, telling BusinessWeek, “We believe we are managed safely.” Gorelick’s comments were brought back into the spotlight after Fannie Mae was subsequently caught up in an accounting investigation that led to a lawsuit and settlement with former Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines.

In political circles, she is known for a policy called “Gorelick’s Wall,” based on a 1995 memo setting guidelines for the separation law enforcement and military intelligence activities. The policy became a subject of controversy during the 9/11 Commission hearings when it was cited by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft “the single greatest structural cause for September 11.”

Gorelick disputed that assertion in a Washington Post opinion piece, saying the memo didn’t invent policy but rather implemented the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and federal court decisions that interpreted the law.

Amazon’s SEC filing says the board also appointed Gorelick to the Leadership Development and Compensation Committee. As part of her election, she was granted a restricted stock award of 3,600 Amazon shares, vesting over three years, or about $665,000 at yesterday’s closing price of $184.98.

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