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WTOP is reporting that the Pentagon now says “there’s no reason to doubt the specific recollections” of Able Danger team members that the top-secret data mining operation had unearthed specific information about at least one of the 9/11 hijackers more than a year before the attack.

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon appears to have reversed its position on Able Danger, the Army intelligence collection team.

A Pentagon spokesman now says “there’s no reason to doubt the specific recollections” of the growing number of team members. The team members say the project had pre-Sept. 11 intelligence on al Qaida, which Defense Department lawyers prohibited them from sharing with the FBI.

(HT: Tom McGuire)

Well now, that’s a horse of a different color, wouldn’t you say?

We’ve gone from categorical denials on the part of the 9/11 Commission that no such information was given to the Commission, to admitting that the information was not considered “historically relevant, to to a belief by the Pentagon that the information about Able Danger is indeed somewhere…or at least it was.

And the Captain’s speculation about the civil liberties ramifications being the reason why the Pentagon has been so reluctant in coming forward on this appear to be spot on.

Smith says data was gathered from a variety of sources, including about 30 or 40 individuals, but one day it all came to a grinding halt. So why did that happen?

“The I.G. (inspector general) came in and shut down the operation because of a claim that we were collecting information on U.S citizens,” says Smith.

It turned out to be more than just a claim.

“On some of my charts I had links to U.S citizens,” he says.

Smith notes that it’s illegal for the military to collect intelligence on U.S. citizens.

Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., has alleged a Pentagon coverup regarding Able Danger and is seeking congressional hearings on the matter. Weldon has said coverup will “shake the country to its roots.”

Before we get out the rope to hang the boys at the Pentagon, let’s try and put this into a little context, shall we?

In pre-9/11 America (and to a large extent now) the Pentagon’s sensitivity toward violating civil liberties was a given. It must be said that this attitude was not due to any squeamishness on the part of Pentagon brass about snooping into the lives of private citizens but rather a culture terrified of scandal and blowback. Craig Henry pointed to the Tailhook scandal as a traumatic example of the culture at the Pentagon that wishes to avoid scandal at almost all costs. Couple this with the outright hostility from the executive branch during the Clinton years toward the military and intelligence communities – commented on by dozens of military aides who worked in both places – and you begin to see why Able Danger would have been seen as a lose-lose situation for the Pentagon. Not only were they spying on American citizens but any data gleaned from the operation would be useless in a court of law, the mindset of the time being to put terrorists in jail instead of the ground.

As I’ve asked before, could there have been a shredding party at the Pentagon in the days following 9/11? The fact that any documentation relating specifically to Able Danger and Mohamed Atta has failed to turn up would bolster such a case. And given the nature of the operation, it’s possible that they didn’t even wait for 9/11 to get rid of the incriminating evidence.

And someone put a sock in “Crazy Curt” Weldon’s yap and tell him to sit down and shut up. The revelations about Able Danger are revealing but will hardly “shake the country” when we get to the bottom of the mystery. That kind of hyperbole is why the Pentagon has been able to stonewall for so long. Any man who says that al Qaeda has 20 suitcase nukes already positioned throughout the United States waiting for the right moment to blow us all to kingdom come cannot be taken seriously. Better to let the grown ups on the Senate Judiciary Committee get the ball rolling with hearings. The sooner the better.

Thanks to AJ at Strata-Sphere for all the hard work and for the heads up. Also glad to see he’s given up on the Roman numerals for his updates – they were getting hard to read!

By: Rick Moran at 3:46 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (9)

dizionario di nomi paesi abitanti linked with dizionario di nomi paesi abitanti
Flopping Aces linked with The Gorelick Wall & Sandy Berger, Update XVIII
NIF linked with Is it Saturday yet? Friday, atleast?
Pundits My *ss linked with Code Pink's New Low

The Able Danger story is…well, I don’t know. Frankly, I am at a total loss as to where this story is much less where it’s going And anyone who claims otherwise can safely be ignored. That includes both righty and lefty bloggers both of whom are engaging in wild speculation involving Bush, the Saudis, the 9/11 Commission, the Pentagon, and a conspiracy involving Republicans. Let’s just present the information that came out yesterday and chew on it for a while to see if we can make any sense at all about what the heck is going on.


Two more sources came forward yesterday confirming what Lt. Col Shaffer said last week; that Able Danger had uncovered at least one of the 9/11 hijackers names prior to 9/11 and tied him to al Qaeda. The first thing you notice however is a discrepancy in dates. Here’s the “new” source, Navy Captain Scott Phillpott:

The officer, Scott J. Phillpott, said in a statement today that he could not discuss details of the military program, which was called Able Danger, but confirmed that its analysts had identified the Sept. 11 ringleader, Mohamed Atta, by name by early 2000. “My story is consistent,” said Captain Phillpott, who managed the program for the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command. “Atta was identified by Able Danger by January-February of 2000.”

Col. Shaffer however says that they had ID’d Atta in “the spring of 2000.” Can both be right?

Then there’s the story of a private contractor hired by the Able Danger team to “create a chart in 2000 for the intelligence program that included Mr. Atta’s photograph and name.”

The former contractor, James D. Smith, said that Mr. Atta’s name and photograph were obtained through a private researcher in California who was paid to gather the information from contacts in the Middle East. Mr. Smith said that he had retained a copy of the chart for some time and that it had been posted on his office wall at Andrews Air Force Base. He said it had become stuck to the wall and was impossible to remove when he switched jobs.

As Laura Rozen rightly asks, “stuck to the wall?” A top secret chart with Mohamed Atta’s face along with God knows what else stuck on a wall like some bank calendar? For what purpose? And he couldn’t remove it when he changed jobs? And is this the same “chart” that Crazy Curt Weldon says he gave to National Security Adviser Steve Hadley immediately after 9/11?

Is your head starting to hurt too?

Then there’s the Pentagon and the case of the missing files. Or destroyed files. Or misplaced files. Or the files that didn’t exist in the first place. Whatever the case, as I predicted here, they’re hanging Col. Shaffer out to dry:

The Pentagon has been unable to validate claims that a secret intelligence unit identified Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta as a terrorist more than a year before the attacks, a Defense Department spokesman said Monday.

Larry Di Rita said that some research into the matter continues, but thus far there has been no evidence that the intelligence unit, called “Able Danger,” came up with information as specific as an officer associated with the program has asserted.

But of course, that doesn’t mean that poor Col. Shaffer is lying:

Di Rita said Pentagon researchers have found no evidence that Able Danger had Mohamed Atta’s name. He said he was unsure whether the unit came up with the identities of the other three hijackers but then said that none of Shaffer’s specific claims had been validated.

Shaffer himself has not provided any documentary proof, Di Rita said, and he said Shaffer has presented his information as second hand.

All that’s missing in that description is the sad shaking of the head and a wistful look on the face as Di Rita cuts Shaffer off at the knees.

And as far as “documentary proof” I daresay if Col. Shaffer did have some files he would promptly be arrested and thrown in the clink for a very long time. The Pentagon does not look kindly on people who steal classified material.

So, is the Pentagon stonewalling? Or stalling for time? Or are they genuinely at a loss as to what Col. Shaffer, Captain Phillpott, and Mr. Smith are talking about?

Beats me. Jack Kelly (whose must read post we’ll get into later) has some interesting thoughts:

ABLE DANGER was established by Special Operations Command in 1999, when Gen. Peter Schoomaker headed SOCOM. Schoomaker retired at the end of 2000. A few months after the change of command, ABLE DANGER was deep-sixed.

There are many in the Pentagon who would like to have the ABLE DANGER controversy go away. But in 2003, Rumsfeld brought Schoomaker back from the retired list to become chief of staff of the Army. If he is still as much a fan of ABLE DANGER as he was when he authorized its creation, Schoomaker would be in a position to prevent a whitewash.

