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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Uncovering another large data-mining operation

While you exchanged presents and had some more egg nog, the New York Times published an another NSA story on Christmas Eve:

The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said.

As part of the program approved by President Bush for domestic surveillance without warrants, the N.S.A. has gained the cooperation of American telecommunications companies to obtain backdoor access to streams of domestic and international communications, the officials said....

What has not been publicly acknowledged is that N.S.A. technicians, besides actually eavesdropping on specific conversations, have combed through large volumes of phone and Internet traffic in search of patterns that might point to terrorism suspects. Some officials describe the program as a large data-mining operation.

Of course, this is something the Israelis have allegedly been doing since the 90s:

Fox News, beginning mid-December, reported a four-part series on alleged Israeli spying on the US telecommunication systems through firms which provide telephone billing and assist FBI wiretaps. Recently the series was withdrawn by Fox News without explanation. The series has been recovered from private archives for publication here.

When the series first appeared it seemed to be another case of Israel bashing, in particular the parts that rehashed years-old allegations (we've linked to a 1996 GAO report cited by Fox, and other alleged participants' Web sites). And the series may well be calculated disinformation, if not by Fox then by its sources.

However, Fox's unexplained yanking the series is worth noting. Except for a few comments on the Net, there has been no mainline media follow-up on the reason for the yank. If Fox found that the reports are in error, that is the sort of thing that usually brings heat from competitors. If the withdrawal was due to government intervention that would indeed be news, but hardly unprecedented these days. If the yank was due to private intervention that too would be worth learning about -- who, when, why.

Well, as for the NSA program, Michelle Malkin covers the new details from A to D:

'Twas the day before Christmas
And all through the Times
Hysteria reigned over
Bush's "impeachable crimes"....

President Bush's critics have argued that the NSA program obviously violates FISA. The latest gotcha!-infused revelations, they will undoubtedly claim, only bolster their case.

Well, not so fast.

As an informed Power Line reader suggested yesterday in this post from Scott Johnson, a program that intercepts massive volumes of e-mails and phone calls may not violate FISA in the same way that interception of a smaller number of communications might. That's because of the way that FISA defines electronic surveillance....

Anyone remember when Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton said the Able Danger data-mining program was not "historically significant"?

Do they think so now?

Friday, December 23, 2005

Able Danger and "over-eager rule-followers"

Two interesting new perspectives today. First, from Just Left of Center at TPMCafe:

Today, this is all likey done by data-mining and profiling. Think "Able Danger" and "TIA". Information is still scanned in real-time as before but it is also logged. Powerful programs then scan the data looking for profiles. Individual pieces of different types of relatively un-important information, taken together, suggest that an individual might be "a person of interest". A phone call to a specific country, together with a visit to an extremist website, together with a charge card transaction to a flight school might combine to cause your name to be put on a list. Send a domestic email to someone else on the same list and you move to a higher list.

In theory, this could be a very powerful tool for defense. In practice it can be incredibly dangerous and invasive. Change the profile to scan for contributions to candidates of a particular party, visits to gay websites, and email containing certain intimate words and you have a completely different list that pops out. All it takes is access to the right databases of government gathered intelligence.


That these techniques can be used for defense is obvious. That they can be easily abused is equally obvious. The difference is a fine line and some type of oversight is a must. Americans expect to be protected by our government. Have we entered the age where now we need protection from it?

Somewhere in the annals of government this post is now stored. The keywords of NSA, CIA, Able Danger, and TIA, with others, will find it. That information can be used to put my name on a list. Who will determine if that is a legitimate search for the government to run and who will determine what the government can do with that information once found. Those questions don't have answers today. It's all too new. Soon, very soon, they must.

Second, from James Pinkerton at Newsday:

It even appears that during George W. Bush's administration, many Democrats in Congress were briefed on at least some details. Most of them, it appears, didn't have any objection to this secret surveillance program - until it was reported in last Friday's New York Times.

That report seems to have encouraged the Democrats to speak out, perhaps in hopes of scoring points against "Big Brother Bush."

But if that's what the Democrats think will happen, they are probably mistaken. Why? Because when the American people learn red tape has gotten in the way of thwarting terrorists, they react badly toward the red-tapers. The credibility of the 9/11 commission was badly hurt by reports that one of the 9/11 commissioners, Jamie Gorelick, blocked intelligence-sharing between the CIA and the FBI when she worked in the Clinton Justice Department. Americans are still scratching their heads over reports that valuable intelligence on future 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta, gathered under the "Able Danger" program, was destroyed in 2000 by some over-eager rule-follower.

There will be hearings and lawsuits galore over the new surveillance revelations, but the key question, in the minds of most folks, is motive. Did the Bush administration seek out information for political or personal gain, a la Richard Nixon? That would be an impeachable offense. Or, were the Bush folks so worried about threats to America that they bent the law - like in every episode of the counterterror TV show "24"? That's a winning hand for Bush.

The fact that Rush Limbaugh and others are making the connection between Able Danger and the new NSA scandal should not be lost on anyone, either. There's a connection.

Able Danger: Rush Limbaugh Transcript

Rush Limbaugh discussed Able Danger for a few minutes on yesterday's show. QT Monster has the transcript.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Judge Posner discusses Domestic Intelligence

The writer is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit and a senior lecturer in law at the University of Chicago. He will take questions at 2 p.m. today at

Here are some quotes from his op-ed, Our Domestic Intelligence Crisis:

Other Pentagon agencies have gotten into the domestic intelligence act, such as the Information Dominance Center, which developed the Able Danger data-mining program.

These programs are criticized as grave threats to civil liberties. They are not. Their significance is in flagging the existence of gaps in our defenses against terrorism. The Defense Department is rushing to fill those gaps, though there may be better ways....

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act makes it difficult to conduct surveillance of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents unless they are suspected of being involved in terrorist or other hostile activities. That is too restrictive. Innocent people, such as unwitting neighbors of terrorists, may, without knowing it, have valuable counterterrorist information. Collecting such information is of a piece with data-mining projects such as Able Danger.

The goal of national security intelligence is to prevent a terrorist attack, not just punish the attacker after it occurs, and the information that enables the detection of an impending attack may be scattered around the world in tiny bits. A much wider, finer-meshed net must be cast than when investigating a specific crime. Many of the relevant bits may be in the e-mails, phone conversations or banking records of U.S. citizens, some innocent, some not so innocent. The government is entitled to those data, but just for the limited purpose of protecting national security.

The Pentagon's rush to fill gaps in domestic intelligence reflects the disarray in this vital yet neglected area of national security. The principal domestic intelligence agency is the FBI, but it is primarily a criminal investigation agency that has been struggling, so far with limited success, to transform itself. It is having trouble keeping its eye on the ball; an FBI official is quoted as having told the Senate that environmental and animal rights militants pose the biggest terrorist threats in the United States. If only that were so.

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.

Kristen Breitweiser discusses Able Danger

9/11 widow Kristen Breitweiser sees a clear distinction between the NSA program and Able Danger and explains why she opposes the former - an intelligence operation that might target US persons - but supports the latter, which did not. In her column, she also asks in regards to Able Danger, "Who dismantled this aggressive project to combat terrorism and why?"

President Bush should be stopped in his tracks with regard to his use of 9/11 scare tactics to circumvent constitutional laws that are meant to protect U.S. citizens. His justification for doing so -- the inability to conduct surveillance on the 9/11 hijackers -- is a red herring. History will bear out the truth -- our intelligence agencies held a treasure trove of intelligence on the 9/11 hijackers, intelligence that was gathered through their initially unencumbered surveillance. President Bush should busy himself by investigating why that information was then stymied and not capitalized upon to stop the 9/11 attacks....

When it comes to Able Danger and surveillance, one must look at the alleged history of Able Danger and know the facts. Able Danger was allegedly a special operation that included according to Congressman Curt Weldon both analysis ("data mining") and action ("taking out cells"). The Able Danger team was allegedly tasked and created during the Clinton Administration -- many months before the USS Cole bombing. Notably, at least two of the men who were allegedly identified as targets in the Able Danger operation were linked to the Cole Bombing and the 9/11 attacks -- Khalid al Mihdhar and Nawaf al Hazmi.

Immediately after the Cole bombing, one would assume that because of alleged existence of Able Danger and quite possibly CIA surveillance, our government would have definitely known who was responsible for the Cole attack -- mostly because it is possible that Able Danger and the CIA were carrying out parallel surveillance on the terrorists who were involved in the Cole attack both before and after the Cole bombing.

It also quite possibly follows that after the Cole bombing our government had not only the "actionable intelligence" (compliments of the alleged Able Danger and possible CIA surveillance of al Qaeda) but also the moral justification (17 sailors dead) to "take out the cells." This should have been carried out by the Able Danger operatives. Inexplicably, it was not done because Able Danger was allegedly shut down in May of 2001. Of the cells to be allegedly taken out -- four members of the Brooklyn Cell went on to carry out the 9/11 attacks -- Atta, Shehi, al Mihdhar, and al Hazmi. Who dismantled this aggressive project to combat terrorism and why?

The story is that Able Danger was allegedly dismantled in May 01 because it violated posse comitatus. With regard to Able Danger and its surveillance of terrorists within the borders of the United States, the alleged Able Danger cells were not U.S. citizens. Therefore, posse comitatus did not apply. Once again, lawyers "misunderstood" the law. They thought terrorists in the United States participating in terrorist acts were entitled to the same rights as U.S. citizens. Quite a "misunderstanding." The result of their misunderstanding? Four of the 9/11 hijackers -- members of the Brooklyn Cell -- were not "taken out" and a mere four months later able to carry out the 9/11 attacks.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Did Able Danger destroy our country?

