T Nation

Able Danger and 9/11 Commission


#1

What do people think about this? I don't think it proves anything in particular, but it does bring to mind some interesting questions. Most notably, why wasn't it included, especially if they were briefed on it two times, and what lead to the information not being shared with law enforcement?

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/national/AP-Sept-11-Hijackers.html?hp&ex=1123819200&en=75c8bf9eafed684c&ei=5094&partner=homepage

August 12, 2005
Atta Details Omitted From Sept. 11 Report
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed at 7:50 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Sept. 11 commission knew military intelligence officials had identified lead hijacker Mohamed Atta as a member of al-Qaida who might be part of U.S.-based terror cell more than a year before the terror attacks but decided not to include that in its final report, a spokesman acknowledged Thursday.

Al Felzenberg, spokesman for the commission's follow-up project called the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, had said earlier this week that the panel was unaware of intelligence specifically naming Atta. But he said subsequent information provided Wednesday confirmed that the commission had been aware of the intelligence.

The information did not make it into the final report because it was not consistent with what the commission knew about Atta's whereabouts before the attacks, Felzenberg said.

The intelligence about Atta recently was disclosed by Rep. Curt Weldon, vice chairman of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees. The Pennsylvania Republican has expressed anger that the intelligence never was forwarded by the military establishment to the FBI.

The discourse project, Pentagon and at least two congressional committees are looking into the issue. If found accurate, the intelligence would change the timeline for when government officials first became aware of Atta's links to al-Qaida.

According to Weldon, a classified military intelligence unit called ''Able Danger'' identified Atta and three other hijackers in 1999 as potential members of a terrorist cell in New York City. Weldon said Pentagon lawyers rejected the unit's recommendation that the information be turned over to the FBI in 2000.

According to Pentagon documents, the information was not shared because of concerns about pursuing information on ''U.S. persons,'' a legal term that includes U.S. citizens as well as foreigners legally admitted to the country.

Felzenberg said an unidentified person working with Weldon came forward Wednesday and described a meeting 10 days before the panel's report was issued last July. During it, a military official urged commission staffers to include a reference to the intelligence on Atta in the final report.

Felzenberg said checks were made and the details of the July 12, 2004, meeting were confirmed. Previous to that, Felzenberg said it was believed commission staffers knew about Able Danger from a meeting with military officials in Afghanistan during which no mention was made of Atta or the other three hijackers.

Staff members now are searching documents in the National Archives to look for notes from the meeting in Afghanistan and any other possible references to Atta and Able Danger, Felzenberg said.

Felzenberg sought to minimize the significance of the new information.

''Even if it were valid, it would've joined the lists of dozens of other instances where information was not shared,'' Felzenberg said. ''There was a major problem with intelligence sharing.''

Weldon on Wednesday wrote to Thomas Kean, chairman of the 9/11 commission, and Lee Hamilton, the vice chairman, asking for information to be sought that would look at why the information was not passed on by Pentagon lawyers to the FBI.

His letter also asks the commissioners to find out why the panel's staff members did not pass the information about Able Danger onto commission members and provide full documentation.

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and his House counterpart, Michigan Rep. Peter Hoekstra, are looking into the issue.


#2

It's bad that they left it out of the report, but what about letting the guy fly planes in American airspace in the first place?

Surely they're not so inept? Which brings some interesting questions...


#3

Don't make the mistake of aggregating all the information "the government" had together as if one person, or even one small group, knew it all beforehand.

I think the key implication here is that this was the single biggest missed opportunity to have averted 9/11 -- if the info had been shared, assuming the FBI acted on it they could have arrested 4-5 of the hijackers, and perhaps have extracted information to get the others as well.


#4

Here's some interesting theorizing -- I would not at this point discount his theory d) at the end, namely a lazy staff or a tunnel-vision staff ("we have our story and we're sticking to it."). Anyone who knows about Congress or Courts knows how much control staff and clerks have with some office holders.

And he may be reading too much into the Iraq thing, though the Czechs have never backed off of that claim -- there was definitely a large political reason at the time for them to make that finding.

But we need some more information before this choice to exclude the information gives rise to anything more than speculation.

However, it does beg the question as to whether the Commissioners themselves knew about the information -- that would seem to me to make this potentially much more serious.

http://corner.nationalreview.com/05_08_07_corner-archive.asp#072781

THE 9/11 COMMISSION IN MORTAL DANGER [John Podhoretz]

It behaved disgracefully and in a nakedly partisan fashion, with former officials of the Clinton administration attempting to use the platform to damage the president's reelection chances. Then, after months of ludicrous conduct, out of nowhere came the brilliantly conceived and written report that set a new standard of eloquence and coherence for government documents, became a major bestseller and redeemed the commission's reputation.