The last thing we know for sure is that Col. Shaffer and other members of Able Danger met with members of the Republican leadership before going public and that Shaffer talked to Undersecretary of Defense Mike Cambrone to assess DoD’s attitude:

“I spoke personally to Denny Hastert and to Pete Hoekstra,” Shaffer told United Press International. Rep. Hastert, R-Ill., is speaker of the House, and Rep. Hoekstra, R-Mich., is chairman of that chamber’s intelligence committee.

“I was given assurances by (them) that this was the right thing to do … I was given assurances we would not suffer any adverse consequences for bringing this to the attention of the public,” Shaffer said, adding that the conversations took place before he and members of the Able Danger team spoke to the media anonymously in the offices of Republican firebrand Rep. Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, Aug. 8.

Shaffer also said he was given what he interpreted as tacit approval from senior Pentagon officials before going on the record to Fox News and the New York Times last week, thus revealing his identity and adding both credibility and a new twist to the story.

Shaffer he said he had met the previous day with Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Steven Cambone and Lt. Gen. Norton Schwartz, the staff director for outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers.

While the left has tried to spin this as some kind of Republican plot, it makes eminently good sense if you’re a whistleblower about to take on the national security establishment that you line up some pretty powerful people to cover your backside. It showed some smarts on Shaffer’s part not to rely on Weldon for protection. The Pentagon has just started to push back and they will think twice about getting too rough with an officer with the record and experience of Shaffer if they think they’ll have some angry Republicans to deal with.

That said, it should be made clear right here and right now; there are dangers for both the right and left in this story. As Jack Kelly asks “Why was Able Danger stopped in March of 2001?” Republicans may not want to know the answer to that question any more than Democrats would just wish the whole issue would go away and not remind people that the Clinton Administration did precious little to stop al Qadea from planning and executing the biggest terrorist attack (and consequent intelligence failure) in history.


As I mentioned earlier, read this post by Jack Kelly who asks some pretty damn pertinent questions. Here are just a few:

The next question is: WHO KILLED ABLE DANGER? Remember that the program was terminated in the early months of the Bush administration, not the last months of the Clinton administration.

Did Bush’s national security team order ABLE DANGER to be shut down?

Did Bush’s national security team know of, and acquiesce in, a decision to shut down ABLE DANGER made at a lower level?

Was Bush’s national security team even aware of the existence of ABLE DANGER before it was terminated?

The answers to these questions could shed some light on what otherwise seems puzzling behavior.

For those who want to make this a partisan issue – right and left – it’s time to let go of petty bulls**t like that and start thinking about what’s best for the country.

When the 9/11 Commission was holding its very public and very partisan hearings in the middle of an election year, it became an absolute necessity for the right to push back against the smearing and slandering testimony of self-serving lickspittle bureaucrats like Joe Wilson and Richard Clarke. They are both beneath contempt for their efforts to self-aggrandize themselves at the expense of Condi Rice, John Ashcroft, and the President himself. To act that way in public hearings on the biggest terrorist attack in history showed them to be people without honor or scruples. Both went on to advise John Kerry on his campaign and one can only speculate that their nauseating performance before the Committee served as an audition of sorts for getting those positions – not to mention a way to get a huge amount of free publicity for selling their books.

The revelations regarding Able Danger show that at the very least, the 9/11 Commission was so infected with partisan politics that they failed to do their job. I don’t know why the information about Atta and Able Danger was not included in the Commission’s Final Report. But if I were to hazard a guess, I’d say that part of the reason was the necessity to reach a consensus on a narrative with both partisan camps on the Committee. Able Danger’s revelations could very well have upset a timeline we had for Mohamed Atta and when he was in this country. Changing the timeline would have meant substantially changing the narrative, something that was probably carefully worked out between various partisan staffers in the months leading up to the release of the Final Report.

Another possible explanation is that they lost or misplaced the file on Col. Shaffer’s October, 2003 meeting with staffers in Afghanistan. Sometimes, the simplest explanation – stupidity – is the most logical. And since Captain Phillpott was interviewed by a different staffer (Deitrich Snell) it’s barely possible that Able Danger was dismissed because one part of the committee staff didn’t know what the other part was doing. Again, the simplest explanation could apply; incompetence.

What is no longer a possibility is that three different people are lying through their teeth. Which brings us back to the Pentagon and their lack of success in finding any documentary proof of the allegations. Here’s Jack Kelly asking the right questions:

Shaffer says the records of ABLE DANGER are no longer where they were put when the group was shut down. This doesn’t surprise me at all.

Shaffer claims he was ordered by a two star general at the Defense Intelligence Agency to stop trying to bring ABLE DANGER’s findings to the attention of the FBI. Suppose you were that two-star general. If ABLE DANGER did in fact identify Atta’s cell a year before al Qaeda struck, then what you did was the single greatest act of negligence leading up to the 9/11 attacks. Your career and reputation would not survive disclosure. Nor would it be good for the careers of the Pentagon lawyers who blocked the meetings to have their identities disclosed.

The Pentagon purportedly has been carrying out a search for the missing ABLE DANGER documents. Opponents of ABLE DANGER have been predicting for more than a week that a statement debunking ABLE DANGER was imminent. But no such statement has yet been forthcoming. I have a theory as to why.

Was there a shredding party at DoD in the immediate aftermath of 9/11?

It wouldn’t be unprecedented. Following the assassination of John F. Kennedy both J. Edgar Hoover and CIA Director John McCone scrambled to cleanse their files of references to Oswald. They didn’t do a very good job as was found out later when thousands of pages of documents were released by the FBI and CIA showing that both agencies showed more than a passing interest in the assassin. These documents were not supplied to the Warren Commission. And while the documents wouldn’t have changed the Commission’s conclusions, it would have showed that the FBI knew all about Oswald and were probably using him as something of an informal informant, spying on the small group of Russian emigres in Dallas that Oswald’s wife Marina had become friendly with. And the CIA was covering up the fact that they suspected Oswald could have been a Soviet spy.

What this suggests is that there may have been more than one shredding party following 9/11. The German police had been watching an associate of Mohamed Atta’s for years prior to 9/11. This associate lived with Atta in Hamburg and his name was also on the lease where Atta lived. While the CIA swears up and down they had never heard of Atta prior to 9/11 there is some evidence – tantalizing and unconfirmed – that Mohamed Atta was known as an al Qaeda operative prior to 9/11 by the CIA:

During the 28 months Atta’s name is on the apartment lease, 29 Middle Eastern or North African men register the apartment as their home address. From the very beginning, the apartment was officially under surveillance by German intelligence, because of investigations into businessman Mamoun Darkazanli that connect to Said Bahaji. [Washington Post, 10/23/01] The Germans also suspect connections between Bahaji and al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Haydar Zammar. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02 – link not available] German intelligence monitors the apartment off and on for months, and wiretaps Mounir El Motassadeq, an associate of the apartment-mates who is later put on trial in August 2002 for assisting the 9/11 plot, but apparently do not find any indication of suspicious activity. [Chicago Tribune, 9/5/02]

So if the CIA knew of Atta as far back as 1999 – admittedly a speculative possibility – it’s also possible that Able Danger would have known of him as well.

All of this doesn’t get us any closer to the truth. For that, it appears to me that we’ll have to re-open the entire investigation. As the Captain points out, even the interrogations of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed may have to be viewed in a different light:

How good was the data for the Atta timeline, and how solid did the Commission nail down his movements? Looking at the data on pages 167 and 168 of the report, it appears that all of the information that the Commission used to establish travel timelines for the Atta cell came from interrogations of Ramzi Binalshibh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. These two AQ officers later also discounted Atta’s travel to Prague in April 2001, despite the insistence of Czech intelligence that he met with the Iraqi envoy and an IIS agent at that time.