Never mind the fact that we only found out about Able Danger a few months ago - four years after the program was disbanded - but is William Arkin seriously making the argument that programs like Able Danger threaten our country as much as they protect it? Is he glad that Able Danger was shut down before it could act to prevent 9/11? Voice of the Taciturn, an anonymous guest poster here at Able Danger Blog, has made a compelling case, here and elsewhere, that the opposite is true. That our intelligence agencies are so worried about the kind of infringements Arkin and others hyperventilate about that they can't even take simple, common sense steps when it comes to tracking Al Qaeda here within the United States - where we are the most open to another major attack.

If more Americans knew the full details of the Able Danger story, there is no way any serious talking heads would even try to make an argument like this. From Arkin:

We are being asked to destroy our country in order to save it....

Tonight on ABC's "Nightline" Vice President Dick Cheney will make the precise argument that the new surveillance was necessitated by the old rules.

"It's the kind of capability if we'd had before 9/11 might have led us to be able to prevent 9/11," the Vice President says.

It is a giant fishing expedition as much as it is a highly targeted campaign. The hundreds of millions of intercepts and data points are massaged by the data miners and link analyzers and churned through banks of computers and dozens of new software programs in pursuit of the holy "connecting of the dots."

They just might track a license plate to a cave in Pakistan.

It's all here in the seams, in the dots, this actionable intelligence: ghost detainees, renditions, coalitions of the willing to torture, special authorities and special operations, warrantless surveillance, corners being cut and laws being broken.

Wow, from Able Danger to Abu Ghraib in 500 words or less.

If you really want a laugh, read this New York Times editorial. It starts out reasonable enough, but then jumps over the cliff:

The mass murders of 9/11 revealed deadly gaps in United States intelligence that needed to be closed. Most of those involved failure of performance, not legal barriers. Nevertheless, Americans expected some reasonable and carefully measured trade-offs between security and civil liberties. They trusted their elected leaders to follow long-established democratic and legal principles and to make any changes in the light of day. But President Bush had other ideas. He secretly and recklessly expanded the government's powers in dangerous and unnecessary ways that eroded civil liberties and may also have violated the law.

Performance, not barriers or stove piping? Did they even read the 9/11 Report?

In Friday's Times, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau reported that sometime in 2002, President Bush signed a secret executive order scrapping a painfully reached, 25-year-old national consensus: spying on Americans by their government should generally be prohibited, and when it is allowed, it should be regulated and supervised by the courts. The laws and executive orders governing electronic eavesdropping by the intelligence agency were specifically devised to uphold the Fourth Amendment's prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures.

But Mr. Bush secretly decided that he was going to allow the agency to spy on American citizens without obtaining a warrant - just as he had earlier decided to scrap the Geneva Conventions, American law and Army regulations when it came to handling prisoners in the war on terror. Indeed, the same Justice Department lawyer, John Yoo, who helped write the twisted memo on legalizing torture, wrote briefs supporting the idea that the president could ignore the law once again when it came to the intelligence agency's eavesdropping on telephone calls and e-mail messages.

"The government may be justified in taking measures which in less troubled conditions could be seen as infringements of individual liberties," he wrote.

Let's be clear about this: illegal government spying on Americans is a violation of individual liberties, whether conditions are troubled or not. Nobody with a real regard for the rule of law and the Constitution would have difficulty seeing that. The law governing the National Security Agency was written after the Vietnam War because the government had made lists of people it considered national security threats and spied on them. All the same empty points about effective intelligence gathering were offered then, just as they are now, and the Congress, the courts and the American people rejected them.

Somehow, I think the American people can see the difference. Of course, if the Pentagon were not gagging all the members of the Able Danger team with first hand knowledge who could comment on this, it might be easier for people to understand.

Is Karl Rove paying attention?

I know I don't talk about politics much here, but anyone who has visited my personal site knows I am proud to call myself a Democrat. I was even a delegate at the 2004 DNC convention. Which is why it pains me to see the trap that Democratic leaders are walking right into with this New York Times story on FISA and the NSA. I hope they'll realize their mistake before they make complete fools of themselves - but given past experience - I'm not placing any bets.

All it would take is for Karl Rove to notice the hanging curve ball they have just served up for him, and it would be incredibly easy for him to smack this one right out of the park. One short conversation between Bush and Don Rumsfeld on the subject of Able Danger, and suddenly the Pentagon's objections to open hearings on the subject could disappear. The Armed Services and Homeland Security committees in the House both seem interested in public hearings on Able Danger. Arlen Specter's own Senate Judiciary Committee tried, but his request was denied.

What better argument to support keeping tabs on people with links to Al Qaeda - even if they are already here in the US - than the fact that Able Danger was trying to do the same thing before 9/11? Yet, they were prevented from sharing their information with the FBI due to the same paranoid concern about "spying on Americans" we've been hearing about since Thursday. Did Scott Phillpott get a FISA warrant for every person in the United States before mining open source data that included US persons in an effort to identify members of Al Qaeda both here at home and abroad? Clearly, no such warrant could be issued, whether it was legally required or not. I know data mining and wire tapping are very different things, but you see my point? This NSA program also dealt with large numbers of people. How many warrants can you get?

When Condi Rice was on Meet the Press this morning, she talked about a "Gulf" and a "Gap" between intelligence and law enforcement that existed before 9/11. At one point, Russert rephrased the question and referred to it as a "Wall" - which those who have followed the Able Danger story are quite familiar with by now. In fact, the "Wall" is not the real problem here, it's the extraordinary deference given to anyone lucky enough to be a "US person" - even if that "US person" happens to belong to Al Qaeda. You can't even use data on "US persons" to track people who are not, at least according to those who have been so critical of Able Danger, and the NSA. Is it really so hard to believe that an Al Qaeda supporter could get a green card?

I'll say it again, but if anyone over at the RNC connects the dots between this NSA story and Able Danger, the results might not be very pretty for the DNC on this one.

Image the following ABC Nightly News segment:

Military intelligence officials testified today before the House Armed Services committee that their unit known as Able Danger had identified Mohamed Atta as a member of Al Qaeda over a year before 9/11 but they were prevented from sharing this information with the FBI over concerns that the program might be "spying on Americans" by tracking links to Al Qaeda within the US.

Up next, Democratic leaders are angrily demanding Congressional hearings on why the government is monitoring the international phone calls and email messages of people in the United States with links to Al Qaeda. Calling the practice illegal, and unconstitutional, they are calling for an immediate end to the program now that the Patriot Act has expired following a successful Democratic filibuster in the Senate.

Is Karl Rove paying attention?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Full text of letter from Gordon England

I typed this from a fax John in Weldon's office sent. If there are any typos they are mine:

December 13, 2005

The Honorable Curt Weldon
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515-6035

Congressman Weldon,

Thank you for your letter received on November 29th regarding participation of Department of Defense (DoD) personnel in hearings before the United States Congress regarding Able Danger. Secretary Rumsfeld has asked me to respond.

DoD has been consistent in its position to cooperate fully with appropriate committees of the Congress on the issue of Able Danger. If a request by a committee of jurisdiction is received, the Department is prepared to fully participate in either open or closed hearings on this matter, consistent with the need to protect national security information.

In our judgment, a closed hearing is preferable to better assure that classified information will not be inadvertently released, but we will work with the committees to arrive at an approach that is acceptable.

The Department has fully briefed the Armed Services and Intelligence committees, based on an extensive review of all information available to the Department. It is our understanding that the leadership of all four committees of jurisdiction were satisfied with the Department's efforts and declined to have hearings.

That notwithstanding, the Department remains committed to support further review of the Able Danger issue by appropriate committees of jurisdiction and will accordingly be pleased to participate in any resultant hearings requested.

Gordon England

UPDATE: Just as a reminder. Most of the members of the House Armed Services Committee signed Weldon's letter. The House Intelligence Committee was split down the middle. On the other hand, Weldon says everyone that he asked signed. As far as I know, neither chairman Hunter or Hoekstra signed it, but both have been supportive of Weldon. They might not have signed because then it might as well have been an official letter from their committee, but that's just a guess.

Members of the House Armed Services Committee

Those who signed Weldon's letter:

Curt Weldon, R-Pennsylvania
Joel Hefley, R-Colorado
John M. McHugh, R-New York
Terry Everett, R-Alabama
Roscoe G. Bartlett, R-Maryland
Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-California
John N. Hostettler, R-Indiana
Walter B. Jones, R-North Carolina
Jim Ryun, R-Kansas
Jim Gibbons, R-Nevada
Robin Hayes, R-North Carolina
Rob Simmons, R-Connecticut
W. Todd Akin, R-Missouri
J. Randy Forbes, R-Virginia
Joe Wilson, R-South Carolina
Frank A. LoBiondo, R-New Jersey
Jeb Bradley, R-New Hampshire
Michael Turner, R-Ohio
John Kline, R-Minnesota
candice S. Miller, R-Michigan
Trent Franks, R-Arizona
Bill Shuster, R-Pennsylvania
Joe Schwarz, R-Michigan
Cathy McMorris, R-Washington
Michael Conaway, R-Texas
Geoff Davis, R-Kentucky
Ike Skelton, D-Missouri, Ranking Member
John Spratt, D-South Carolina
Solomon P. Ortiz, D-Texas
Lane Evans, D-Illinois
Gene Taylor, D-Mississippi
Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii
Marty Meehan, D-Massachusetts
Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas
Adam Smith, D-Washington
Loretta Sanchez, D-California
Mike McIntyre, D-North Carolina
Ellen O. Tauscher, D-California
Robert A. Brady, D-Pennsylvania
Robert Andrews, D-New Jersey
Susan A. Davis, D-California
James R. Langevin, D-Rhode Island
Steve Israel, D-New York
Rick Larsen, D-Washington
Jim Cooper, D-Tennessee
Kendrick B. Meek, D-Florida
Madeleine Z. Bordallo, D-Guam
Mark Udall, D-Colorado
G. K. Butterfield, D-North Carolina
Cynthia McKinney, D-Georgia

Those who had not signed it yet:

Duncan Hunter, R-California, Chairman
Jim Saxton, R-New Jersey
Mac Thornberry, R-Texas
Ken Calvert, R-California
Jo Ann Davis, R-Virginia
Jeff Miller, R-Florida
Mike Rogers, R-Alabama
Thelma Drake, R-Virginia
Vic Snyder, D-Arkansas
Jim Marshall, D-Georgia
Tim Ryan, D-Ohio
Dan Boren, D-Oklahoma

Members of the House Select Intelligence Committee

Those who signed Weldon's letter:

Terry Everett, R-Alabama
Elton Gallegly, R-California
John McHugh, R-New York
Mike Rogers, R-Michigan
Rick Renzi, R-Arizona
Jane Harman, D-California
Alcee L. Hastings, D-Florida
Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas
Anna G. Eshoo, D-California
Rush D. Holt, D-New Jersey

Those who had not signed it yet:

Peter Hoekstra, R-Michigan
Ray LaHood, R-Illinois
Heather Wilson, R-New Mexico
Jo Ann Davis, R-Virginia
Mac Thornberry, R-Texas
Todd Tiahrt, R-Kansas
Leonard L. Boswell, D-Iowa
Robert E. (Bud) Cramer, Jr, D-Alabama
C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Maryland
John Tierney, D-Massachusetts

9/11 is not a state secret

AJ Strata has a good post tying together the latest developments and ending with this simple observation:

Closed hearings will not solve the issues around Able Danger. Exposing a SNAFU by partisan lawyers overreacting to a data mining study on China is not a classified issue or going to hurt our intelligence efforts. Admitting there was another case of the Gorelick Wall handcuffing our defenses is not going to expose secrets. Learning we stumbled at the time Atta and his team began executing their plan is not a big secret - we have memorials in DC, NY City and PA to remind us of that.

Transcript from last congressional hearing

For your reading enjoyment, has a full transcript of the last hearing from the Senate Judiciary Committee in September, plus an assortment of other documents, mainly from the Congressional Record. The written testimony is still available here.

Congressional hearings as early as next month

I take it back, this is the key paragraph from Gordon England's reply:

"If a request by a committee of jurisdiction is received, the department is prepared to fully participate in either open or closed hearings on this matter, consistent with the need to protect national security information," England wrote.

More details from the Delco Times:

Many of the questions surrounding the Able Danger intelligence program -- and the 9/11 Commission’s decision not to include the program’s purported findings in its final report -- could be answered during congressional hearings as early as next month, according to U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon. The Pentagon had previously blocked open hearings on the grounds that the program was classified.

"To have the Defense Department reverse itself and say they will allow these hearings to be held in an open forum is an historic win that all the members (of Congress) are talking about," Weldon, R-7, of Thornbury, said Wednesday....

Snell, a New York deputy attorney general, did not immediately respond to a phone call left at his office Wednesday. Gorelick referred questions to former 9/11 Commission spokesman Al Felzenberg, who denied Weldon’s allegation that the commission ignored Able Danger.

"There was no attempt to keep anything from the public or keep anything from the report," Felzenberg said, adding that the commission investigated Able Danger and found no evidence that it had identified any of the Sept. 11 hijackers.

"It was a thorough investigation," Felzenberg said. "They ran down every source."

Dismissing that statement as "absolutely, totally a lie," Weldon said he expects Able Danger hearings to begin as early as next month.

"It’s a story that needed to be told," Weldon said. "And now it’s going to be told."

"We welcome the hearings," Felzenberg responded.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Judge for yourself, excerpts from the letter

Roxana Tiron at The Hill has the details. Here is the key paragraph:

“In our judgment, a closed hearing is preferable to better assure that classified information will not be inadvertently released, but we will work with the committees to arrive at an approach that is acceptable,” Gordon wrote.

Some more excerpts from the article:

In a Dec. 13 letter to Weldon, Gordon England, the acting deputy secretary of defense, said that the Department of Defense has been “consistent in its position to cooperate fully with appropriate committees of the Congress on the issue of Able Danger.”

In the letter obtained by The Hill, Gordon said that it is the department’s understanding that the Armed Services and Judiciary committees are satisfied with the Pentagon’s previous briefings on the topic and that the leadership of those committees “declined to have hearings.”

Nevertheless Gordon, replying at the behest of Rumsfeld, said that the Pentagon remains committed to supporting a further review of the Able Danger issue and “will accordingly be pleased to participate in any resultant hearings requested.”

Last but not least, a quote from Congressman Weldon:

“It is a great win,” said Weldon about the Pentagon’s Dec. 13 response. “Gordon England played a great role. Now we will let the facts fall where they may.”

...Weldon said he is preparing for hearings that he wants to set up early next year.

“We are going to do what the 9/11 Commission should have done,” Weldon told The Hill. “I know all the Able Danger people and none of them were addressed by the 9/11 Commission.”

Rumsfeld responds to Weldon's letter

John from Weldon's office replied to my email request for clarification:

We have the letter. They are allowing Able Danger hearings...

I would feel better if he used the word "public", but they have a reply.

Peter Lance on Lou Dobbs tonight

UPDATE: Here is the transcript from CNN.

DOBBS: It appears now that the American public may soon be hearing explosive testimony about U.S. intelligence failures leading up to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Congressman Curt Weldon announced on this broadcast Monday evening that the Pentagon is now set to approve open Able Danger hearings on Capitol Hill.

REP. CURT WELDON, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: This will be a full hearing, and finally the American people will get to hear what the 9/11 commission didn't pursue, and that is information about what happened before the attacks on September 11.

DOBBS: All this comes following an admission by former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Hugh Shelton that he approved the Able Danger project four years before 9/11.

Joining me now, Emmy-award-winning investigative journalist Peter Lance, who is now writing a book on U.S. intelligence failures. Peter, first, good to have you here. What is the significance, in your judgment, of General Shelton's comments acknowledging the creation of Able Danger?

PETER LANCE, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: It's very significant, Lou. How many projects does the chairman of the Joint Chiefs get together with the head of SOCOM, Special Operations Command, and actually ask for a project to be created, an operation to be created. It's very significant.

And now we know that the Defense Intelligence Agency, as early as August of '99 -- several months before Able Danger was initiated -- had in their files intelligence linking blind Sheikh Rahman to other al Qaeda groups. So, this is a year after the African embassy, the original cell that did the World Trade Center bombing in New York, the DIA finds out they're linked to other al Qaeda cells. No wonder the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the head of SOCOM wanted this.

DOBBS: Peter, we're looking at a chart on the air, if we could put that back. Give us the significance of this chart, because so much about charts and Able Danger has come up in the discussion, particularly with the former members of the 9/11 Commission and Able Danger.

LANCE: Lou, this chart was built by a gentleman named Jacob L. Bossen (ph). He was a contract employee, working for the Defense Intelligence Analysis Center at Bolling Air Force Base. This is kind of the analytical heart of the DIA; they call it the Death Star. This is a year after the African embassy bombing, and the fact that the DIA had evidence linking Ramzi Yousef, the original World Trade Center bomber and the blind Sheikh directly to al Qaeda and bin Laden is hugely significant.

By the way, this is what runs counter to the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission -- people like Dietrich Snell -- and it's why I believe Snell and company decided to flush the Able Danger intelligence when they were briefed on it.

DOBBS: And you have -- in reviewing some of the documentation -- in particular an executive memorandum in 1982, signed by, obviously, President Reagan, that in your judgment, at least, and frankly in my reading of it, suggests that it is -- if you will, an opportunity for our intelligence agencies to share information, rather than destroy it.

LANCE: Exactly. That executive order, EO12333, was the order cited by a Doogan (ph) from the Pentagon at the hearings that Senator Specter had in September as the reason for destroying the data. And also the reason that LtC. Tony Shaffer (ph) was prevented three times from meeting with the FBI to talk about Able Danger. Now, Jeff Toobin maybe the man that should come in on this, but as a graduate of Fordham Law School, I read that as you do. There are massive exceptions, Lou. In other words, it prohibits the maintenance of information on U.S. persons for civil liberties reasons, but there is an exception for terrorism, Lou, there is an exception if it's public open source material. And it says can you meet with the FBI to share the information.

DOBBS: Peter Lance, we thank you for being here and you and Jeffrey Toobin certainly have the background to make that analysis. Occasionally, I lose myself and think that I can simply take legal documents and assume they mean what they say. So I will defer to both and you Mr. Toobin. As always, Peter, good to have you here, look forward to talking to you soon, as we follow this unfolding controversy.

LANCE: Thanks, Lou.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Able Danger principles to testify in an open hearing

UPDATE: John from Weldon's office writes "Able Danger principles to testify in an open hearing before congress."

This confirms what Weldon suggested earlier on Lou Dobbs. Here is the transcript from CNN:

DOBBS: Congressman Curt Weldon has secured the signatures of more than half of the members of the House of Representatives, and have sought from the Pentagon for over three weeks now, an opportunity to hold an Able Danger hearing on Capitol Hill.

Congressman Weldon joins me tonight and has new developments in his efforts to bring attention to the Able Danger controversy.

Congressman, good to have you here.

REP. CURT WELDON (R-PA) VICE CHMN., ARMED SERVICES CMTE.: Great to be back with you, Lou.

DOBBS: You, just about three weeks ago, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asking to free up the members of Able Danger to testify on Capitol Hill, to Congress. Still no response?

WELDON: Well, no, Lou, I can happily announce tonight that we anticipate getting a response this week. I've been given preliminary indication that the secretary, with the help of deputy secretary Gordon England, have reached an agreement to allow hearings to be held on the hill, open hearings, open testimony. We'll obviously protect any issues of confidentiality or those involving national security.

But this will be a full hearing, and finally the American people will get to hear what the 9/11 commission didn't pursue, and that is information about what happened before the attacks on September 11.

DOBBS: Well, as you know, Congressman, representatives, former members of the 9/11 Commission says that they knew nothing about this, that there's nothing to it. That it's historically irrelevant. You have basically said outright they're liars.

