Able Danger Blog

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

More Able Danger and NSA

Mark Levey, one of a few dairists at DailyKos who have been following the Able Danger story, has an interesting take on the NSA scandal:

This story is particularly interesting, as I was saying two years ago that the absence of a record of FISA warrants for the 9/11 hijackers known to be inside the U.S. before the attacks was significant.

We are just beginning to learn how significant that really was, and how decisions made at the top to forego surveillance warrants, and to cut off the Pentagon's own warrantless inquiry into the al-Qaeda cells, Able Danger, led to the 9/11 attack.

It now looks like President Bush tried to retroactively "legalize" a policy of warrantless surveillance that had been in place for some time before 9/11. Unfortunately, the failure to seek warrants to track the al-Qaeda cell members inside the U.S. made the attacks considerably easier for the hijackers to carry out.

Here's why. If warrants had been sought in January 2000 for Flt. 77 hijackers Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, and they had been placed under proper, legal surveillance when they landed at LAX on 1/15/00, they would have been easily arrested earlier in the summer of 2001, and the Pentagon -- at least -- would have been spared.

I still want to know why the consensual monitoring with the Saudis broke down that summer, and what Tenet was thinking after the July CIA-FBI meetings in New York at which the Agency refused to hand over "operational" al-Qaeda information to the Bureau's National Security office.

Furthermore, if I were on the staff of the Joint Chiefs or connected with forces and facilities protection at the Pentagon, I would want the heads of the heads of the intelligence services on platters. What the hell were the CENTCOM commanders thinking when they allowed Able Danger -- which linked Atta with the others -- to be closed down? Who really gave that order scrubbing the NSA/DIA al-Qaeda files, and why? I'm sure that the answer to these questions strikes near the root of the warrantless wiretapping scandal that's now emerging.

Why Sulzberger and Keller agreed to sit on the story about Bush's warrantless domestic wiretaps for a year at the NYT is beyond me.