It seems most likely that Atta and his team may have traveled to the US, either under their own names or variants, and performed some scouting for suitable locations before moving themselves to the US for good. The Able Danger squad has insisted that their requests to coordinate with the FBI got denied on the basis that Atta had become a resident of the US. Binalshibh and KSM could have created a disinformation scenario for the FBI; only the interrogators there know for sure how reliable the pair’s information proved to be.

If the 9/11 Commission whitewashed anyone’s incompetence including mistakes by the Bush or Clinton Administrations or even more costly errors by the CIA and FBI, it’s time to find this out now. The 9/11 Commission was the most important investigative body since Watergate and it appears to have dropped the ball. I hope everyone can agree – right and left – that we owe it to the 3000 dead and their grieving families to find out what happened and let the political chips fall where they may.


Here are a couple of other links you should check out.

Bryan Preston (subbing for Michelle Malkin) has a great way to find out if Mr. Smith’s story is true:

This is truly one strange saga we have on our hands. But his story should be easy enough to confirm with a quick road trip to the base with Smith in tow. Someone has to remember a large chart stuck to a wall with Mohammed Atta’s easily noticed scowl, if it’s not actually still there.

AJ at the Strata-Sphere has some react to Slade Gorton’s appearance on Fox last night:

I was watching Sen Slade Gorton on O’Reilly make a complete fool of himself by getting out on a limb and saying there is nothing at all to the Able Danger story, and had to come post an update. I believe there is something here because of all the strange responses in 200o and now. But I am not willing to say one way or the other whether Able Danger is a real issue or not. No one should be saying that until all three criteria for burying this story are met, as I posted earlier. Slade is taking a huge risk coming out and basically calling Lt. Col. Schaffer a liar, or at least an extreme exaggerator.

AJ also has the observation of the day:

It looks like this will come to a head quite soon. I find it hard to believe these career people would go out on a limb if there was nothing to the Able Danger story?

Additional thoughts by Captain Ed here and here.

By: Rick Moran at 6:02 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (8)

Blof hoodia 1163761816 linked with News on hoodia 1163761816 8655
Daily Pundit linked with Able Danger Developments
Danny Carlton: codenamed "Jack Lewis" linked with Headlines
Captain's Quarters linked with Able Danger: Pentagon Backlash Tries To Undermine Credibility

News on Able Danger this morning centers on an article in the New York Times that seems to indicate that the 9/11 Commission will target the Pentagon for blame if Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer’s story checks out.

Shaffer was a liason officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency and worked with the top secret data mining team in 1999-2000. He has come forward to confirm that Able Danger had 3 of the 4 main 9/11 hijackers pegged as a threat a full year prior to the attacks.

Commission Co-Chair Thomas Kean is asking the Pentagon to quickly assess the credibility of Col. Shaffer and hand over any relevant information:

The chairman of the Sept. 11 commission called on the Pentagon on Wednesday to move quickly to evaluate the credibility of military officers who have said that a highly classified intelligence program managed to identify the Sept. 11 ringleader more than a year before the 2001 attacks. He said the information was not shared in a reliable form with the panel.

The chairman, Thomas H. Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, offered no judgment about the accuracy of the officers’ accounts. But he said in an interview that if the accounts were true, it suggested that detailed information about the intelligence program, known as Able Danger, was withheld from the commission and that the program and its findings should have been mentioned prominently in the panel’s final report last year.

“If they identified Atta and any of the other terrorists, of course it was an important program,” Mr. Kean said, referring to Mohamed Atta, the Egyptian ringleader of the attacks. “Obviously, if there were materials that weren’t given to us, information that wasn’t given to us, we’re disappointed. It’s up to the Pentagon to clear up any misunderstanding.”

Democratic Commission member Richard Ben-Veniste said something similar yesterday:

A Democratic member of the commission, Richard Ben Veniste, the former Watergate prosecutor, said in an interview today that while he could not judge the credibility of the information from Colonel Shaffer and others, the Pentagon needed to “provide a clear and comprehensive explanation regarding what information it had in its possession regarding Mr. Atta.”

“And if these assertions are credible,” he continued, “the Pentagon would need to explain why it was that the 9/11 commissioners were not provided this information despite request for all information regarding to Able Danger.”

This is the kind of “bloodletting” that John Podheretz speculated would occur:

“...if the Defense Department withheld critical information on this matter, it’s almost impossible to imagine the intensity of the bloodletting that will follow.

The blame game has begun and the Commission would seem to have the Pentagon in its sights. So the focus now shifts to what a possible response by the Pentagon would be?

1. Tell the truth. Admit it made a mistake due to a paperwork snafu. Apologize.

Yeah…right. Next.

2. Smear Colonel Shaffer. Stonewall on the paperwork. Trot out Able Danger team members to refute Shaffner’s assertion.

I’m afraid this would be a more likely scenario. Taking out the whistleblower has a long, dishonorable history in government and the tactics to do so have been honed and refined to perfection. In Col. Shaffner’s case, he has been on “administrative leave” for the last 16 months and has had his security clearances suspended. His lawyer claims it’s Pentagon petifogging over a cell phone bill coupled with his superior’s displeasure over Shaffer’s speaking with the 9/11 Commission staff. It will be interesting to see what the Pentagon says about that.

As far as the Able Danger paper trail, the Pentagon will suddenly discover thousands of more pages of Able Danger documents and curiously, not a one will mention Atta, hijackers, or anything related to a “Brooklyn cell.” And there definitely will be no mention of any attempts to bring anything to the attention of the FBI that was shot down by DoD lawyers.

Or, the Pentagon will say that they gave the Commission everything. Either way, Colonel Shaffer is screwed.

Finally, as I speculated yesterday, the Pentagon may make Able Danger team members available to select national security correspondents. I would further speculate that those team members memories will be suitably vague as in “I don’t recall any mention of Mohammed Atta in any of the reports.”

These tactics will satisfy the 9/11 Commission and perhaps even the Washington Post and the New York Times. They will, of course, have the effect of hanging Colonel Shaffer out to dry. Unless other team members come forward to corraborate his story, Shaffer’s career could become another casualty in the War on Terror.

One thing about Colonel Shaffer’s interviews that have puzzled me has been the reason for the reluctance of DoD attorneys to make Able Danger findings available to the FBI. This interview with Shaffer is from the Delaware County Daily Times (via Laura Rozen):

Yet when he tried to share this information with the FBI, he said he was blocked from doing so by Department of Defense. Part of the reason was recent history and the lack of trust that existed between the federal agencies.

The Branch Davidian debacle in Waco that left 70 people dead was still in the memory banks of all those who had been involved in it, including the U.S. Army Delta Force that advised the siege team.

When it came to al-Qaida, Shaffer believes the mindset of the military was “if we pass the information on to the FBI and they do something with it and if something goes wrong (we’re) going to get the blame for it.”

Ms. Rozen asks “What do we know about the US military’s role at Waco?”

This reference to Waco as it related to the military always confused me. We knew that Special Forces Command had trained Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents in assault techniques leading up to the BATF original raid. We were also aware of military assistance in planning the ultimate attack by the FBI. But that assistance was limited to offering technical advice.

Is it just me or does it seem to you that such minor assistance by the Pentagon was hardly a reason for the skittishness on the part of DoD attorneys. Could there be something else there?

If you allow me to adjust my tin foil hat, we can descend together into the fever swamps of both the right and left to examine the issue of military involvement in the FBI action that ended up tragically killing 70 people.

From Alexander Cockburn’s Counterpunch:

The two Army officers at the Justice Department that day were Colonel Gerald Boykin, and his superior, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the head of Special Forces at Fort Bragg. Though Clark (who had served with Schoomaker) was not directly involved in the onslaught on the Branch Davidians, the role of the US Army in that affair throws into harsh relief the way prohibitions against the use of the US military for civilian law enforcement can be swiftly by-passed.