WELDON: Well, you know, they've been spinning this left and right since their commission ended. Most recently Hamilton has said they fully investigated it. Yet, I can tell you I have talked to every Able Danger principal none of them interviewed except for two, who went in on their own, Tony Shaffer and Scott Philpot, and each of them were rebuked by the commission.

Tony Shaffer was told they didn't want to hear from him. They didn't want to meet with him. And when Scott Philpot met, they said what do you want us to do now? It's too late. So they didn't pursue anything. They didn't get into the details of Able Danger and all the information.

This is not about a chart as they try to spin it. It's about what did we know and why didn't act. Why didn't we transfer information to the FBI? Louis Freeh said if he had that information, the FBI might have been able to stop 9/11.

And just last week, General Hugh Shelton, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, came out and publicly announced that he's the one who set up and established Able Danger, and the 9/11 Commission had the audacity to call Able Danger historically insignificant when it's advising and briefing the chairman of the joint chiefs? I don't think so.

DOBBS: And General Shelton made it pretty clear that he had talked with General Schoomaker at that time in charge of special operations to move this forward, so it goes back to about 1997.

So there are some interesting issues here that are being raised. It's critically important. You've apparently received, then as I understand it, assurances from England is that correct?


DOBBS: Go ahead Congressman.

WELDON: We've received assurances that the hearings will go forward.

But the other thing that we have to look at, Lou, and you have had another guest on your show recently, why did the 9/11 Commission pick 1996 and not go back beyond that? There is some very interesting material that needs to be tied in. The '93 attack on the Trade Center. The blind Sheiks trial. None of that was looked at by the 9/11 Commission, and the American people need to ask the question why.

We will be asking that question during the Able Danger hearings.

DOBBS: Well, congratulations to you in receiving the assurances that the Pentagon will give you an affirmative response and the opportunity to hold those hearings, you and the more than half of the members of the U.S. Congress who signed on with you to request that hearing.

Congressman, thank you very much.

WELDON: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Congressman Curt Weldon.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Able Danger petition

Help support Weldon's letter calling for public hearings on Able Danger. Sign it here then spread the word. I'll keep this at the top of the site.

UPDATE: AOL users, if you receive 566 Response HTTP Version Unsupported when you click to preview your signature, please try again using the Internet Explorer web browser. is aware of the problem and working on a solution.

9/11 Commission having second thoughts?

Echoing a point Macsmind raised last week, the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette in Indiana, home state of Lee Hamilton and Tim Roemer, interviewed the two former Democratic members of the 9/11 Commission and it led to this interesting exchange:

Do you have any second thoughts on any of the panel’s recommendations? Was there anything that should have been included or omitted from your report and recommendations?

Hamilton: All of the recommendations we made I would stand by today. Most of them can be enacted or done. One or two of them might be difficult to achieve. On the question of terrorist detention, we wanted the United States to engage in a common, diplomatic, coalition approach to develop standards on detention and prosecution of captured terrorists. We gave the government an F on that because it simply hasn’t been done. The U.S. treatment of detainees has, of course, elicited very, very broad criticism.

Roemer: I don’t believe there’s something we omitted or neglected in terms of a recommendation. I wish we had probably done more to strategically think through how we try to work outside Washington with grass-roots organizations in the different states – the follow-up to the 9/11 Commission. I think we might have been more effective in trying to light the fire throughout the country and link people to the 9/11 families for a more successful follow-up.

I believe we could have explained more accurately the Able Danger program, why there was not evidence of a chart, but how the failure within DOD to find more information about this – if there ever was a chart – really underscores all the 9/11 Commission findings and recommendations about failure to communicate and how to fix those.

If we’d have found a chart showing (Mohammed) Atta, it would have been on our front cover, because it reinforces the failure of government to effectively communicate. But since there was no evidence, no facts, no finding of this chart, it’s difficult to include it in a historical book.

Emphasis added. It seems they are not so confident anymore it can just be dismissed.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Flooding the Zone

No, it's not the New York Times. It's The Rant, a conservative news site, which has an interview by Joe Stener with Curt Weldon, plus a new article by Barbara Anderson.

Here is an excerpt from An Interview with US Rep. Curt Weldon

Q: Rumford’s spin in shutting up the Able Danger members is that it is classified information. Its non-sense, is it not?

A: None of this information is classified. I would never jeopardized classified information to be brought out to the public. This information is all open source information; there is no reason to worry in any way about classification. That is a red herring. That’s an excuse that does not have any merit. I would not be supportive of the telling of the story if it were classified [information]. It is simply an attempt by bureaucrats to cover their rear ends.

Q: Is it bureaucrats, or was it administration officials [that were blocking this investigation]?

A: The bureaucracy within the defense intelligence community does not want this story to come out. There are Clinton administration officials, like Jamie Gorelick and inner cell that do not want this story to come out. And there are a few people that are still within the Bush administration, who were in office in ‘999 –2000, who will also be embarrassed. [But] the American people deserve to know the details of what Able Danger was doing, what information they developed, and why this wasn’t past on to the FBI.

Q: You got the signatures of 246 Congressmen for your letter. This is a majority of congress; yet, why is not the whole congress in [to uncover] a scandal of this kind?

A: If I would have tried another week, I would of hade the entire congress. Everyone I asked signed the letter; I did that in two days. One forty three republicans, one hundred and three democrats [signed on to the letter, including] senior leaders from both parties. Steny Hoyer the number two democrat in the house, Roy Blunt the number two (acting number one) republican in the house, senior leaders of defense, appropriations, [committees], all of them have signed the letter. There is no one that turned me down.

Q: Is the senate working to put pressure on the pentagon, or maybe they are to busy protecting the rights of captured terrorist?

A: I do not know what the senate is doing. [However, senate republican] Arlen specter (PA) has been very supportive; [democrat] Joseph Biden (Delaware) has been very supportive; [Republicans] Chuck Grassley (Iowa), John kyl (Arizona), Jeff sessions (Alabama) [are all supportive]. So there has been senators who had expressed interest. Lindsey Graham has [also] expressed interest. We want to make sure this thing is not swept under the rug. Others want to try to hide this; they want the story to go away. This is not going to go away!

Q: Can you give me the names [of those who want to hide this]?

A: No, I [will] rather not give any names. All I can say is; we are not going to stop until the Able Danger team will [be] able to tell their story publicly.

Here is some of the article Able Danger: Historically Insignificant or Unfinished Business

Representative Weldon’s concerns also include the treatment of the “whistleblowers” of Able Danger, who knew their work was valuable and wanted it to count. When LTC Anthony Shaffer went public, appearing on talk shows, retaliation was swift. Representative Weldon has summed it up:

“They have gagged the military officers. They have prevented them from talking to any member of Congress. They have prevented them from talking to the media. And the Defense Intelligence Agency has began a process to destroy the career and the life of Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer”.

Able Danger participants have been effectively silenced. Punitive measures have been enacted against LTC Shaffer and threats made of removing his health care benefits from his two children and loss of pay. The public has not been able to hear anything from them since they were gagged. Before the Pentagon issued its gag order two months ago, forbidding LTC Shaffer and other Able Danger officers from discussing the program publicly, Shaffer wrote in an e-mail to September 11 family members: “The 9/11 commission may not have ‘connected the dots’ as completely as they could and should have - and that is my concern and the concern of others working this issue”.

Some members of the 9/11 Commission have come to the defense of their work. Slade Gorton appeared on Lou Dobbs Tonight and told the audience that there really was nothing further worth telling about 9/11. Tim Roemer has appeared twice on the same program, giving the same message. On Sunday’s “Meet the Press”, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, members of the 9/11 Commission claimed that “The U.S. is at greater risk for more terrorist attacks because Congress and the White House have failed to enact several strong security measures“. They also took the occasion to scoff at the notion that Able Danger had anything of value to offer the commission’s report.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Weldon to keynote Fall Intelligence Symposium

Well, it sounds like someone is interested in what he has to say. But notice, this is "at the Top Secret/SI/TK level" so it won't do you any good to try sneaking in.

From Congressman Weldon's web site:

Tuesday, December 13

Congressman Weldon is a keynote speaker at the Fall Intelligence Symposium.

(9 a.m.)

From the conferences's web site:

December 13-14, 2005
National Reconnaissance Office
Chantilly, Virginia

This two-day, Top Secret SI/TK symposium has been designed to provide you with the continuing professional education you need to stay current in your profession and to facilitate dialogue between the Intelligence Community and Industry.

And this:

9:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.
NRO Welcome
Dr. Donald Kerr
National Reconnaissance Office

9:15 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Keynote Address
The Honorable Curt Weldon
U.S. House of Representatives

10:00 a.m.-10:45 a.m.
Break and view exhibits
Sponsored by Convera

You know, this is especially interesting considering what Rory O'Connor has reported:

It was hard to believe, I told him, that neither DOD nor DIA had any data on Able Danger, since “several DIA analyst and officials” had toured a secret Raytheon-run Able Danger facility in Garland, Texas “between approximately August 2000 and January 2001.

“Maybe you should query Art Zuelke, the DIA chief of the Transnational Warfare Group or his colleague, Cal Temple, who was sent down to find out how the project was working,” I suggested. “Or maybe try the National Reconnaissance Office, since even to enter the facility one had to have an additional NRO clearance.”

Here is a list of industry exhibits at the conference, too.

Able Danger on Lou Dobbs next week

John from Weldon's office sends the details:

Monday, 12 December
- Curt Weldon

Wednesday, 14 December
- Peter Lance

Is Able Danger politically incorrect?

It's starting to look that way.


U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), Reaches Out On Able Danger. How Can You Help?

The Pentagon has prevented members of the Able Danger effort from testifying in an open hearing. Able Danger dealt with open-sourced, unclassified information, and their story should be told to the American people.