Well, that didn't last long.

In a story filed at 7:10 PM, the Associated Press is now confirming all the particulars of what will now forever be called the Able Danger disaster. The 9/11 Commission staff did hear about intelligence-gathering efforts that hit pay dirt on the whereabouts of Mohammed Atta -- in 1999 -- and deliberately chose to omit word of those efforts.

And why? Because to do so might upset the timeline the Commission had established on Atta.

And why is that significant? Because the Mohammed Atta timeline established by the Commission pointedly insisted Atta did not meet with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague.

And why is that significant? Because debunking the Atta-Iraq connection was of vital importance to Democrats, who had become focused almost obsessively on the preposterous notion that there was no relation whatever between Al Qaeda and Iraq -- that Al Qaeda and Iraq might even have been enemies.

I was very skeptical of this Able Danger stuff about Atta, thought it was just some way Rep. Curt Weldon was trying to sell a book. No longer. This is clearly becoming the biggest story of the summer -- the fact that, as Andy McCarthy alluded to, the "intelligence wall" set up by 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick when she was in the Justice Department did, in fact, cause the linchpin of the 9/11 attacks to evade capture by American law enforcement.

So was the staff a) protecting the Atta timeline or b) Jamie Gorelick or c) the Clinton administration or d) itself, because it got hold of the information relatively late and the staff was lazy?

More important, what will co-chairmen Tom (pound his fist on the table) Kean and Lee (look sorrowful) Hamilton do and say in the next 36 hours about this calamity?
Posted at 08:07 PM


#5

Investors Business Daily had a fairly fierce anti Jamie Gorelick editorial on Friday concerning the Able Danger revelations. Excerpts:

[i]The knowledge that Mohammed Atta was affiliated with al-Qaida was known at least a year before Sept. 11, but political correctness and walls between agencies built by Democrats kept it a secret. ...

Three other hijackers ? Marwan al-Shehi, Khalid al-Mihdar and Nawaf al-Hazmi ? were also tagged as al-Qaida operatives. In September 2000, the unit recommended that the information on the hijackers be passed on to the FBI "so they could bring that cell in and take out the terrorists," Weldon told The Associated Press.

But Pentagon lawyers vetoed the idea because Atta and his brethren at the time were here legally. Weldon noted: "They put stickies on the face of Mohammed Atta on the chart that the military intelligence unit had completed, and they said you can't talk to Atta because he's here on a green card."

... The New York Times reports that the 9-11 commission staff had the Able Danger data but decided not to share it with the panel members because the information sounded inconsistent with what they thought they knew about Atta.

... this is the same commission that included one Jamie Gorelick, a deputy attorney general in the Clinton Justice Department. She's also architect of the policy that established a wall between intel and law enforcement, making "connecting the dots" before 9-11 a virtual impossibility.[/i]

Gorelick took some heat for creating the "wall of separation" between the CIA and the FBI -- I'm not certain if it strictly prohibited the military intel being shared, but I can understand how a career bureacrat lawyer would argue, in typical CYA fashion, that it would. 999 out of 1000 times the only way his decision would be a personal risk to him was if Atta et al had come back with a lawsuit on how their rights were violated.

We need to seriously reconsider our policy that the government is restricted from collecting data and intelligence on non-citizen immigrants similarly to the manner it is restricted concerning actual citizens.


#6

As the post says, this smells funny...

http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/005202.php

August 12, 2005
Commission: Able Danger Only Told Us About Atta

The AP reports tonight that 9/11 Commission co-chairs Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton have changed their story yet again ( http://www.sanluisobispo.com/mld/sanluisobispo/news/politics/12372003.htm ). Now the two say in a joint statement to the press that they do recall hearing that Able Danger had identified Atta, two days after Hamilton categorically denied it -- and for a man who had supposedly never heard of Able Danger, Hamilton's recall of detail of the briefing appears impressive (via Tom Maguire: http://justoneminute.typepad.com/main/2005/08/able_i_was_the_.html ):

[i]In a joint statement, former commission chairman Thomas Kean and vice chairman Lee Hamilton said a military official who made the claim had no documentation to back it up. And they said only 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta was identified to them and not three additional hijackers as claimed by Rep. Curt Weldon, vice chairman of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees.

"He could not describe what information had led to this supposed Atta identification," the statement said of the military official.

They also said no else could place the other three hijackers with Atta in a purported terror cell code-named "Brooklyn" during the time period cited by Weldon.