After energetic use of Freedom of Information Act enquiries, plus research in three repositories in Texas holding evidence from the Waco inferno, plus other extensive investigations, McNulty and his team have put together an explosive file:

28 video tapes from the repositories show that in the final onslaught on the Waco compound were members of the US military in special assault gear and with name tags obscured. As noted above, Clinton’s revocation of the Posse Comitatus Act made this presence legal. McNulty isolates Vince Foster as the White House point man for the Waco operation.

General Shoomaker is currently the Army Chief of Staff. Things that make you go mmmmmmm…

And this from the Dallas Morning News (1999):

A former CIA officer said Thursday that he learned from Delta Force commandos that members of the secret Army unit were “present, up front and close” in helping the FBI in the final tear-gas assault on the Branch Davidian compound.

The former officer, Gene Cullen, told The Dallas Morning News that he heard the detailed accounts of the military’s active involvement from “three or four” anti-terrorist Delta commandos as he worked with them on an overseas assignment in 1993.

While he was deployed overseas on an assignment, Mr. Cullen said, Delta operators told him that the unit “had 10 operators down there, that they were involved in the advanced forward stages of [the FBI’s April 19] operations.”

“When they explained to me the depth to which they were involved down in Waco, I was quite surprised. They said basically they were out there in the vehicles, the Bradley [fighting vehicles], the CEV [tanks],” he said. “They were active.”

The chairman of the Texas Department of Public Safety on Thursday told The News that evidence in the hands of Texas law enforcement personnel may support the account given to Mr. Cullen.

“I’m advised there is some evidence that may corroborate” the allegation that Delta Force participated in the assault, said James B. Francis Jr., the DPS official.

This puts a whole new spin on the reason why DoD lawyers were so reluctant to accede to Col. Shaffer’s request to get the FBI involved. Either the attorney’s were gun shy because of Special Operations Command direct participation the Waco disaster or more restrictions had been placed on military involvement in law enforcement matters. In effect, the “wall” was nothing new but rather a well considered policy of interpreting the Posse Comitatas law more literally.

What ever the reason, I found the participation of Delta Force – even if it was only on the periphery of the FBI operation at Waco – a curious side bar to this story. Anyone who has ever seen the documentary Waco: Rules of Engagement knows that there are many extraordinarily curious aspects to that tragedy that have never been satisfactorily explained. Many of the victims died of gunshots. The tank used by the FBI to punch holes in the walls of the compound for the purpose of initiating tear gas into the structure has disappeared therefore not allowing an examination to determine if it was fired upon as the FBI claims. Also missing is the door to the compound that would have shown who fired first in the initial confrontation between the Christians and BATF.

Just one more curious aspect to a story that may get even more strange over the next few days.


The Captain has a slightly different take on the Kean statement:

The Pentagon, meanwhile, has not yet issued any definitive statement on Able Danger. Media outlets and anonymous sources have expected one since last weekend, always speculating that the statement would come out the next day. It appears that the Pentagon also has been taken by surprise and may need more time to unravel Able Danger, or it may just need more time to establish the authorization and funding for such an extensive data-mining program. My guess is that Congress never authorized such a program, and probably neither did the Clinton White House. That will make Able Danger somewhat embarrassing to top brass and may also explain their reluctance to coordinate information between Able Danger and law-enforcement agencies.

That’s something I hadn’t considered. Will it make it more likely the Pentagon will do their best to get to the bottom of the story? Not likely, I’m afraid.

By: Rick Moran at 6:16 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (8)

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Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer is a very brave fellow. He’s also a glutton for punishment.

Lt. Col. Shaffer is the man who is about to be engulfed by the storm of controversy surrounding the Able Danger revelations. And by engulfed, I mean eaten alive chewed up, and spit out in little pieces by the most powerful forces in government; the national security establishment.

What the left refers to as “The Military-Industrial Complex” is actually a much more complicated network of people, of law firms, lobbying concerns, and career bureaucrats who more or less are responsible for the safety and security of the United States. They make up the backbone of any Administration’s national security apparatus – Republican or Democratic. They fill almost all the appointed positions in the bureaucracies as well as sit on the numerous committees, commissions, advisory councils, and ad-hoc study groups (many of which most of us have never heard of) that decide on policy recommendations, weapons systems, international treaties, and the subtleties of diplomacy, not to mention the monitoring of our intelligence agencies.

And Lt. Col Shaffer has just run afoul of this group by 1) exposing a top secret data mining operation that used information gathered by the extraordinarily secret National Security Agency; and 2) opened up several members of the national security establishment who sat on the 9/11 Commission to embarrassing revelations that they may have missed a key element regarding the attack in their final report.

What Colonel Shaffer did was confirm the information that has been reported since last week; that 9/11 Commission staffers were told back in October, 2003 about Able Danger’s discovery of an al Qaeda cell here in the United States more than a year before the attack. We’ve already discussed the embarrassment such a discovery can cause the Commission. But it was Able Danger’s methods that may ultimately prove most damaging to Col. Shaffer’s prospects for continued advancement in the service of the United States army.

Part of Able Danger’s methods included using information gleaned from NSA intercepts. Anyone who has ever read James Bamford’s intriguing books Puzzle Palace or Body of Secrets : Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency knows that the NSA avoids publicity like the plague. And if one of their operations is outed, they become downright nasty. How many “tell-all” books from former NSA employees have you seen? This is due to incredibly strict non-disclosure forms signed by all employees as a condition of employment. Violation is not just grounds for firing; you can go to jail for a very long time if you’re caught talking about the NSA with anyone. That goes double for writing about the Agency.

Since Able Danger was not strictly an NSA operation (it was an operation carried out by Special Forces Command) Lt. Shaffer, as far as we know, is not subject to any non-disclosure agreements. However, any operation that features involvement by the NSA and is subsequently highlighted in national media will not sit well with the national security establishment. Expect the pushback to begin today when, as Junkyard Blog reports, the Pentagon will have a lot to say about Able Danger, none of it earth shattering. The next step will be to make available to some respected national defense correspondent for either the New York Times or Washington Post an actual Able Danger team member to refute Col. Shaffer’s charges.

Shaffer was not an actual Able Danger team member. He was liaison to the team for the Defense Intelligence Agency:

Colonel Shaffer said that his role in Able Danger was as the program’s liaison with the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, and that he was not an intelligence analyst. The interview with Colonel Shaffer on Monday night was arranged for The New York Times and Fox News by Representative Curt Weldon, the Pennsylvania Republican who is vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a champion of data-mining programs like Able Danger.

Colonel Shaffer’s lawyer, Mark Zaid, said in an interview that he was concerned that Colonel Shaffer was facing retaliation from the Defense Department – first for having talked to the Sept. 11 commission staff in October 2003 and now for talking with news organizations.

Mr. Zaid said that Colonel Shaffer’s security clearance had been suspended last year because of what the lawyer said were a series of “petty allegations” involving $67 in personal charges on a military cellphone. He noted that despite the disciplinary action, Colonel Shaffer had been promoted this year from the rank of major.

While this certainly put Col. Shaffer in the loop, it’s barely conceivable that the 9/11 Commission may have justified discounting his revelations due to his position as being one step removed from the actual operation. And note how Col. Shaffer’s lawyer puts his client’s dirty laundry on the table immediately. Any hint that the Colonel is airing these allegations to put his superiors in a bad light as revenge for past slights is countered by full disclosure.

Where Col. Shaffer’s real problem is that he’s ruffling the feathers of some very well connected people. I might mention that the national security establishment, contrary to what the Noam Chomsky’s and Alexander Cockburn’s of the world say, is not some gigantic conspiracy of right wing cabalists who run the government from an office at the Pentagon. It is rather a loose network of individuals who’ve known each other for years, see each other at conferences, socialize together, and make it their business to watch each other’s back. Far from being an organized conspiracy, it’s more like a club.

