Able Danger Blog

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

More liberals and conservatives agree

Able Danger is an important story. The only ones who want it to go away are those with an interest in the status quo, such as the members of the 9/11 Commission. Here we have Barbara Andersen of the conservative web site The Rant and James Ridgeway of the liberal paper the Village Voice, asking some of the same questions.

From Barbara Andersen at The Rant:

Congressman Weldon has called for a criminal investigation into what he says is the most important story of our lifetime. He says that he has support from fellow lawmakers from both parties. He notes that there were people within the Pentagon who stayed in place from the 1999/2000 period into 2001 and they are still there today. They have a vested interest in not having the story be told because some of them are going to be embarrassed because the American people will see we failed them in 1999 and 2000. It sounds as if he suspects which department has reason to cover up and thwart any further investigation. It remains to be seen if members of both political parties will act on this in a truly bi-partisan way. Their track record is not good, but this is the security of all Americans at stake. If the mistakes made before 9/11 are not uncovered, the likelihood of an avoidable tragedy in the future is still there. Congressman Weldon has been the out-front mover of this story. He deserves credit for insisting on a valid 9/11 Commission Report that tells the whole story, let the blame fall where it may.

Running concurrently with Congressman Weldon’s appearance on the Lou Dobbs show was a poll, asking the question if its viewers would entertain the idea of voting for a third party. At last reporting, 71% said YES! This underlines the other polling taking place which reports that both Republicans and Democrats are seen as not taking care of the people’s business. The Democrats are busy chasing a Scooter. Both parties profess to care whether athletes have been on steroids and hold long investigations into that weighty matter. Meanwhile, the vital business of providing security for all citizens is perceived to be almost ignored. Is the failure of using Able Danger properly part of the discontent the people have with both parties?

Congressman Curt Weldon is doing his part in getting this story out, but he is one person. The rest of American citizens who care about the 3,000 fellow citizens who met horrible deaths on 9/11 need to get in line behind him. This is one matter that could stand more investigations.

From James Ridgeway at the Village Voice:

The 9-11 Commission ignored reports that lead hijacker Mohammed Atta had been recognized and placed under surveillance long before the attack by a special secret Pentagon unit called Able Danger.

People from Able Danger actually briefed the Joint Chiefs of Staff on what they had discovered in January 2001. Pentagon lawyers prevented them from telling the FBI what they knew, apparently on the theory that it didn't want anyone to know military intelligence was operating illegally within the U.S. It also happens that the secret unit wanted to surface its findings during the Gore-Bush presidential campaign. The revelation of a secret military intelligence unit operating against the law within the U.S. probably wouldn't have helped Gore.

During its own investigations, the 9-11 Commission took testimony from a naval officer who described seeing an Able Danger document in 2000 that linked Atta to Al Qaeda. However, commission chair Thomas Kean and vice chair Lee Hamilton claimed that this one bit of testimony was not "sufficiently reliable" and not worth following up. Hamilton later explained, "The 9-11 Commission did not learn of any U.S. government knowledge prior to 9-11 of surveillance of Mohammed Atta or of his cell. Had we learned of it, obviously it would've been a major focus of our investigation."

...Able Danger ended in 2000, before Rumsfeld took office, but people involved remained in place and knew about the project—including the Joint Chiefs.

In fact, the U.S. knew about Mohammed Atta in 1998. At that time he was living in Hamburg as part of an Al Qaeda cell. There is a possibility Atta might have been known to U.S. intelligence as far back as 1993. In 2004, the German prosecutor overseeing the investigation of the Hamburg cell was scheduled to testify before the 9-11 Commission, but his testimony was unexpectedly canceled.

UPDATE: Ridgeway points out the obvious contradiction in the 9/11 Commission's statements. Is it not worth following up, or is it something that would have been a "major focus of our investigation"? You can't have it both ways. The biggest difference might be the timing. Lee Hamilton said it would have been a "major focus of our investigation" on August 10th. It was not until August 12th, when they had to admit they were given such information, that it became not worth following up on. These are the three days Weldon is talking about when he says their story changed every day.

As far as the 2000 election goes, I think if you look at how the story of the attack on the USS Cole was treated in 2000, you get an idea of the atmosphere at the time. Terrorism was not an issue in the campaign and both parties blamed the military for not stopping the attack, if they talked about it at all. Ridgeway mentions the legal questions surrounding Able Danger and information about US citizens, but what about the fact that it predicted an attack in the Port of Aden and was ignored?

That might not have gone over very well in the final weeks of a heated campaign, either. Clinton was hesitant to respond during a close election, and Bush did not respond to the attack when he took office. Clearly, all the churn that happens during a transition in the Whitehouse did not help. Both parties dropped the ball. Able Danger was first ignored, then axed.