Compare this to what Hamilton said on August 9th:

"The Sept. 11 commission did not learn of any U.S. government knowledge prior to 9/11 of surveillance of Mohammed Atta or of his cell," said Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana. "Had we learned of it obviously it would've been a major focus of our investigation."[/i]

Now we hear Hamilton say the exact opposite. The Commission heard about Atta -- they just ignored it, claiming now that the evidence shown at the briefing did not match up with their timeline for Atta's first entry to the US. That would have been an interesting claim had Hamilton made it when first asked. Now, with his categorical denial still ringing in our ears, it sounds more like another excuse to wriggle out of a debacle they themselves made.

The only development this gives us is an admission that the Commissioners themselves had awareness of Able Danger's assessment of Atta as a terrorist a year before the 9/11 attacks -- and they didn't bother to mention it at all in their report, not even to refute it as contrary information that they could refute. For a group which wound up berating two administrations for only listening to that evidence and intelligence which fit their policies, it at least smacks of the pot calling the kettle black. At worst, it smells much worse than that.


#7

It is disturbing, but understandable that they didn't kick Atta out of the country. I am never surprised by government ineptitude.

I think it is absolutely shameful that the 9/11 Commission appeared to play partisan politics and omit these details from the report.

I swear it looks like many of these jackasses have no regard for national security issues and would sell us out just for political gain.


#8

Hmm. Looks as if the inept government person in this case is Congressman Curt Weldon -- who may or may not have been trying to sell some books... It seems at the very least the staffers were being professional in their treatment of what they received.

Here's what Curt Weldon had to say in today's TIME magazine:

"In a particularly dramatic scene in Weldon?s book, Countdown to Terror, the Pennsylvania Republican described personally handing to then-Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley, just after Sept. 11, an Able Danger chart produced in 1999 identifying Atta. But Weldon told TIME he?s no longer certain Atta?s name was on that original document. The congressman says he handed Hadley his only copy. Still, last week he referred reporters to a recently reconstructed version of the chart in his office where, among dozens of names and photos of terrorists from around the world, there was a color mug shot of Mohammad Atta, circled in black marker."

Here's some reaction:

http://corner.nationalreview.com/05_08_14_corner-archive.asp#072959

WE MAY OWE THEM A BIG APOLOGY [John Podhoretz]

A day or two ago, I posted a note of caution about the Able Danger scandal, and that note of caution has now turned into a full-fledged symphony -- and some of us on the Right who have been making a big stink about this may have been had.

The 9/11 Commission has put out a very detailed memo defending itself ( http://www.9-11pdp.org/press/2005-08-12_pr.pdf ) that basically says Rep. Curt Weldon and the unnamed Navy officers who have made a big stink about Able Danger are stretching it bigtime. The basis of their charge is two-fold:

First, that 9/11 staffers met with folks in Afghanistan in 2003 who told them about Able Danger and that Mohammed Atta had been identified by that military-intelligence operation. Here's what the commission says: "As with their other meetings, Commission staff promptly prepared a memorandum for the record. That memorandum, prepared at the time, does not record any mention of Mohamed Atta or any of the other future hijackers, or any suggestion that their identities were known to anyone at DOD before 9/11. Nor do any of the three Commission staffers who participated in the interview, or the executive branch lawyer, recall hearing any such allegation."

What's more, in February 2004, commission staff members read Able Danger documents at the Pentagon: "None of the documents turned over to the Commission mention Mohamed Atta or any of the other future hijackers. Nor do any of the staff notes on documents reviewed in the DOD reading room indicate that Mohamed Atta or any of the other future hijackers were mentioned in any of those documents."

That's about as strong a denial as there can be, and it sounds credible to me.

The second part of the charge is that in July 2004, the Commission met with the unnamed Naval officer. Here's its description of what happened: " In early July 2004...the prospective witness was claiming that the project had linked Atta to an al Qaeda cell located in New York in the 1999-2000 time frame. Shortly after receiving this information, the Commission staff?s front office assigned two staff members with knowledge of the 9/11 plot and the ABLE DANGER operation to interview the witness at one of the Commission?s Washington, D.C. offices....

"According to the memorandum for the record on this meeting, prepared the next day..., the officer said that ABLE DANGER included work on 'link analysis,' mapping links among various people involved in terrorist networks. According to this record, the officer recalled seeing the name and photo of Mohamed Atta on an 'analyst notebook chart'....The officer being interviewed said he saw this material only briefly, that the relevant material dated from February through April 2000, and that it showed Mohamed Atta to be a member of an al Qaeda cell located in Brooklyn."