In fact, right wing paranoia over the Tri-Lateral Commission, although silly and misplaced, is probably close to the truth, at least as far as there being a few places like the TLC, Bohemian Grove, and the Council on Foreign Relations where large numbers of the establishment come together to socialize. To say there’s a conspiracy presupposes common aims among a large number of them which is demonstrably untrue. Politics, ideology, and personality divide the establishment as much as it divides any other large group. To posit conspiracy out of this is, well, loony.

But that won’t stop the pushback from a Defense Department that wants to cover its arse over an allegation that it let a bunch of lawyers dictate national security. Nor will it stop a similar effort by 9/11 Commission staffers. The Executive Director of the staff is now one of the most powerful people in Washington, a top aide to Secretary of State Condi Rice Philip Zelicow:

The Able Danger papers shown to the 9/11 Commission at the Pentagon after the Afghanistan meeting did not feature anything mentioning Atta. So the 9/11 Commission says. So either the Commission staff is lying. Or no paper mentioned Atta and Shaffer is just wrong. Or the Defense Department misplaced the paperwork mentioning Atta. Or somebody at the Defense Department deliberately didn’t give the Commission the material.

In the first case, if the 9/11 commission staff is lying, the hell to be paid is going to be colossal. Among other things, it could shake the current State Department to its foundations, since the 9/11 commission staff director, Philip Zelicow, is one of Condi Rice’s most trusted aides.

In the second case, if the Defense Department withheld critical information on this matter, it’s almost impossible to imagine the intensity of the bloodletting that will follow.

That bloodletting will partly be because of who was commanding officer of SOCOM at the time that Able Danger was in operation:

The current Chief of Staff of the US Army is Gen. Peter Schoomaker. He rose through the ranks of Special Operations Command, and was in charge of that command at MacDill Air Force Base at the time Able Danger did its work. If the Pentagon is reticent to confirm Lt Col Shaffer’s story, you have two data points to consider as reasons why. One, the likely involvement of NSA, the most secretive and most effective (largely because it’s so secretive) intel agency we have. They stay out of the limelight and generally because of that run rings around the CIA. Anything that puts a spotlight on NSA is bad, so that in and of itself could be a reason to pour cold water on Able Danger. The second data point is that it could boomerang around on the Army Chief of Staff if he was in any way involved in bottling up Able Danger in his old command. The Pentagon does not want this scandal, not now and not ever. So I’ll be surprised if they say anything interesting anytime in the next hundred years about Able Danger.

Colonel Shaffer is counting on Congressman Curt Weldon to run interference for him. I’m afraid this is an illusion. And damn Weldon if he was able to convince the Colonel that he could protect him. The Congressman should know better. When it comes to protecting its own, the establishment has a history of closing ranks.

I hope the Colonel has a strong constitution. He’s going to need it.


Austin Bay:

I thought many of the folks serving on the 9/11 panel were weak, pompous politicos — placed there because of personal political connections, not defense and intelligence acumen or reputation for careful analysis. However, Lee Hamilton and Tom Kean have credibility, and they were the men who led the commission. If Able Danger had evidence, I expected Kean and Hamilton to demand to see it and vet it.

Yesterday Fox, the AP and NY Times changed the dimensions of this story. I’m still not certain where the allegations will lead, but we now have an officer involved providing details. How clear and detailed was the Able Danger information? We still don’t know– Weldon’s and Shaffer’s allegations could still unravel if the information amounts to “hearsay.”

Tom Maguire whose skepticism is diminishing…slowly:

Let’s end with an easy question – do people think they have seen enough to merit a Congressional investigation? And do people want the investigation to be in Curt Weldon’s House, or over in the Senate?

My answer – if the Defense Dept. now denies everything, I may not believe them, and if they admit that they sat on Atta’s name, I really won’t believe it – send it to the Senate, start putting people under oath, and sort this out.

Weldon’s credibility is zero. But a joint House-Senate Committee wouldn’t be out of the question. Besides, Weldon would insist on face time for the cameras seeing as its his witnesses who would play the starring role.

By: Rick Moran at 7:02 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (18)

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The situation regarding top secret Pentagon data mining operation known as Able Danger is at the moment, confused – to say the least.

On the one hand, you have Rep. “Crazy” Curt Weldon backtracking on the story as his main source – a source that the 9/11 Commission admits met with staffer Deitrich Snell on July 12, 2004 and relayed information that Atta was pegged by the Able Danger team a year before 9/11 – has said that he had no corroborative paperwork to back up his contention about Atta.

On the other hand, you have this story in today’s Washington Times which quotes a second source (who met with Commission staffers in Pakistan in October, 2003) as saying that he did in fact inform the Commission that the Able Danger team had indeed uncovered information about Mohammed Atta and that he tried to tell the Commission again in January:

The intelligence official said he was interviewed in October 2003 by members of the September 11 commission staff, including Executive Director Philip Zelikow, and sought to arrange a follow-up meeting that the staff had requested when he returned from Afghanistan in January 2004, but was rebuffed.

“They took good notes and scribbled the entire time I talked. Two staffers took four to five pages of notes each. Other members from Special Ops Command also were in attendance,” he said, adding that he was “shocked” in January 2004 when the staff members told him, “We don’t need to talk to you.”

Mr. Weldon said he wants to know “who made the decision and why was it never mentioned in the final document. ... It would have changed the completion on the final 9/11 report.”

I speculated in this post that there were probably two separate sources for the Able Danger information since the 9/11 Commission met with another intelligence officer in October.

To have that source confirm that he talked about Mohammed Atta and the team’s inability to report their information to the FBI throws just a little bit different light on the matter.

Jim Geraghty is pissed at Weldon for his backtracking. But its obvious Geraghty did not see the article in the Washington Times. And Geraghty’s scoop that the Pentagon is going to be releasing Able Danger information that won’t have any “bombshells” is hardly surprising.

What is surprising, is this little tidbit from the Times article that’s pretty much of any eye opener:

But Pentagon officials have said they have uncovered no specific intelligence data from the Able Danger unit concerning an Atta-led terrorist cell, other than a few intelligence analyses that mention his name, and September 11 commission Chairman Thomas H. Kean and Vice Chairman Lee H. Hamilton disputed the source of the information.

Really? And why no mention of these “analyses” in the 9/11 Commission Final Report? The Captain:

This story has not yet run its course, not by a long shot. Something strange has been going on with Able Danger. Either it did a much better job identifying terrorists than anyone wants to acknowledge, or it uncovered something else that no one wants to release. Either way, Congress needs to start hauling people into the open and start asking for sworn testimony on this program and exactly how much the Commission knew about it.

This second source makes this a whole new ball game.

And let me say again; even with that information in hand, I doubt whether we could have prevented 9/11. Also, it’s tempting to get ahead of ourselves on this story and read more into it than is there. But if the 9/11 Commission staff is lying, don’t you think that’s something we should know? It worries me that the staffers may have pulled a “Sandy Berger” and sanitized Commission records when they were in the National Archives last week. But a Congressional hearing would uncover something like that easily.

Does Weldon have enough credibility left to convene such a hearing? Not if the Democrats have anything to say about it. However, if two different sources come forward to corroborate Weldon’s charges, Congress may have no choice but to use its power of oversight and subpoena to get to the bottom of this.


AJ at The Strata-Sphere has news:

Rep. Curt Weldon said Monday that one or more members of an elite team of military intelligence officers who had identified al Qaeda hijacker Mohamed Atta as a terrorist threat two years before he led the 9/11 attacks are prepared to go public.