Still getting their stories straight

Rory O'Connor is hanging on to this story like a pit bull but DOD and DIA keep trying to shake him loose:

My quest began in September, when Hick’s predecessor, Lieutenant Colonel Chris Conway, told me DOD “had nothing” on Able Danger and my queries should instead be made directly to DIA.

But when I did so, DIA spokesmen Don Black and Commander Terrance Sutherland each subsequently said my questions should more properly be addressed to DOD. By the time I went back to DOD, LTC Conway had moved on, and Commander Hicks had taken his place. But Hicks was also unable to find any information. So he asked me, “Do you have any more info on this that can gain us some clarity on it and help define our search?”

It was hard to believe, I told him, that neither DOD nor DIA had any data on Able Danger, since “several DIA analyst and officials” had toured a secret Raytheon-run Able Danger facility in Garland, Texas “between approximately August 2000 and January 2001.

“Maybe you should query Art Zuelke, the DIA chief of the Transnational Warfare Group or his colleague, Cal Temple, who was sent down to find out how the project was working,” I suggested. “Or maybe try the National Reconnaissance Office, since even to enter the facility one had to have an additional NRO clearance.”

Despite the specifics, DOD remained somehow unable (or unwilling) to find any reference to Able Danger anywhere within its vaunted information systems.

Read the whole thing. It's hard to believe DOD could be so incompetent by accident.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

NRO Weighs in on Able Danger

Andrew McCarthy has a great post on Able Danger up at National Review. The intro is classic:

It is the season when annual performance awards are handed out. If there is one for chutzpah, could there possibly be a more worthy candidate than the 9/11 commission?
and later

[...] by any objective measure, the 9/11 commission conducted an incomplete and incompetent investigation of Able Danger. It interviewed about one percent of the witnesses with relevant information. And it ignored what little testimony it did gather — from U.S. military intelligence officials with long records of distinguished service to this country.

Blame Able Danger

I almost missed this one. Former 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey going out of his way to bring up Able Danger on Paula Zahn, only to suggest what a distraction it has been from the effort to prevent another 9/11. You mean like Able Danger could have done, Bob?

ZAHN: Let's start off tonight talking about the sense of urgency. Today, Chairman Kean also said that -- quote -- "While the terrorists are learning and adapting, our government is still moving at a crawl."

Who do you blame for that?

KERREY: Well, I blame both the administration and Congress.

On the administration side -- I mean, Tom Kean laid it out very clearly. It is scandalous that our first-responders still can't talk to each other, scandalous that the terrorist watch list doesn't screen out every single terrorist that -- potential terrorist that is on our airlines. It is scandalous that we still spend the money without establishing what the priorities are.

The administration is fighting a battle to preserve the right to torture. And they are fighting Congress over that issue. And they are not fighting the Congress in trying to get the spectrum for our first-responders, trying to get a seamless communication system. And Congress, for its part, you got, like, Curt Weldon running around whacking the 9/11 Commission. It doesn't have -- we don't have any power left.

I would say to Mr. Weldon, if you are concerned about Able Danger, why don't you subpoena the Department of Defense? Why don't you subpoena Stephen Hadley? Instead, they are running around, you know, running their mouth, talking about how the 9/11 Commission didn't do everything it was supposed to do.

We -- we only had the subpoena power for 15 months.

Pop quiz.

Which of the following could have prevented 9/11:

A) More radio frequencies for first responders
B) Smarter local homeland security spending
C) Clearer guidelines about detainee torture
D) None of the above

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

April 2000 deletion was not the end

I knew we could not agree on everything.

It is now highly possible 9-11 happened because the Clinton administration was afraid of bad PR.

I think AJ is overlooking one fact.

Remember, the destruction of data at LIWA's IDC in April 2000 was not the end of the Able Danger program. It simply picked up shop and moved to Garland, Texas where a unit which some have referred to as Stratus Ivy took over. They managed to reconstitute the program quickly enough to predict the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000. Earlier, in September 2000 they had also pieced together enough data about Atta and three of the other hijackers with links to the US that they attempted for the first time to contact the FBI about it. Bob Johnson, who Congressman Weldon says ran the Garland effort, talked about all this with him back in October. Here is Weldon's account of their conversation:

Within the last three weeks I've had an extensive meeting with Doctor Bob Johnson. Doctor Bob Johnson is Sam Johnson's son. Doctor Bob Johnson is a professor and IT expert. Doctor Bob Johnson was the manager and operator of the Garland Unit of data minging separate from the Army's LIWA. Doctor Bob Johnson has not talked to any of the Able Danger players since the efforts that were taking place in '99 and 2000 and Doctor Bob Johnson told me that his unit also identified Mohamed Atta, not by photo but by name, before 9/11. So now we have two separate data mining efforts of the military openly and willingly stating on the record that they identified Mohamed Atta before 9/11.

Interestingly enough, Doctor Bob Johnson has never been talked to because the 9/11 Commission did not use any of their eighty personnel to talk to Bob Johnson. They had no idea who Bob Johnson was or is. And neither has the Pentagon. His only discussions were from Raytheon management, he no longer works there, asking him what he knew. Never interviewed. Never had discussions. Yet Doctor Bob Johnson was fully aware of the entire Able Danger operation and supported it. His data was transferred back to SOCOM headquarters in Tampa, where it may still be intact. Contrary to what the Pentagon said in a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee one month ago. A lawyer, an intelligence officer for the Pentagon, said that the reason the 2.5 terabytes of data was destroyed was because of a ninety day rule. You had to remove data and destroy it, if it possibly contained information about American persons not within ninety days and that was why it was destroyed. That's a lie.

Doctor Bob Johnson, when I met with him, just a few short weeks ago said Curt I watched the hearings and I sat there and I was amused. He said the lawyer for the Pentagon at the time was a guy named Richard Shiffrin. He said 'I dealt with him all the time.' He said 'Shiffrin knew what we were doing in Garland, Texas and Shiffrin said don't worry about the ninety day rule. If you want to keep the information, just sign a document but it in the file and you can keep it as long as you want.'

So now we have Doctor Bob Johnson, who ran the Garland data mining operation and who worked with Richard Shiffrin on a regular basis totally contradicting what the Pentagon said in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing one month ago. Doctor Bob Johnson told me the reason the Army wanted the material destroyed was because of a request that SOCOM had made to transferred that data down to Garland. The Army didn't want Garland to have it. And so within a matter of days they destroyed it. This whole story needs this country to scream and shout to investigate it. There are just too many unanswered questions.

Was the sharing of information with the FBI prevented because SOCOM was afraid all of their data would be deleted again if the FBI found out about it, after LIWA? Clearly, Kleinsmith and Johnson don't agree, but there is another important question we should be asking, too. Why was Able Danger finally shut down?

JD: I guess more importantly, Lt. Col. if we have the order of destruction for the information that we had, who's responsible for shutting down Able Danger and dismantling the infrastructure to continue to get information on suspected terrorist cells, organizations and connections?

AS: That's a good question. I don't actually know who that is. I know that, I know my part. I was ordered out of the operation by a 2-star Army general named Rod Isler, who came to the point where he was yelling at me, demanding that I stop supporting this. Each individual within the group had their own horror story at how we attempted to say, look this is pretty important stuff, global terrorism, you know these guys have killed Americans we should continue this. And we were told to a man and woman, no, sit down, shut up, move on, it's time to forget about it. And this all happened in the spring of 2001 right before the attacks....

Was Able Danger prevented from sharing information with the FBI during the Clinton administration? Yes. Do why know why? No. Was the program shut down during the Bush administration? Yes. Why? No idea, but you can't blame it all on Hillary.

Did Post-Impeachment Hypersensitivity Cause the Termination of Able Danger?

AJ Strata, again has an original, intriguing and thought provoking analysis based on information contained in today's Able Danger article by Shane Harris:

Not only did the Clinton panic destroy all the leads to Al Qaeda that had been developed at a key juncture in the 9-11 plot’s execution, it caused Able Danger to stand down for months as LIWA and Orion were replaced. This is the time Atta’s movements were lost...While I am happy to be correct in so much of my speculation, I have to admit to being depressed to think our leads to Al Qaeda in Germany, and the 9-11 plotters, was probably lost due to the Clinton administration being shell shocked from the impeachment process. As I pointed out here, had Atta and company been pursued, 9-11 would have, in all likelihood, been voided.

Mr. Strata makes a good, reasonable case.

Cross posted at QT Monster.

QT Monster Blog Home

Shelton might be alluding to Stratus Ivy

Captain Ed and AJ Strata have pointed to this quote from General Shelton as an issue:

Shelton, though, said that a CIA representative and an FBI representative were present at the second briefing. And he said, "I know for a fact that I was told that they had been a part of the effort" to track al-Qaeda through computer data-mining.

That's important because some of the former intelligence officers who say they were involved with Able Danger have said also that the Pentagon prevented them from relaying data to the FBI for possible pursuit or prosecution.

I think the full meaning of that Shelton quote remains to be seen. Shaffer has talked specifically about briefing the CIA and FBI on Able Danger. He has also said that as the leader of Stratus Ivy, he supported the FBI on its own data mining work, but there were things he could not talk to the FBI about and vice versa. I realize this is getting technical, but it is a complex issue to follow. The key to this is that Able Danger was prevented from sharing the information it collected with the FBI, even after Able Danger was shut down in the months leading up to the attacks. That does not mean the CIA and FBI were not all going after Al Qaeda, in parallel. It just means they never benefitted from the results of the Able Danger effort.

I'm basing this on the detailed GSN Magazine interview with Shaffer:

Even when a program is compartmented, wouldn’t the senior leadership on the civilian side know about it?

I cannot speak to that because I have no direct knowledge. I only know from my direct knowledge that General Shelton was aware because of his tasking this to Special Operations Command. I briefed him on another operation regarding the Internet and data, and I referenced Able Danger to him because we were going to use the same Able Danger methodology to protect U.S. person issues.