We now know that there were 60-odd names on that chart. Is it really plausible that this Navy officer specifically recalled the name "Mohammed Atta" and the image of his face? Especially since there is no documentary record to support his charge in Defense Department files, at least not in the files shown to the 9/11 Commission?

I submit there is good reason to believe the Navy officer may have been extrapolating because he was so upset to discover that the "data mining" operation he found out about wasn't being properly shared with domestic law-enforcement agencies. And without more proof than a four-year-old memory that may have been faulty, the Commission was right to be skeptical about the value of this testimony.

As for Curt Weldon, remember that he's trying to sell a book. It's now up to him to put up or shut up. Can he or anyone else supply evidence stronger than the evidence presented to date about this that the Pentagon was in possession of Mohammed Atta's name a year before the attacks? I doubt he can or he would have already.


#9

It wasn't included in the 9/11 report because the 9/11 report was nothing but a whitewash that wasn't supposed to do anything but support the "official" story. It's now common knowledge for anyone who cares to look that everybody in intelligence and their brother knew 9/11 was going to happen.

The 9/11 Commission was originally given $3 million (later increased to a whopping $15 million) for their entire investigation - that they left a "few" things out should be of no surprise. Like the collapse of WTC bldg 7 for instance.

You hardly need to be a conspiracy theorist to figure out the official story of 9/11 is and always has been full of crap - "able danger" is just another question in a very long list.

9-11 Commission Funding Woes
Questions arise concerning the administration's funding of the congressional investigation into the September 11th attacks.
TIME
Mar. 26, 2003
The panel has until the end of May 2004 to complete its work, but it will spend the $3 million it was originally allotted by around August 2003 - if it doesn't get the supplement.
http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,437267,00.html

Price tag for Starr investigation: $40 million plus
CNN
February 1, 1999

Independent probes of Clinton Administration cost nearly $80 million
CNN
April 1, 1999

Bush Opposes 9/11 Query Panel

Bush asks Daschle to limit Sept. 11 probes
CNN
January 29, 2002
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush personally asked Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle Tuesday to limit the congressional investigation into the events of September 11, congressional and White House sources told CNN.

"President Bush Thwarted Our Attempts at Every Turn"
Salon.com
15 September 2004
In a concise, straightforward manner, she laid out the facts far more effectively than had any senator or representative on the panel. She asked how, for example, the CIA could fail to locate hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid al-Midhar, who had entered the United States despite being on a terrorist watch list, when one was listed in the San Diego phone book and both roomed with an undercover FBI informant.
http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/091604B.shtml

9/11 director gave evidence to own inquiry
UPI Homeland and National Security Editor
1/15/2004
WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- The panel set up to investigate why the United States failed to prevent the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, faced angry questions Thursday after revelations that two of its own senior officials were so closely involved in the events under investigation that they have been interviewed as part of the inquiry.
http://www.upi.com/view.cfm?StoryID=20040115-024012-7011r

BUSH-CHENEY ADMINISTRATION'S PLAN TO RESTRICT CONGRESSIONAL PROBES OF SEPTEMBER 11TH CONTINUES EMERGING PATTERN OF SECRECY
Jan 31, 2002
Judicial Watch Calls For Disclosure and Accountability By U.S. Government Agencies To The American People
http://www.judicialwatch.org/1359.shtml

Secrecy Surrounds 9/11 Investigation
Utne.com
February 2003 Issue
Getting White House cooperation will not be easy, said Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), who sponsored legislation creating the commission. The Bush administration, he said, "slow-walked and stonewalled" the congressional inquiry. "I don't see how you can have a thorough investigation without talking to the people who were in charge throughout the time period prior to 9/11," he said.
http://www.utne.com/web_special/web_specials_2003-02/articles/10292-1.html

9/11 Report Cites Many Warnings about Hijackings
New York Times
10 February 2005
WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 - In the months before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal aviation officials reviewed dozens of intelligence reports that warned about Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, some of which specifically discussed airline hijackings and suicide operations, according to a previously undisclosed report from the 9/11 commission.
http://www.truthout.org/cgi-bin/artman/exec/view.cgi/37/8891

FBI Knew Terrorists Were Using Flight Schools
Washington Post
September 23, 2001

'I Saw Papers That Show US Knew al-Qa'ida Would Attack Cities With Airplanes'
Whistleblower the White House wants to silence speaks to The Independent
April 2, 2004
A former translator for the FBI with top-secret security clearance says she has provided information to the panel investigating the 11 September attacks which proves senior officials knew of al-Qa'ida's plans to attack the US with aircraft months before the strikes happened.

