If you thought that the statement released by the 9/11 Commission on Friday in which they state that Commission staff members thoroughly examined the Able Danger conclusions and found them wanting was the last word on this matter, think again.
“Crazy” Curt Weldon may be just that. But there appears to be one, lone Able Danger team member (maybe two?) who have declared war on the Commission and are challenging their denials that they ignored crucial evidence that would have changed both the tone and substance of the 9/11 Commission’s Final Report.
Here’s a comment left on the site Intel Dump in response to skepticism regarding Able Danger problems in passing their information on Atta to the FBI. The commenter is posting as “Anon” but his bona fides are granted by the author of the post, Jon Holdaway:
OK smart guys – with your “smell tests” and “Thats just flat out wrong” opinions shown above – I hope you don’t mind, but let me clear up a few things – I was there and I lived through the ABLE DANGER nightmare.
First – yes – The lawyers involved in this (and similar projects) did interpret the 9-11 terrorists as “US persons” – so while you can second guess them all you want – but that was their “legal” call as wrong as it was and is. Unfortunately, the chain of command at SOCOM went along with them (and this, I expect, will be a topic that will become more clear in the near future).
And lawyers of the era also felt that any intelligence officer viewing open internet information for the purpose of intelligence collection automatically required that any “open source” information obtained be treated as if it was “intelligence information”...does this sound like idiocy to you? It did to me – and we fought it – and I was in meetings at the OSD level, with OSD laywers, that debated this – and I even briefed the DCI George Tenet on this issue relating to an internet project.
And yes, Virgina – we tried to tell the lawyers that since the data identified Atta and the others as linked to Al Qaeda, we should be able to collect on them based on SecState Albright’s declaration of Al Qaeda as transnational terrorist threat to the US…well the lawyers did not agree…go figure…so we could not collect on them – and for political reasons – could not pass them to the FBI…I know because I brokered three meetings between the FBI and SOCOM to allow SOCOM to pass the information to the FBI. And, sadly, SOCOM cancelled them every time…
Oh – and DATA MINING is not overt or clandestine – it just “is” – it is something that is done with either open source or classified information. ABLE DANGER used an array of both open and close databases…
And here’s an interview with an Able Danger team member made available by Congressman Weldon to Mike Kelly, a columnist for the Bergen Record of New Jersey and a journalist for 40 years:
The story begins a year before the attacks. A top-secret team of Pentagon military counter-terror computer sleuths, who worked for a special operations commando group, was well into a project to monitor al-Qaida operations.(HT: TKS)
The 11-person group called itself “Project Able Danger.” Think of them as a super-secret Delta Force or SEAL team. But instead of guns, they relied on advanced math training as their key weapons. And instead of traditional spying methods or bust-down-the-door commando tactics, the Able Danger group booted up a set of high-speed, super-computers and collected vast amounts of data.
The technique is called “data mining.” The Able Danger team swept together information from al-Qaida chat rooms, news accounts, Web sites and financial records. Then they connected the dots, comparing the information with visa applications by foreign tourists and other government records.
From there, the computer sleuths noticed four names – Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, Khalid al-Mihdar and Nawaf al-Hazmi.
All four turned out to be hijackers. Atta and al-Shehhi took a room at the Wayne Inn. They rented a Wayne mail drop, too, and even went to Willowbrook Mall. Al-Mihdar and al-Hazmi took rooms at a motel on Route 46 in South Hackensack.
And Mr. Kelly has a great question for the Able Danger team member – one that was implied in the Commission’s response to the allegations:
Perhaps just as alarming, even the Able Danger team understood its limits. When lawyers blocked Able Danger’s request to approach the FBI, the team simply went back to its work and kept quiet – even after the 9/11 attacks occurred.
Why? If the Able Danger team was so concerned about U.S. security, why didn’t it approach Congress or even the press to sound an alarm?
When I posed that question in my interview with the Able Danger team member, he fell silent. Listening on a speaker phone, a congressional staffer interrupted: “Have you ever seen what happens to whistleblowers?”
Again, the Able Danger member had no answer.
No one is suggesting that the Commission deliberately tried to cover up information. Rather, in order to achieve consensus, the 9/11 Commission was predisposed to believe or disbelieve certain kinds of information. Anything that didn’t jibe with the narrative (and timeline) was either given short shrift or dismissed outright – as the Able Danger information from the July 12,2004 meeting.
No more blue ribbon commissions. Let’s have Congress look into this. And if the 9/11 investigation has to be re-opened, so be it.