I briefed [General Shelton] on that other operation in the spring 2001 timeframe, before 9/11. So, from my knowledge, I believe he remembered Able Danger at that point in time because of the reference to this other operation.

However, I don’t know how far above him or laterally, he shared information regarding Able Danger. I don’t know about the civilian leadership.

The highest level on the civilian side that I’m directly knowledgeable of was that the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low intensity conflict was aware because I briefed him on this. [Editor’s Note: Brian E. Sheridan held that assistant secretary position at the time.]

He received a briefing from me [in 2000] on Stratus Ivy, my unit, and I gave him information on what we were doing for Able Danger. His comment to me was, “You need to get on those guys and push them harder.” That was the way he told me to get on SOCOM to get them to push harder to get this going.

Here is the part about the FBI:

Keep in mind, I had been asked to develop a parallel, but different, capability for the FBI on one of their terrorist targets overseas. So, at that point in time, I was negotiating with the FBI about parameters and scope of support. The same basic team that was doing the SOCOM stuff was going to be assembled to support the FBI mission as well. That includes some of the same data miners, the same technicians, the same analysts.

Here is an excerpt about the CIA:

So, one of the issues was we did not want to compete -- or be seen as competing -- with the CIA in what their mission was, or what they were already assigned to do. Within the first 30 days of Able Danger, the operations officer that you now know as [Navy] Captain Scott Philpott, asked me to go talk to the director of central intelligence rep at the [Special Operations] Command, the DCI rep who represented [CIA Director] George Tenet there in the command. My task was to explain to the rep that we’re not competing with him and explain to him Able Danger.

Clearly, this would be easier to figure out if we knew more about Stratus Ivy.

Mohamed Atta was only visible to "flakes"

Right after posting this dismissive piece on Able Danger in August, Larry Johnson said this about Tony Shaffer:

Larry Johnson said on Air America that Shaffer is considered a flake by most people he's in contact with at CIA. Johnson said that Atta's name might have been on a list several pages long, but nothing highlighted.

Here is another person who heard it:

Larry Johnson said today that he checked with his intell associates on Schaeffer back before this thing heated up and was told that Schaeffer's a flake that never met a molehill he couldn't make a mountain out of. The open source data mining they were allegedly doing is still somewhat primitive.

As a result, I can't say I was surprised to see this, in the National Journal piece:

One senior IDC analyst, Eileen Preisser, who worked with Kleinsmith on Able Danger and other projects, was characterized by a former Defense official as "an uncontrolled flake." Kleinsmith, who called Preisser an "analytical genius," admitted that she "has constant trouble in working with others in the community." Preisser has worked in several intelligence jobs, inside and outside the government, and those who know her see her as the prototypical IDC believer.

She "is especially critical of those folks who she feels did not, or do not, 'get' the technology," Kleinsmith said. "Instead of working within the system, maneuvering around the tough spots, negotiating and dealing, she tends to burn her way through an issue to get where she needs to go." Preisser now works for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. A spokeswoman there said Preisser declined all requests for interviews.

Apparently, if you thought Al Qaeda was operating here in the US before 9/11, you were by definition a "flake" in the eyes of any number of unnamed IC officials.

As Mac Ranger puts it:

Can't wait to see the FBI/CIA response to Shelton's remarks. No wait, "ex-operatives speaking on condition of anonymity."

Great article on the IDC

A detailed overview that covers the Information Dominance Center portion of Able Danger, from Shane Harris of the National Journal:

"I have been asked by several folks on Capitol Hill, members and staffers alike, whether the capability still exists to do what we did," Kleinsmith said. "My answer is, 'yes and no.' " Paradoxically, analysts are being trained to rely on the technological tools -- what Kleinsmith called "buttonology" -- too much, instead of thinking creatively on their own, he explained.

The technology is powerful, but needs to augment the analyst's work, he said. "There are still those who want to train analysts on how the engine of the car works instead of how to drive the car."

Kleinsmith recognized that the IDC's methods caused some consternation, but he takes pride in his former work and looks at the controversy pragmatically. "We understood that [there were objections], but we also understood that a lot of our customers didn't care."

Today, Kleinsmith is still struggling with the same puzzles. And, to hear him tell it, apart from the advancements in technology, little has changed. So much is still unknown, and undone, about the terrorist threat to the United States, he said. He can simply watch television to know that law enforcement isn't rounding up the terrorist cells he believes his team identified in the United States five years ago.

Ultimately, Kleinsmith sounds less like a man burdened by his past than one nervous about the future. No one seems to be acting on the information the IDC found that terrorists had taken up residence in the United States, far from New York, he said. And, as if they were listening, waiting for him to tip his hand, Kleinsmith cautiously added, "I'd just prefer not to say where they are."

Hometown support

From the Dayton Daily News:

In an interview with the Dayton Daily News before he was silenced, Shaffer said Sept. 11 was "the most devastating single attack on the U.S. in our history.

"To be true to my oath of office — to protect the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic — it was my duty to come forward and tell the truth," he said.

Shaffer, who met with staff members of the Sept. 11 Commission in Afghanistan in October 2003, was suspended with pay in June 2004.

Hometown support

One person who believes Shaffer is telling the truth is James Walker, professor emeritus of political science at Wright State. Shaffer graduated from the university in Fairborn in June 1986 with degrees in political science and environmental studies.

During his senior year, Shaffer was on Walker's national championship mock trial team that defeated Northwestern University.

Shaffer credits that experience with honing his public speaking skills, which have come in handy once he stepped into the media spotlight after 22 years under cover.

"I became much more able to speak in public," he said of the mock trial team experience. "I was always painfully shy growing up. This helped get me out of my shell."

Walker, Shaffer's college mentor who has stayed in contact with him, recalled the student told him about his desire to go into intelligence. The two had discussed truthfulness.

Walker told him he'd rather have someone of his character engage in intelligence activities than someone who may be drawn to the service for adventure or the image.

"That always comes back to me," Walker said. "When this story broke, people asked me, 'Do you think he's telling the truth?' I'm absolutely sure.' "

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Hugh Shelton on Able Danger

Now this is the type of reporting I was hoping we would see.

UPDATE: Here is a link that works. From James Rosen for McClatchy Newspapers:

While Shelton said he never heard the program referred to as "Able Danger" until news reports on it first emerged in the summer, the retired general said he authorized a computer data-mining effort to target bin Laden and his associates.

"I dealt with a million damn acronyms and different kinds of code names for operations," Shelton said. "Able Danger was not one that jumped out at me when it first surfaced" in news reports.

But under his direction, Shelton said, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, now Army chief of staff, set up a team of five to seven intelligence officers after Shelton was promoted to chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1997 and Schoomaker succeeded him as Special Operations commander.

The program began at Special Operations headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, Shelton said, but it was expanded later and moved to Fort Belvoir, Va., outside Washington. Schoomaker briefed Shelton on the program's progress in late 1997 when Shelton made a return visit to his old command post in Florida.

In Washington, sometime between 1999 and 2001, Shelton received a more extensive briefing from Defense Intelligence Agency officers involved in the program.

Read the whole thing. Rosen points out several new details that do not match up with what we already knew, but I think it is more a matter of filling in the blanks about different aspects, not anything that contradicts what Shaffer has said. The problem is that the program has a complex history, which is hard to describe without oversimplifying, and parts of it deal with other programs that are still classified.

Able Danger on every channel

Well, the print media did not seem to notice, but Able Danger was on CNN, MSNBC, C-SPAN, and FOX News last night - at 6, 7, 8, and 9 pm, respectively. Lou Dobbs at 6PM EST had two interviews about it.

Here is the first:

Joining me tonight to discuss the latest Able Danger developments is Peter Lance. He is the author of the book Cover Up: What the Government is Hiding About the War on Terror." He has also testified before the 9/11 Commission.

Good have you here.

You said the Able Danger controversy is the last best hope for an honest, open reinvestigation of September 11. Why?

PETER LANCE, AUTHOR, "COVER UP": It's like a six-foot pry bar, Lou. It's the first time people on the political right, like Ollie North, are agreeing that the 9/11 Commission is essentially -- was a whitewash joined by the Jersey Girls, the widows who campaigned for John Kerry.

The truth is that there was a cover-up with the 9/11 Commission. They moved the origin of the 9/11 plot forward several years. Now, that's the most important question.

DOBBS: To 1996?

LANCE: 1996 from 1994. And what the Able Danger information does is corroborate that. That, in fact, there was, according to Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer and Scott Philpot, that ran the operation, a direct relationship between al Qaeda and the Brooklyn cell of Ramzi Yousef and Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman.

I contend in both of my books, and I think I've proven, that the World Trade Center bombing conspiracy was directly funded by al Qaeda, and that Yousef himself was the architect of the second attack, the 9/11 plot, which was carried out by his uncle. So, in pushing the plot forward two years, investigators like Dietrich Snell, who himself should have been a witness before the commission, what they did was they distorted the truth between when the plot started. Therefore, you don't know when it starts, you can't hold accountable the intelligence agencies for failing to stop it.

DOBBS: You can't hold them accountable, but you can't also hold what would be effectively the Bush administration, Bush I, the Clinton administration, and the current Bush presidency accountable either, can you?

LANCE: No, exactly. And I think that -- I had a source inside the commission, I met with him every single week, Lou, from -- from the fall of '03 into the spring of '04. He told me they were cherry- picking evidence on both sides of the aisle. They had agreed -- and these are Democrats and Republicans -- prior to going forward with the commission, had agreed to limit the investigation to the last few years, from '96 forward.

Where as I've shown in my two books that the FBI's New York office, the bin Laden office of origin, had the al Qaeda cell, that did the first bombing, on their radar as early as the summer of '89, when Bush 41 was in the White House.

Then, they could have stopped Ramzi Yousef. I proved this in my book. In the fall of '92, going into early '93, just when Clinton was taking over, prior to the first bombing.