She said the claim by the National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, that there was no such information was "an outrageous lie".

Sibel Edmonds said she spent more than three hours in a closed session with the commission's investigators providing information that was circulating within the FBI in the spring and summer of 2001 suggesting that an attack using aircraft was just months away and the terrorists were in place. The Bush administration, meanwhile, has sought to silence her and has obtained a gagging order from a court by citing the rarely used "state secrets privilege".

She told The Independent yesterday: "I gave [the commission] details of specific investigation files, the specific dates, specific target information, specific managers in charge of the investigation. I gave them everything so that they could go back and follow up. This is not hearsay. These are things that are documented. These things can be established very easily."

She added: "There was general information about the time-frame, about methods to be used but not specifically about how they would be used ? and about people being in place and who was ordering these sorts of terror attacks. There were other cities that were mentioned. Major cities with skyscrapers."

The accusations from Mrs Edmonds, 33, a Turkish-American who speaks Azerbaijani, Farsi, Turkish and English, will reignite the controversy over whether the administration ignored warnings about al-Qa'ida. That controversy was sparked most recently by Richard Clarke, a former counter-terrorism official, who has accused the administration of ignoring his warnings.
http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0402-01.htm

The secret war. Part 2
The Observer
September 30, 2001

What has emerged in the past week is that - like Beghal and his friends in both Paris and London - Atta was not unknown to the authorities.

Indeed he was under surveillance between January and May last year after he was reportedly observed buying large quantities of chemicals in Frankfurt, apparently for the production of explosives and for biological warfare. The US agents reported to have trailed Atta are said to have failed to inform the German authorities about their investigation.

The disclosure that Atta was being trailed by police long before 11 September raises the question why the attacks could not have been prevented with the mens' arrest. The German interior ministry has defended the police, saying there was never enough information to lead to arrests, although suspicions were growing about what the men were up to. Indeed, so alarmed were the authorities that last year federal police ordered state prosecutors to investigate the structure of the bin Laden cells in Germany.

And like the group around Beghal, Atta's organisation was also using Britain both as a way station on its route to commit terror in the US, and as an alleged home base for some of those suspected of supporting them. The FBI has revealed that 11 of the hijackers who died in the US had been in transit through Britain. More seriously, US officials believe, the group associated with Atta also used Britain. Among this group was the so-called 'twentieth hijacker', 33-year-old Zacarias Moussaoui, a Frenchman whose brother has accused Islamic fundamentalists in Britain of brainwashing him.
http://observer.guardian.co.uk/focus/story/0,6903,560733,00.html

FBI & 9/11
Sibel Edmonds
http://www.justacitizen.com
June 20 2005

The latest buzz topic regarding intelligence is the problem of sharing information, intelligence, within intelligence agencies and between intelligence agencies. To this date the public has not been told of intentional blocking of intelligence, and has not been told that certain information, despite its direct links, impacts and ties to terrorist-related activities, is not given to or shared with Counterterrorism units for their investigations and countering terrorism-related activities. This was the case prior to 9/11, and remains in effect after 9/11. If Counterintelligence receives information that contains money laundering, illegal arms sale, and illegal drug activities, directly linked to terrorist activities, and if that information involves certain nations, certain semi-legit organizations, and ties to certain lucrative or political relations in this country, then that information is not shared with Counterterrorism, regardless of the possible severe consequences. In certain cases, frustrated FBI agents have cited "direct pressure by the State Department" and in other cases, "sensitive diplomatic relations" is cited. I provided the Department of Justice Inspector General and the 9/11 Commission with detailed and specific information and evidence regarding this issue, the names of other witnesses willing to corroborate this, and the names of certain US officials involved in these transactions and activities.

Now, after almost 4 years, we get to hear new bits & pieces: FBI & Midhar's Case; FBI & Abdel-Hafiz Case; FBI & Saudi planes leaving just days after 9/11 without having the passengers questioned; FBI & Youssef Case ... and the list goes on.

Today, after nearly four years since 9/11, the American people still do not know that thousands of lives can be jeopardized under the unspoken policy of "protecting certain foreign business relations." The victims' family members still do not realize that information and answers they have sought relentlessly for almost four years has been blocked due to the unspoken decisions made and disguised under "safeguarding certain diplomatic relations."

Where is the so-called Congressional oversight? Why has the 9/11 Commission intentionally omitted this information, although they've had it all along? Where is accountability?
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/062105J.shtml


#10

JusttheFacts:

Try to stay off of threads where real information is being exchanged. If you don't, They will start watching you.


#11

Not if he has his tinfoil hat firmly buckled in place.