“I can guarantee you that you will be able to have one on your show,” Weldon told ABC Radio host Sean Hannity. “You might want to go with your TV show with this, because it will be a major story,” the Pennsylvania Republican urged. “And you can interview him directly.”

Now that’s an interview I’m not going to miss.

By: Rick Moran at 12:30 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)

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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.

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.

By: Rick Moran at 6:51 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (17)

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You’ve got to hand it to the 9/11 Commissioners. When push comes to shove, they know when to duck:

The Sept. 11 commission concluded that an intelligence program known as Able Danger “did not turn out to be historically significant,” despite hearing a claim that the program had identified the future plot leader Mohammed Atta as a potential terrorist threat more than a year before the 2001 attacks, the commission’s former leaders said in a statement on Friday evening.

The statement said a review of testimony and documents had found that the single claim in July 2004 by a Navy officer was the only time the name of Mr. Atta or any other future hijacker was mentioned to the commission as having been known before the hijackings. That account is consistent with statements this week by a commission spokesman, but it contradicts claims by a former defense intelligence official who said he had told the commission staff about Able Danger’s work on Mr. Atta during a briefing in Afghanistan in October 2003.

“Not historically significant?” How’d we get there from “if the briefers had mentioned anything that startling, it would have gotten their attention?”

You don’t have to read between the lines to see what’s going on here. In fact, 9/11 Commission spokesman Felzenberg couldn’t have made it any more plain when he said “The information that he provided us did not mesh with other conclusions that we were drawing” from the commission’s investigation.” And just to make sure that we understood perfectly that the Commission ignored the Able Danger revelations because it didn’t fit their pre-conceived ideas they were pushing in the 9/11 narrative, Mr. Felzenberg repeated himself by saying “This information was not meshing with the other information that we had.”

As the Captain points out, the Commission’s entire defense boils down to two facts: 1) The Commission had no previous evidence that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta was in the country at the time Able Danger says he was; and 2) The reason they know when Mr. Atta was in the country and when he wasn’t was because he always used his real name while traveling abroad.


The Captain explains:’s also worth noting that the Commission had an unusual standard for determining Atta’s timeline—they relied on him to travel under his own name at all times. I discussed this in earlier posts, but it bears repeating: terrorists can change tactics situationally. All the report can possibly state was the first time Atta traveled under his own name or any known aliases, and then only if immigration records picked it up. It doesn’t take much imagination, however, to think that he may have traveled here under a separate cover once or twice first to test the system and to do preliminary research for his mission.

The question should be asked of the 9/11 Commission staff – especially Deitrich Snell who interviewed the Able Danger team member in July, 2004 – why they didn’t try to either prove or disprove his story by asking the Pentagon about the data mining operation. There’s also the question of the arrests in Germany of Iraqi Intelligence operatives in March of 2000; operatives that the Germans said “uncovered what they considered to be serious indications of cooperation between Iraq and bin Ladin,” and that “acting on CIA recommendations, [the Germans] had been focused on monitoring the activities of Islamic groups linked to bin Ladin.”

That makes two pieces of potential evidence ignored by Commission staffers (or not informed by the CIA about the German-Iraqi spy arrests?). How many other facts were discarded because, in Mr. Fetzenberg’s words, they didn’t “mesh” with conclusions already reached by the staff?

The Commission has made an effective counter to Congressman Weldon’s charges, placing the burden now on him to prove the Commission liars. The only way to do that would be to hold hearings and put some people under oath.

Expect those hearings to begin shortly after the August recess is over.


Kevin Drum:

The Able Danger program was classified, of course, so we may never know exactly what it was and what it found out — especially since if the Pentagon was aware of Atta in 2000 it’s not likely to want to admit it in any case. However, I’m going to stick with my original guess: it produced some general information about al-Qaeda, but nothing specifically about Atta or the other 9/11 hijackers. That’s why no one ever mentioned Atta in the original reports. Later on, frustrated because their story wasn’t getting enough attention, Weldon and his source embellished it to suggest that Able Danger had specifically uncovered actionable intelligence about an al-Qaeda cell in Brooklyn headed by Atta.

Suitably cautious but fails to account for the fact that there are two different sources telling the Commission about Able Danger – once in October, 2003 (at the same time that Sandy Berger was getting sticky fingers in the National Archives) and July, 2004 which was at a time as Drum suggests that the Commission’s Final Report had mostly been written.

However, Drum may be correct in that it appears according to what the Commission staff is saying, Atta was not mentioned in the October, 2003 meeting. My reading of Weldon’s interview with Government Security News is that someone is lying; either the Able Danger team member or Commission staffers:

According to Weldon, staff members of the 9/11 Commission were briefed on the capabilities of the Able Danger intelligence unit within the Special Operations Command, which had been set up by General Pete Schoomaker, who headed Special Ops at the time, on the orders of General Hugh Shelton, then the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. Staffers at the 9/11 Commission staffers were also told about the specific recommendation to break up the Mohammed Atta cell. However, those commission staff members apparently did not choose to brief the commission’s members on these sensitive matters.


AJ from The Strata-Sphere who’s been on top of this issue since it broke:

There is no ‘credibility’ issues here! None. Able Danger is as credible as the other leads the government dropped and only realized post 9-11 they were missed.


The commission’s response only leads to more questions. I don’t know whether the answers will come out without this military official having to be named in public.

I’m afraid she’s right.

The Counterterrorism Blog:

The INS Headquarters National Security Unit (NSU), which was created in the late 1990s in spite of considerable obstacles generated by the INS High Command, was one of the few and small success stories within the INS. The INS/NSU, circa 1999-2000, tried to post a liaison officer to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) specifically to tap into DoD intelligence on counter-terrorism matters. The NSU Director at the time approved it and DIA bought off on the plan…but INS senior management above the NSU Director nixed it so it never happened.

Hindsight is alwayas 20/20 and the refusal of the INS to approve the liason with DoD, given the pre-9/11 mindset, was both to be expected and understandable. It should go without saying, however, that it would be nice to know that the situation has been rectified and such nonsense is no longer being practiced by the INS.


Rusty Shackleford and Ed Morrissey are having fascinating back and forth regarding the Iraqi spies caught in Germany and whether or not they could have been connected to Mohammed Atta’s Hamburg cell.

Read the whole thing here. And here’s the Captain’s original post and follow up.

And here’s Rusty’s original post where they have a back and forth in the comment section.

By: Rick Moran at 2:42 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (8)

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It’s a fascinating day here in blogland. We have dueling blogswarms between the left and right, each trying to push a story into prominence in the mainstream media.

On the left, there’s the Cindy Sheehan story and what’s rapidly becoming something known as “Camp Casey.” The lefties believe that the image of a mother who has lost her son in Iraq camped out in front of the President’s ranch in Crawford, Texas begging for an audience (her 2nd) with George Bush is somehow a tipping point in the Iraq War.

On the right, there’s a story that’s getting curiouser and curiouser about a top secret Pentagon intelligence team called Able Danger whose data mining operation apparently uncovered the al Qaeda terror cell of Mohammed Atta a full year before 9/11. This fact, known to the 9/11 Commission staff at least 10 months prior to the issuance of their final report, was inexplicably not included in the 9/11 narrative. Nobody knows why and as I write this, Commission staff – the very same staff who failed to include the information in the first place – is over at the National Archives trying to find out why they were too stupid or too partisan to report it.

For sheer volume, the left wins in a walk. As of 3:00 PM central time, there were 4370 posts on Cindy Sheehan while only 468 posts were on Able Danger. However, most of those posts on Sheehan were written before this last Tuesday when the Able Danger story hit the fan. And many, many more righty bloggers are posting about Cindy Sheehan than lefty bloggers are posting about Able Danger.