DOBBS: To narrow this just a bit here, Peter, the claim by Able Danger officials, Shaffer and Philpot, principally. That they had that information and were denied the opportunity to share that information with the FBI, the CIA, or other government agencies.

Narrowing it to that specific charge, much has been made of this broadcast at least, by other 9/11 Commission members that they never saw the chart, the so-called chart outlining this. They had no physical evidence. How do you respond to their remarks?

LANCE: The chart is a red herring, Lou. I presented evidence to Dietrich Snell when I testified in March 15th of '04 of a link chart. The link chart was made by the Defense Intelligence Analysis Center, showing a direct connection between al Qaeda and the New York cell of the blind sheikh.

Whether or not there was a later link chart that had Atta's picture is irrelevant. There wasn't an -- as Governor Kean said, all the evidence turned over. There were two briefcases. Tony Shaffer said that's one-twentieth of the evidence that they had available. So how can the 9/11 Commission have made an effective evaluation on the scope of that limited evidence?

DOBBS: We talk about one-tenth, we should also put that in some context, because the Able Danger Pentagon intelligence unit had 2.4 terabytes, 2,400 gigabytes, of information stored that they destroyed. The amount of information that they had accumulated was extraordinary by any measure. LANCE: Equal to one quarter of the books in the Library of Congress. And what's amazing is that this system could work today, Lou. It's a very inexpensive system that basically calls the Internet.

And Congressman Weldon, who I really commend for pushing this, has proposed that for $50 million they reinitiate this program at a critical time. The FBI has not reformed. The 9/11 Commission clearly -- you know, they're a little disingenuous today saying we're at great risk when they told half of the story in their report.

DOBBS: Peter Lance, Congressman Weldon, who, with whom -- I agree with you absolutely, he is a man to be greatly credited for trying to get to the truth here.

What do you think the odds are that the secretary of defense will respond to more than half of the members of the U.S. Congress demanding hearings on Able Danger?

LANCE: Well, it all comes down to what Monica Gabriel said today about the 9/11 report, one of the widows. There has to be public outrage. The people have to finally say, "we are at risk. They are going to hit us again, and there hasn't been sufficient reform."

The people who've got to get into the streets, they've got to contact Congress, in order to get this new investigation. But Able Danger is the last best hope of prying open that investigation.

DOBBS: Peter Lance, thanks for being here.

LANCE: Thank you.

If you are wondering, you can see the DIAC chart he mentions here. It is either from 1998 or 1999 but as he says, it did not identify Mohamed Atta before the attacks. It is also in the appendix of his book, Cover Up, and basically shows the links between the Blind Sheik Rahmen, Ramzi Yousef, Wadih El-Hage from the African embassy bombings, Bin Laden, and some others. While similar to the Able Danger charts, I am not sure yet if it was produced with the same software or not.

Anyway, here is the second interview:

DOBBS: Able Danger, you know the allegations, the fact that the commission ignored it, that Dietrich Snell should have paid more attention to it and provided those reports. How do you react to these charges?

GORTON: Very simply, there's a puff of smoke and there's nothing behind the smoke. You know, it all started, Lou, with Congressman Weldon, who came up with a very specific statement that two weeks after 9/11, he gave a chart showing Mohammed Atta as a part of a Brooklyn plot to our deputy national security Adviser.

And it didn't happen. He never gave it to the FBI. He never gave it to us. He never gave it to anyone.

DOBBS: I'm not worried about the chart. I'm not worried about the chart.

GORTON: Oh, but I'm worried about the chart.

DOBBS: OK. You worry about the chart.

Let me tell you what I'm worried about. I'm worried that in point of fact, a military intelligence unit called Able Danger in the Pentagon has been prevented from telling the U.S. Congress what it knows. Doesn't that disturb you as well?

GORTON: Oh, no.

If you are, as I am, in favor of making this public, in favor of having everyone testify who knows anything about it, of course, you are right. The Department of Defense should not prevent people from witnessing.

DOBBS: From your lips to Donald Rumsfeld's ears, Senator Gorton.

GORTON: All I'm saying in that respect is when they do testify, it will all go away in a puff of smoke.

DOBBS: Let the chips fall where they may. But the public has a right to know, I'm glad we agree on that.

GORTON: That's right.

DOBBS: And Slade Gorton, thank you for your service and that of the rest of the members of the 9/11 Commission. Hopefully, those recommendations will be heeded.

Good to have you here, Slade Gorton.

A puff of smoke? You mean like this one? Just keep on smiling and blinking Slade, and smoking whatever you and Hamilton are smoking.

On Hardball at 7PM EST, Matthews had Gorton and Ben-Veniste on. The transcript should be available tomorrow. In summary, Ben-Veniste and Gorton both want public hearings on Able Danger. Gorton claims it will prove there is nothing to it. Ben-Veniste says it will open our eyes to the pervasive military encroachment on the lives of American citizens through data mining, or something along those lines. I'm shaking in my boots.

UPDATE: Here is an excerpt from the transcript:

MATTHEWS: What about Able Danger? I only got a minute here. There was some talk that we didn‘t quite do what we had the information on.

BEN-VENISTE: That is such a misuse of time in discussing this.

MATTHEWS: So we did get some early warning?

BEN-VENISTE: No. Able Danger is a distraction but ought to be investigated. We ought to have hearings on it. The American public ought to see what Able Danger was about, what it discovered, what it didn‘t discover, why it was shut down and what we ought to be looking at is what the Pentagon is doing in terms of the intrusiveness of its data mining programs: Son of Able Danger, Grandson of Able Danger, the Total Information Awareness Project.

Ben-Veniste also focused on Able Danger in his remarks earlier today, about twenty minutes into the 9/11 Commission press conference, which C-SPAN rebroadcast at 8PM EST.

On Fox, Hannity and Colmes at 9PM EST had Curt Weldon and Bob Graham on to discuss the 9/11 Report and Able Danger. I only caught the end of it, but it sounded like Graham wanted to focus on the bigger picture instead of talking about Able Danger. Which is curious, because if I were him, I'd probably want to know why I never heard about Able Danger, as co-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time. Of course, he might have said a lot more earlier in the show, but I missed the start. Hopefully, Intelligence Summit will have the video tomorrow.

UPDATE: Here is the video. The non-response that I saw from Graham was his only air time in the segment, and he simply changed the subject when he was asked about Able Danger. It sounds like he came on the show expecting to talk about other things, instead.

Bob Kerrey was also on Fox today discussing Able Danger. I'm not sure exactly when it aired, but he made the reasonable argument that - at this point - it is too late for the 9/11 Commission to investigate Able Danger, so we should be asking why Congress isn't - instead of just blaming the 9/11 Commission. Of course, Congress would not even have to be doing that if the 9/11 Commission had done it's job right, but he raises a valid point.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Peter Lance on Lou Dobbs tonight

UPDATE: From the CNN program alert:

Emmy-winning journalist Peter Lance is fighting to expose
pre-9/11 intelligence failures, saying “The Able Danger scandal
represents the last best chance for an honest and open
re-investigation of the greatest unsolved mass murder in U.S.
history.” He’ll join us tonight to discuss the latest in the
Able Danger controversy.

Former 9/11 Commissioner and former U.S. Senator Slade Gorton
also sits down with Lou to talk about Able Danger, as well as
the job the government has done in implementing the
Commission’s final report and recommendations.

Freeh and Weldon respond

Philadelphia talk radio host Michael Smerconish writes, at

Or, as former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh said to me today, “Why is the 9/11 Commission talking about hurricanes and tunnels and all these other things when it looks like they may have missed the single most important fact with respect to September 11th?”

Freeh was answering my request for a response to comments made by Lee Hamilton and Tom Kean on Meet the Press, yesterday.

Smerconish has also interviewed Shaffer in the past, and recounts some of his past conversations with Lt. Col. Shaffer. Then he picks up where he left off from his interview with Freeh:

Today, I had the opportunity to ask former Director Freeh to respond. He was very direct. “We had given the Commission the mandate of looking at any and all relevant information to figure out what happened with respect to September 11: why did it occur, what law enforcement, intelligence, government, and private agencies had a stake in that or input into it, and come up with the definitive report to explain to the American people and the world, our take and our evaluation of the evidence with respect to 9/11. Not even a footnote in the report was about Able Danger when we have two very credible military intelligence experts - these aren’t day loaders – who say that Atta was identified a year prior to September 11th at least by name, and maybe by photo, and more importantly, that they gave this information to the 9/11 Commission staff members ten days before final report’s release, and yet not a footnote and not a reference. In hindsight, when confronted with this, somebody on behalf of the Commission said this was ‘historically insignificant’. Well, the Senate Intelligence Committee is investigating this, the question is why didn’t the 9/11 Commission investigate it?”

Freeh called the words of Hamilton and Kean a “silly response”.

And he underscored that the Able Danger participants who have come forward “are not informants or criminals who have to prove their case. They are intelligence officers who had that job to perform.”

“I take exception to this notion that it was fully investigated. The longest period of time they had was 10-days. That was what they had. How could you fully investigate, with all due respect to Mr. Hamilton who is not an investigator, a fact of that potential significance within ten days?” wondered Freeh.

“As for me reviewing new evidence, that is not my job. It was the 9/11 Commission job to go out and not only find, but to fully and fairly evaluate evidence, and how could they do that in ten days, it is ridiculous,” Freeh continued.

While I was interviewing Director Freeh, Congressman Curt Weldon called. He was much more blunt.

“Lee Hamilton has just lied to the American people. They did NO investigation.”

An Able Danger false dilemma

I did not mention it before, but there is a word for this:

It's either the grandest conspiracy since the JFK assassination and the grassy knoll or much ado about nothing.