#12

Not ONE single conviction for 9/11.

Bush and Cheney wouldn't testify under oath or on the record to the commission.

Bush only originally allocated $3 million for the 9/11 investigation.

Bin Laden is still at large.

No WMD's found in Iraq.

Mission "NOT" Accomplished in Iraq.

$60 billion, 6 month war turns out to be $400 billion and up to ten years long....

So you have two choices - either there is a very real conspiracy going on OR we have the most technologically advanced, most INCOMPETENT government in the history of the world.

If ignorance is bliss, you must be ecstatic.

"Perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad."
- James Madison


#13

Without coutenancing any tin-foil stockpiling, I have to say that this thing hasn't died yet.

The NYT published an interview today with a military source of the Able Danger info, and he comes off much better than did the Congressman:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/16/politics/16cnd-intel.html?ex=1281844800&en=fc1cfb447a0bfcc9&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

August 16, 2005
Officer Says Pentagon Barred Sharing Pre-9/11 Qaeda Data With F.B.I.
By PHILIP SHENON

WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 - A military intelligence team repeatedly contacted the F.B.I. in 2000 to warn about the existence of an American-based terrorist cell that included the ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a veteran Army intelligence officer who said he had now decided to risk his career by discussing the information publicly. The officer, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, said military lawyers later blocked the team from sharing any of its information with the F.B.I.

Colonel Shaffer said in an interview that the small, highly classified intelligence program known as Able Danger had identified by name the terrorist ringleader, Mohammed Atta, as well three of the other future hijackers by mid-2000, and had tried to arrange a meeting that summer with agents of the F.B.I.'s Washington field office to share the information.

But he said military lawyers forced members of the intelligence program to cancel three scheduled meetings with the F.B.I. at the last minute, which left the bureau without information that Colonel Shaffer said might have led to Mr. Atta and the other terrorists while the Sept. 11 plot was still being planned.

"I was at the point of near insubordination over the fact that this was something important, that this was something that should have been pursued," Colonel Shaffer said of his efforts to get the evidence from the intelligence program to the F.B.I. in 2000 and early 2001.

He said he learned later that lawyers associated with the Defense Department's Special Operations Command had canceled the F.B.I. meetings because they feared controversy if Able Danger was portrayed as a military operation that had violated the privacy of civilians who were legally in the United States. "It was because of the chain of command saying we're not going to pass on information - if something goes wrong, we'll get blamed," he said.

The Defense Department did not dispute the account from Colonel Shaffer, a 42-year-old native of Kansas City, Mo., who is the first military officer associated with the so-called data-mining program to come forward and acknowledge his role.

At the same time, the department said in a statement that it was "working to gain more clarity on this issue" and that "it's too early to comment on findings related to the program identified as Able Danger." The F.B.I. referred calls about Colonel Shaffer to the Pentagon.

The account from Colonel Shaffer, a reservist who is also working part-time for the Pentagon, corroborates much of the information that the Sept. 11 commission has acknowledged that it received about Able Danger last July from a Navy captain who was also involved with the program but whose name has not been made public.

In a statement issued last week, the leaders of the Sept. 11 commission said the panel had concluded that the intelligence program "did not turn out to be historically significant." The statement said that while the commission did learn about Able Danger in 2003 and immediately requested Pentagon files about the program, none of the documents turned over by the Defense Department referred to Mr. Atta or any of the other hijackers.

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.

Colonel Shaffer said he had decided to allow his name to be used in news accounts in part because of his frustration with the statement issued last week by the commission leaders, Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton.

The commission said in its final report last year that American intelligence agencies had not identified Mr. Atta as a terrorist before Sept. 11, 2001, when he flew an American Airlines jet into one of towers of the World Trade Center in New York.

A commission spokesman did not return repeated phone calls for comment. 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."

Colonel Shaffer said that he had provided information about Able Danger and its identification of Mr. Atta in a private meeting in October 2003 with members of the Sept. 11 commission staff when they visited Afghanistan, where he was then serving. Commission members have disputed that, saying they do not recall hearing Mr. Atta's name during the briefing and that the terrorist's name did not appear in documents about Able Danger that were later turned over by the Pentagon.

"I would implore the 9/11 commission to support a follow-on investigation to ascertain what the real truth is," Colonel Shaffer said in the interview this week. "I do believe the 9/11 commission should have done that job: figuring out what went wrong with Able Danger."

"This was a good news story because, before 9/11, you had an element of the military - our unit - which was actually out looking for Al Qaeda," he continued. "I can't believe the 9/11 commission would somehow believe that the historical value was not relevant."