In fact, while the left has gone off the deep end with the Sheehan story, calling the disturbed woman the “Rosa Parks” of the anti-war movement and other equally over the top encomiums, the counter reaction from the right has been equally vigorous, albeit with as much hyperbolic rhetoric in opposition to Mrs. Sheehan as can be found in support of her.

By contrast, the reaction on the left to the Able Danger story has been muted and dismissive. None of the top left blogs are even posting on it. Then again, they aren’t doing much Cindy Sheehan coverage either. Why do you suppose that is?

Mrs. Sheehan comes off pretty well in 15-30 second snippetts. But if you sit her down in a chair at CNN or Fox or read an interview with her in a newspaper what emerges is a shrill kook whose anti-semitic rants against Israel and fantastic conspiracy theories involving Bush, the oil companies, and American “colonies” in the middle east mark her as someone the sane left is keeping at arms left. While both Daily Kos and Democratic Underground are wall to wall Sheehan, Josh Marshall, TPM Cafe, Wonkette, and Jerelyn Merritt have all kept their distance from the story. Wonkette even has a plea for sanity:

Is that what the debate has come to? Which side can corral the saddest crop of widows, parents, and orphans? Call it a harms race. Better: an ache-off. We hope the grimly absurd image of two competing camps of mourners illustrates why it is we’ve been somewhat reluctant to weigh in on Sheehan’s cause: Grief can pull a person in any direction, and whatever “moral authority” it imbues, we can’t claim that Sheehan has it and those mothers who still support the war don’t. The Bush administration knows all about exploiting tragedy for its own causes, including re-election. Whatever arguments there are against the war in Iraq, let’s not make “I have more despairing mothers on my side” one of them. The only way to win a grief contest is for more people to die.

Cindy Sheehan is a ticking media time bomb waiting to go off. I find it more than likely that she will eventually say something so grotesque, so outrageous, so off the wall, as to make her damaged goods. At which point of course, the left will abandon her.

That said, there is real danger on the right that instead of criticizing the message (and the people pushing the grieving mother forward) there will be a “piling on” aspect to criticism of Sheehan herself that will generate more sympathy for her. Some of the rhetoric I’ve seen directed against this poor woman has been despicable. This has certainly not been the finest hour for many righty bloggers out there (and you know who you are).

In the meantime, the left has another problem with potential revelations in the Able Danger story. One thing you might notice today is that just about everyone is going back in time examining posts they did last year on the 9/11 Commission. Several interesting tidbits have come to light including some tantalizing clues about what exactly Sandy Berger was stuffing in his socks at the National Archives last year. Did the Clinton Administration know about Able Danger and have Berger purloin documents in order to sanitize the record? A skeptic would want more proof but some timelines I’ve seen out there are compelling. Not proof – but enough questions raised that someone with subpoena power should be looking into the entire matter.

The problem for the left with the Able Danger story is that it may, in fact, reveal connections that destroy the national narrative on 9/11 put forth by the Commission. A re-examination of the record could reveal other tidbits – not the least of which is this eye opener the Captain found today about Atta’s Hamburg cell and a busted Iraqi Intelligence ring. The left’s entire anti-war rationale – that Saddam was not involved in 9/11 – may, in fact get a second hearing. And wouldn’t that cut the anti-war crowd off at the knees if any significant changes are forced upon the Commission.

The power of this new media will be on display over the next few weeks. Will the Sheehan story become more compelling as the hard left makes pilgrimages to Crawford to spout their conspiracy theories and preen for the cameras? Or will new revelations about what the 9/11 Commission knew and when they knew it regarding Mohammed Atta push its way to the forefront of coverage in the MSM and put pressure on Congress to investigate what John Podheretz has termed “the story of the summer” in Washington, D.C?


What better place for a post on blogswarms than the blog trackback party at James Joyner’s Outside the Beltway!

By: Rick Moran at 4:50 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (15)

Sarah Schroeder linked with Videos of naked women
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Mister Snitch! linked with Cindy and George
NIF linked with Sorcerer of The Wonkavator
Flopping Aces linked with The Gorelick Wall & Sandy Berger, Update III
The Jawa Report linked with No, Iraq Had Nothing to do with 9/11

In an interview with Government Security News, one of the Able Danger team members revealed that it was lawyers for the Department of Defense who prevented information gleaned from the data mining operation from reaching the FBI:

The intelligence officer recalled carrying documents to the offices of Able Danger, which was being run by the Special Operations Command, headquartered in Tampa, FL. The documents included a photo of Mohammed Atta supplied by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and described Atta’s relationship with Osama bin Laden. The officer was very disappointed when lawyers working for Special Ops decided that anyone holding a green card had to be granted essentially the same legal protections as any U.S. citizen. Thus, the information Able Danger had amassed about the only terrorist cell they had located inside the United States could not be shared with the FBI, the lawyers concluded.

“We were directed to take those 3M yellow stickers and place them over the faces of Atta and the other terrorists and pretend they didn’t exist,” the intelligence officer told GSN.

DoD lawyers may also have been reluctant to suggest a bold action by FBI agents after the bureau’s disastrous 1993 strike against the Branch Davidian religious cult in Waco, TX, said Weldon and the intelligence officer.

Could political correctness have killed 3000 of our fellow citizens? And this charade of covering the faces of Atta and his cell with little yellow pieces of paper borders on the surreal. What kind of bureaucratic mindset could be responsible for such idiocy?

Well…before she became the #2 lawyer at the Department of Justice, Jamie Gorelick was a lawyer for the Department of Defense. Make sense to you now?

The next question would have to be: Is this practice still going on?

We know that the Patriot Act broke down many of these barriers between the CIA and FBI but did it also cure the timidity and stupidity that led to this fiasco?

Meanwhile, the Washington Post points out the interesting fact that we have the fox in charge of investigating the hen house regarding the 9/11 Commission’s probe into the Able Danger allegations; the same people who may have discarded the information about Mohammed Atta and his Brooklyn terror cell in the first place are investigating why they may have done such a stupid thing:

Staff members of the Sept. 11 commission are investigating allegations by a Republican congressman that lead hijacker Mohamed Atta had been identified as a potential threat by a highly classified Defense Department program a year or more before the attacks occurred.

Commission officials confirmed a report in yesterday’s New York Times that two staff members interviewed a uniformed military officer, who alleged in July 2004 that a secret program called “Able Danger” had identified Atta as a potential terrorist threat in 1999 or early 2000.

This is probably why a Congressional investigation is in order. Here we have the staff of the 9/11 Commission investigating themselves. And Congress should look into one particular Commission investigator, Deitrich Snell, who according to the NY Times story yesterday was the staff person who interviewed the Able Danger team member at Commission headquarters in July, 2004 – 10 days before the Commission’s Final Report was released:

Mr. Snell also prosecuted one of the Bojinka plot conspirators and turned down a deal with the terrorist:

Abdul Hakim Murad, a conspirator in the 1995 Bojinka plot with Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and others, was convicted in 1996 of his role in the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). He is about to be sentenced for that crime. He offers to cooperate with federal prosecutors in return for a reduction in his sentence, but prosecutors turn down his offer.

Dietrich Snell, the prosecutor who convicted Murad, says after 9/11 that he doesn’t remember any such offer. But court papers and others familiar with the case later confirmed that Murad does offer to cooperate at this time. Snell claimed he only remembers hearing that Murad had described an intention to hijack a plane and fly it into CIA headquarters. However, in 1995 Murad had confessed to Philippine investigators that this would have been only one part of a larger plot to crash a number of airplanes into prominent US buildings, including the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a plot that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed later adjusts and turns into the 9/11 plot

You may recall that the Bojinka plot involved the blowing up of 11 US bound airplanes over the Pacific Ocean, in January of 1996. This is the plot KSM eagerly took to Osama Bin Laden for approval only to have OBL scale the attack down to what eventually turned out to be the 9/11 attack. The behavior of Mr. Snell in this case is eerily similar to what he did with the Able Danger information. In other words, Mr. Snell has experience in burying information that may have led to discovery of the 9/11 attack.