Colonel Shaffer said that because he was not an intelligence analyst, he was not involved in the details of the procedures used in Able Danger to glean information from terrorist databases. Nor was he aware, he said, which databases had supplied the information that might have led to the name of Mr. Atta or other terrorists so long before the Sept. 11 attacks.

But he said he did know that Able Danger had made use of publicly available information from government immigration agencies, from internet sites and from paid search engines such as Lexis Nexis.

"We didn't that Atta's name was significant" at the time, he said, adding that "we just knew there were these linkages between him and these other individuals who were in this loose configuration" of people who appeared to be tied to an American-based cell of Al Qaeda.

Colonel Shaffer said he assumed that by speaking out publicly this week about Able Danger, he might effectively be ending his military career and limiting his ability to participate in intelligence work in the government. "I'm proud of my operational record and I love what I do," he said. "But there comes a time - and I believe the time for me is now -- to stand for something, to stand for what is right."


#14

I heard that report as well, BB. I looks as if some lawyers had a hand in not wanting to nab the suspected terrorists. Something to do with civil rights.

I thought it mae the congressman look very badly.


#15

Rainjack,

I wouldn't phrase it as "not wanting to nab the terrorists." More to the point, a bunch of typical CYA bureaucrats who thought the only way that anything bad would ever come of anything related to this were if they were sued by Atta et al, because they were being surveilled.

Just a small coincidence, but Jamie Gorelick, of 9/11 Commission fame, was the architect of the "wall of separation" policy in the Clinton DOJ concerning not letting the FBI get info from CIA or other intelligence sources. Her job prior to her assitant attorney general job: Chief Counsel of the DOD under Clinton...

Just a small coincidence that the Pentagon lawyers who said "don't share" were playing CYA. I don't know if it was official policy, but given Gorelick's history, and the fact she was the boss, I'm sure it was part of the culture.


#16

My point, however badly phrased, was that it was the lawyers' fault.

Lawyers! They would screw up a wet dream.


#17

Escpecially when they're also bureaucrats... =-)


#18

I may as well bump this thread, I tried to start my own after the NY POST dropped the article today. Funny thing is NONE of you LEFT WING michael moore freaks wants to come out and dispute this article. Seems fahrenFAKE 9/11 doesn't hold anymore water than a bucket full of holes.


#19

A bit of an update, courtesy of former FBI director Louis Freeh:

http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110007559

An Incomplete Investigation
Why did the 9/11 Commission ignore "Able Danger"?

BY LOUIS FREEH
Thursday, November 17, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST

It was interesting to hear from the 9/11 Commission again on Tuesday. This self-perpetuating and privately funded group of lobbyists and lawyers has recently opined on hurricanes, nuclear weapons, the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel and even the New York subway system. Now it offers yet another "report card" on the progress of the FBI and CIA in the war against terrorism, along with its "back-seat" take and some further unsolicited narrative about how things ought to be on the "front lines."

Yet this is also a good time for the country to make some assessments of the 9/11 Commission itself. Recent revelations from the military intelligence operation code-named "Able Danger" have cast light on a missed opportunity that could have potentially prevented 9/11. Specifically, Able Danger concluded in February 2000 that military experts had identified Mohamed Atta by name (and maybe photograph) as an al Qaeda agent operating in the U.S. Subsequently, military officers assigned to Able Danger were prevented from sharing this critical information with FBI agents, even though appointments had been made to do so. Why?

There are other questions that need answers. Was Able Danger intelligence provided to the 9/11 Commission prior to the finalization of its report, and, if so, why was it not explored? In sum, what did the 9/11 commissioners and their staff know about Able Danger and when did they know it?

The Able Danger intelligence, if confirmed, is undoubtedly the most relevant fact of the entire post-9/11 inquiry. Even the most junior investigator would immediately know that the name and photo ID of Atta in 2000 is precisely the kind of tactical intelligence the FBI has many times employed to prevent attacks and arrest terrorists. Yet the 9/11 Commission inexplicably concluded that it "was not historically significant." This astounding conclusion--in combination with the failure to investigate Able Danger and incorporate it into its findings--raises serious challenges to the commission's credibility and, if the facts prove out, might just render the commission historically insignificant itself.

The facts relating to Able Danger finally started to be reported in mid-August. U.S. Army Col. Anthony Shaffer, a veteran intelligence officer, publicly revealed that the Able Danger team had identified Atta and three other 9/11 hijackers by mid-2000 but were prevented by military lawyers from giving this information to the FBI. One week later, Navy Capt. Scott J. Phillpott, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who managed the program for the Pentagon's Special Operations Command, confirmed "Atta was identified by Able Danger by January-February of 2000."

On Aug. 18, 2005, the Pentagon initially stated that "a probe" had found nothing to back up Col. Shaffer's claims. Two weeks later, however, Defense Department officials acknowledged that its "inquiry" had found "three more people who recall seeing an intelligence briefing slide that identified the ringleader of the 9/11 attacks a year before the hijackings and terrorist strikes." These same officials also stated that "documents and electronic files created by . . . Able Danger were destroyed under standing orders that limit the military's use of intelligence gathered about people in the United States." Then in September 2005, the Pentagon doubled back and blocked several military officers from testifying at an open Congressional hearing about the Able Danger program.

Two members of Congress, Curt Weldon and Dan Burton, have also publicly stated that shortly after the 9/11 attacks they provided then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley with a "chart" containing preattack information collected by Able Danger about al Qaeda. A spokesperson for the White House has confirmed that Mr. Hadley "recalled seeing such a chart in that time period but . . . did not recall whether he saw it during a meeting . . . and that a search of National Security Council files had failed to produce such a chart."

Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, reacted to Able Danger with the standard Washington PR approach. He lashed out at the Bush administration and demanded that the Pentagon conduct an "investigation" to evaluate the "credibility" of Col. Shaffer and Capt. Phillpott--rather than demand a substantive investigation into what failed in the first place. This from a former New Jersey governor who, along with other commissioners, routinely appeared in public espousing his own conclusions about 9/11 long before the commission's inquiry was completed and long before all the facts were in! This while dismissing out of hand the major conflicts of interest on the commission itself about obstructions to information-sharing within the intelligence community!

Nevertheless, the final 9/11 Commission report, released on July 22, 2004, concluded that "American intelligence agencies were unaware of Mr. Atta until the day of the attacks." This now looks to be embarrassingly wrong. Yet amazingly, commission leaders acknowledged on Aug. 12 that their staff in fact met with a Navy officer 10 days before releasing the report, who "asserted that a highly classified intelligence operation, Able Danger, had identified Mohammed Atta to be a member of an al Qaeda cell located in Brooklyn." (Capt. Phillpott says he briefed them in July 2004.) The commission's statement goes on to say that the staff determined that "the officer's account was not sufficiently reliable to warrant revision of the report or further investigation," and that the intelligence operation "did not turn out to be historically significant," despite substantial corroboration from other seasoned intelligence officers.

This dismissive and apparently unsupported conclusion would have us believe that a key piece of evidence was summarily rejected in less than 10 days without serious investigation. The commission, at the very least, should have interviewed the 80 members of Able Danger, as the Pentagon did, five of whom say they saw "the chart." But this would have required admitting that the late-breaking news was inconveniently raised. So it was grossly neglected and branded as insignificant. Such a half-baked conclusion, drawn in only 10 days without any real investigation, simply ignores what looks like substantial direct evidence to the contrary coming from our own trained military intelligence officers.

No wonder the 9/11 families were outraged by these revelations and called for a "new" commission to investigate. "I'm angry that my son's death could have been prevented," seethed Diane Horning, whose son Matthew was killed at the World Trade Center. On Aug. 17, 2005, a coalition of family members known as the September 11 Advocates rightly blasted 9/11 Commission leaders Mr. Kean and Lee Hamilton for pooh-poohing Able Danger's findings as not "historically significant." Advocate Mindy Kleinberg aptly notes, "They [the 9/11 Commission] somehow made a determination that this was not important enough. To me, that says somebody there is not using good judgment. And if I'm questioning the judgment of this one case, what other things might they have missed?" This is a stinging indictment of the commission by the 9/11 families.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter, has led the way in cleaning up the 9/11 Commission's unfinished business. Amid a very full plate of responsibilities, he conducted a hearing after noting that Col. Shaffer and Capt. Phillpott "appear to have credibility." Himself a former prosecutor, Mr. Specter noted: "If Mr. Atta and other 9/11 terrorists were identified before the attacks, it would be a very serious breach not to have that information passed along . . . we ought to get to the bottom of it." Indeed we should. The 9/11 Commission gets an "I" grade--incomplete--for its dereliction regarding Able Danger. The Joint Intelligence Committees should reconvene and, in addition to Able Danger team members, we should have the 9/11 commissioners appear as witnesses so the families can hear their explanation why this doesn't matter.


Mr. Freeh, a former FBI director, is the author of "My FBI" (St. Martin's, 2005).


#20

Thanks for the update BB. It's a shame that there was that intel wall, alot of 9-11 could possibly have been prevented.