According to today’s Washington Post, we may hear something from the Commission today about Able Danger and why the staff failed to include the information in the Final Report.

By: Rick Moran at 5:06 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)

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The Strata-Sphere linked with Dietrich Snell - 9-11 & Able Danger

Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” (Sir Walter Scott)

It appears that the “non-partisan” 9/11 Commission has some explaining to do. For the last 48 hours, they’ve tried to deny knowledge of the fact that a secret military intelligence unit known as Able Danger, had information on a terrorist cell headed up by 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. The unit, that pieced together the information using data mining techniques, subsequently tried to share the information on Atta with the FBI only to be rebuffed by the Justice Department due to the artificial “wall” put in place by the Clinton White House between the CIA and FBI.

At first, the Commission denied they had been briefed on the matter. But as this New York Times article makes clear, that’s not entirely accurate:

The Sept. 11 commission was warned by a uniformed military officer 10 days before issuing its final report that the account would be incomplete without reference to what he described as a secret military operation that by the summer of 2000 had identified as a potential threat the member of Al Qaeda who would lead the attacks more than a year later, commission officials said on Wednesday.

The officials said that the information had not been included in the report because aspects of the officer’s account had sounded inconsistent with what the commission knew about that Qaeda member, Mohamed Atta, the plot’s leader.

But aides to the Republican congressman who has sought to call attention to the military unit that conducted the secret operation said such a conclusion relied too much on specific dates involving Mr. Atta’s travels and not nearly enough on the operation’s broader determination that he was a threat.

The briefing by the military officer is the second known instance in which people on the commission’s staff were told by members of the military team about the secret program, called Able Danger.

The meeting, on July 12, 2004, has not been previously disclosed. That it occurred, and that the officer identified Mr. Atta there, were acknowledged by officials of the commission after the congressman, Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, provided information about it.

The Captain sums up the significance of the Commission’s apparent cover-up of the briefing:

Why didn’t the Commission press harder for military intelligence, and if the Times’ source has told the truth, why did they ignore the Able Danger operation in their deliberations? It would emphasize that the problem was not primarily operational, as the Commission made it seem, but primarily political—and that the biggest problem was the enforced separation between law enforcement and intelligence operations upon which the Clinton Department of Justice insisted. The hatchet person for that policy sat on the Commission itself: Jamie S. Gorelick.

Again, this begs the question of what else the Commission ignored, especially in terms of military and civilian intelligence, in order to reach its conclusions. It also undermines their recommendations to create two new levels of bureaucracy for the intelligence services. Instead, if the Able Danger development pans out, it means that the best fix is the Patriot Act and a reduction in bureaucratic drag on intelligence, not an increase in it. Congress needs to start from scratch and completely re investigate 9/11, this time outside the heat of a partisan presidential election cycle.

First, it may be interesting to examine why so many were skeptical when this story first came out. Reason number one is Congressman Curt Weldon himself.

Weldon wrote a book that was published a few months ago in which he claimed the CIA was ignoring a growing nuclear threat from Iran. He also claims that Iran “is hiding Osama bin Laden, is preparing terrorist attacks against the United States, has a crash program to build an atomic bomb and, as a Shiite country, is the chief sponsor of what is a largely Sunni-directed insurgency in Iraq.”

Weldon used what the CIA has termed “fabricators” as sources for information in the book. He is also known for stunts such as carrying around what he laughably claimed was a replica of a suitcase nuclear bomb. Weapons specialists have debunked the claim that a nuclear weapon could be carried around in a suitcase although small devices such as nuclear artillery shells could probably be rigged to fit inside a good sized steamer trunk.

So Weldon’s credibility was pretty low to begin with. And then when the first denials from the Commission regarding Able Danger came in, the thinking was that Weldon had screwed the pooch again.

Apparently, not this time:

In a letter sent Wednesday to members of the commission, Mr. Weldon criticized the panel in scathing terms, saying that its “refusal to investigate Able Danger after being notified of its existence, and its recent efforts to feign ignorance of the project while blaming others for supposedly withholding information on it, brings shame on the commissioners, and is evocative of the worst tendencies in the federal government that the commission worked to expose.”

Those “worst tendencies” are as old as government itself – the perceived necessity to cover up mistakes. It would have been so much easier if the Commission staff members, instead of denying contact with the member of Able Danger who was Mr. Weldon’s source for the information on the data mining project at the Pentagon, had just told the truth and said that yes, we met with the gentleman and he briefed us on what his unit had come up with regarding Mr. Atta but at the time, we didn’t think it was important enough to include in the final report.

Instead, now they look like they’re really hiding something that may or may not be important enough to affect the Commission’s final conclusions. Because even if domestic law enforcement had known of Mr. Atta and his cell, given the pre-9/11 mindset of the FBI, it’s doubtful whether it would have made a whit of difference.

John P. O’Neill was the FBI’s Counterterrorism Chief until his resignation in the summer of 2001. For several years prior to that, O’Neill had tried without success to get the FBI off the mark and make a concerted effort to counter what he rightly saw as a build up of terrorist assets here in the United States. FBI Chief Louis Freeh would have none of it. And O’Neill himself, by all accounts a flamboyant and somewhat abrasive man, didn’t help his case any by criticizing superiors for their lack of action. Despite his correct interpretation of al Qaeda’s goal of striking the United States, the pre-9/11 FBI was institutionally incapable of doing anything about it. This, along with the artificial “wall” put up by civil libertarians in the Clinton Justice Department, was cited as the main reasons why the 9/11 plot succeeded.

Could one more warning from one more source made a difference in preventing 9/11? Perhaps. But given the dysfunction of our intelligence agencies prior to that horrible day, I find the idea less than compelling that anything would have changed.


Michelle Malkin is tracking the blogswarm and has her usual great link roundup. See especially The Anchoress regarding a possible Sandy Berger connection. Was Able Danger the reason Berger purloined the documents at the National Archives? Also AJ at The Strata-Sphere (who posted on this speculation two days ago) has a neat timeline.

Now wouldn’t that take the cake? Sandy Berger covering up for his old boss to shift blame to the current Administration in an election year? Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Also, Tom Maguire takes time out from the Plame-Wilson-Rove controversey and posts some excellent thoughts somewhat along the line that I took:

As to how significant an error this was – obviously, after the fact Mohammed Atta was very important. Although I assume Able Danger did not offer any specific projections about hijacking planes, if Atta had been put under closer surveillance, the 9/11 plot might have been disrupted. Still, a point to ponder – was Atta noted by Able Danger as a key Al Qaeda figure even in 2001, or was he just one name among fifty, or five hundred?

In a further update, Ed Morrisey links to his Daily Standard column in which he details the strange case of Mohammed Afroze and his plots to carry out terrorist attacks in India and Australia in conjunction with the 9/11 attacks. Afroze was convicted in an Indian Court – a fact that seems not to have made the cut when the MSM was doling out news about al Qaeda terrorists.


Take a whiff. Do you smell what I smell? I smell a blog feeding frenzy about this story. And it’s just getting started.

Beth at MVRWC:

It looks to me so far that this is in no way some bullshit Valerie Plame story, though; and even so, the significance of 9/11 makes the Plame Game look positively LAUGHABLE. No freaking way am I going to go blind looking at their meltdown at the DUh or Kos, though. I saw enough with a quick Technorati search.

I’d have to agree. The Plame Game looks like it’s stalled anyway. Also, Beth links to a post by the smartest Doctor around Dr. Sanity who has more on the possible Berger connection. Now THAT would be a story for the new millenium!

By: Rick Moran at 6:54 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)

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