It's a false dichotomy, or false dilemma:

In a false dichotomy (also called a false dilemma, either or, black or white, the missing middle) you are presented with two choices, when in fact there are more than two choices. If one choice is discredited, then the reader is forced to accept the other choice. But this is not an adequate argument, the choice favored must be supported by evidence.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Meet the Press transcript remix

Highly recommended if you need a good laugh. From MC Ranger:

To help set the mood, let's combine Kean and Hamilton's answers with lyrics from the famous musical - "Send in the Clowns"

Kean and Hamilton on Meet the Press

UPDATE: Russert did indeed ask about the Able Danger controversy. I hope Weldon was sitting down if he was watching, because their response was enough to make anyone familiar with the Able Danger story angry. And we know Weldon is not one to control his temper. This from Hamilton in particular is a bold faced lie, "They were not involved in the analysis of it themselves. Their recollections in some respects--for example, the whereabouts of Mohamed Atta--simply are not accurate."

We have had five different people come forward! Tony Shaffer, Scott Phillpott, Eileen Preisser, J.D. Smith, and Bob Johnson. This is half of the ten to twelve person Able Danger team. Phillpott and Johnson were the leaders of the team. They were all involved in the analysis work, and they never said Mohamed Atta was here before June 2000. They only said they had connected him to other terrorists through links to a mosque in Brooklyn by February 2000. Not that he was physically in Brooklyn at the time. No one has ever said that he was.

Then for Kean to suggest that if the Able Danger story is true, then there must have been a "monstrous conspiracy" to cover it up, is rather disingenuous. After all, who let Dieter Snell take the notes for all the related testimony and then write the section of the 9/11 Report that dealt with the 9/11 plot, despite his own conflicts of interest? You can't blame the administration for that one, unless you include Zelikow, who hired Dieter Snell as a 9/11 Commission staffer in the first place.

Anyway, here is the transcript:

MR. RUSSERT: A few weeks ago I had the former director of the FBI, Louis Freeh, on this program, and he was very pointed on some comments about your commission. And he wrote this piece for The Wall Street Journal. Let me walk you through it: "Why Did the 9-11 Commission Ignore `Able Danger'? 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 by 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?...

"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 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."

MR. HAMILTON: Well, that's a big "if" on the end there. Look, we looked at Able Danger very, very carefully. We do not think there was anything there of great significance. Now, something could come out in the future. I don't know. But in Mr. Freeh's article he did not present any new evidence at all. Our investigators were informed about Able Danger. We requested all of the documents relating to Able Danger. We reviewed these documents. We had investigators meet with some of these people in Afghanistan and other places. The bottom line is that they can furnish no documentary evidence to support their charges that they had a chart, for example, with Mohamed Atta's name on it. It is...

MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Weldon of Pennsylvania says he gave that chart to the national security advisor.

MR. HAMILTON: And the national security advisor denied that he ever got it. That was the assistant, Stephen Hadley, not Condi Rice, at the time. We have not seen that chart. We have not seen Mohamed Atta's name in any documentation prior to 9/11. Believe me, we know the name of Atta and we would have been alert to it. We just need evidence to support these charges. We don't accuse anyone here of bad intentions. But the people that have brought forward this information have not given us any documentation. They were not involved in the analysis of it themselves. Their recollections in some respects--for example, the whereabouts of Mohamed Atta--simply are not accurate. We have documentation to show that. So we need to have more evidence, and Mr. Freeh's article simply did not bring forward any new evidence. We concluded--the staff concluded, not the commission--that this information was not valid, that there was too much doubt about it.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you agree with that?

MR. KEAN: Yeah. We had an awful lot of people coming forward, 50 or 60, saying they saw Mohamed Atta here, they saw Mohamed Atta there; they had this and that. There was absolutely no evidence to back this up. There still isn't any evidence to back it up. If people want to look into it, they're welcome to. We still haven't seen the evidence to indicate it. We saw every file. The Pentagon denies it. They say they haven't gotten any information. The White House...

MR. HAMILTON: White House denies it.

MR. KEAN: White House denies it. Nobody brought the congressional investigation any information. Nobody gave any information to the 9/11 Commission to back this up. If this is true in any way, it's a monstrous conspiracy. I haven't seen any evidence to back it up.

Al Rodgers at Daily Kos asked:

I wonder if Melon Head will pressure them on the brewing "Able Danger" scandal.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


Just in case anyone from the Inspector General's office is listening.

October 21, 2003 - After receiving permission from his commanding officer, Tony Shaffer briefs 9/11 Commission staff members on Able Danger and other classified projects, which he believed were relevant, at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan. He does not specifically seek permission from the DIA as well, before telling the Commission staff that Able Danger had identified two of the three cells that executed the 9/11 attacks.

January 2004 - Shaffer tries to contact the Commission staff again, as requested, but is told that his information is not needed. "Someone answers the phone and says, 'Yes, we remember you. I will talk to Dr. Zelikow and find out when he wants you to come in.' A week goes by, no phone call back. I called them a week later and said, 'Hey, what gives?' 'Yeah, we know who you are. Ummmmm. Dr. Zelikow tells me that he does not see the need for you to come in. We have all the information on Able Danger.'"

February 2004 - Two briefcases with limited information on Able Danger are delivered to the 9/11 Commission staff. According to Shaffer, "I'm told confidently by the person who moved the material over, that the Sept. 11 commission received two briefcase-sized containers of documents. I can tell you for a fact that would not be one-twentieth of the information that Able Danger consisted of during the time we spent..." Also in February 2004, Shaffer sees the detailed documents regarding all the details of Able Danger for the last time. "The last time I saw the data I’m referring to is also the February 2004 timeframe. Since then, the data regarding the Able Danger set of documents has not been located."

March 2004 - Shaffer's security clearance is suspended, preventing him from accessing the documents. "Then, in March of 2004, there are some allegations drummed up against me regarding $67 in phone charges, which were accumulated 25 cents at a time over 18 months. Even though when they told me about this issue, I offered to pay it back, they chose instead to spend in our estimation $400,000 to investigate all these issues simply to drum up this information."

October 1, 2004 - Shaffer is promoted to lieutenant colonel by the Army. Lt. Col. Shaffer is now a member of the Army Reserves, and has been on paid administrative leave since his security clearance was suspended in March. As Attorney Mark Zaid explains, "This is the key to the whole story and was lost in the shuffle. If any of the DIA allegations had merit, LTC Shaffer would still be Major Shaffer. So why is DIA taking the action it has?"

June 2005 - Congressman Curt Weldon talks about Able Danger in an interview with the Norristown Times Herald and a subsequent speech on the floor of the House. He also mentions it briefly in his new book, "Countdown to Terror".

August 2005 - Government Security News publishes an article on Able Danger, which is noticed by reporters from the New York Times and Fox News. Both feature prominent stories on the subject over the next few weeks, and several members of the Able Danger team come forward to defend their story publicly after both DoD officials and members of the 9/11 Commission claim to know nothing about it.

September 1, 2005 - The Department of Defense holds a press conference to discuss Able Danger in public. According to Congressman Curt Weldon, "I was told by Fox News that the press guy over at the Pentagon actually went in the room and told Fox News and the New York Times, 'When you going to let this story go?'"

September 17, 2005 - Congressman Weldon makes the following comment in response to statements by members of the 9/11 Commission the previous day, "And so I felt, after seeing what I thought was a ridiculous press conference yesterday and knowing what's going to come up on Wednesday at the Senate hearing -- unless somebody is gagged between now and Wednesday, because I have talked to all the witnesses -- there are some serious questions that need to be answered."

September 20, 2005 - The members of the Able Danger team are gagged and Tony Shaffer's security clearance is permanently revoked, despite the fact that written testimony from the members of the Able Danger team has already been submitted to the committee. Normally, such testimony is published by the committee once the hearing is actually held.

September 21, 2005 - Congressman Curt Weldon and Attorney Mark Zaid testify instead of the Able Danger team members who were scheduled to do so, prior to being gagged.

November 3, 2005 - Shaffer loses an appeal to have his security clearance reinstated. His Attorney Mark Zaid explains "Unfortunately DIA has seen fit to completely disregard our submissions, and Cong Weldon and Hunters' formal requests to refrain from acting against Tony. This was the final stage of the process. There are no more administrative appeals left with respect to the clearance. A response to the indefinite suspension will be filed tomorrow. I expect that Tony will receive a notice of termination also in record breaking speed. That will take effect no sooner than thirty days from when received."

November 9, 2005 - The Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Defense opens an investigation into retaliation against Tony Shaffer for speaking out about what he knew regarding Able Danger before 9/11.

November 14, 2005 - Pay and benefits to Tony Shaffer are apparently scheduled to end, or he receives notice of this, as DIA attempts to terminate his employment. However, any such action is delayed until the Inspector General investigation has runs its course.

November 18, 2005 - Congressman Curt Weldon sends a letter to Don Rumsfeld, with signatures from 246 member of Congress, asking for public hearings on Able Danger without any fear of retaliation against the witnesses.

December 2, 2005 - As of this date, Congressman Weldon is yet to receive a reponse.

I can tell them where to leap

Gary Gross writes, and I agree, except where he singles out Gorelick as the only reason Able Danger was stopped from sharing data with the FBI:

I just finished reading an AP article titled "9/11 Panel: U.S. Failing on Security Reform". The 9/11 Commission is expressing its displeasure with the administration's lack of progress in implementing the bureaucrat-laden 'reforms' that they've proposed. Here are some of the most aggravating quotes from the article:

"We're taking small steps when we need a giant leap," said former Democratic commissioner Timothy Roemer, who is now president of the Center for National Policy at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. "We're watching al-Qaida change and spread out like mercury on a mirror while our bureaucracies are still sometimes stuck in Cold War mentality and cultures."

Excuse me, Mr. Roemer, but would you explain to me why you and your fellow commissioners didn't even look into Able Danger, much less make their successes part of your recommendations? Would you explain why you're focused on how to respond to another terrorist attack instead of preventing another terrorist attack? It seems to me that the goal is to never experience another terrorist attack. Instead, your commission is focusing on first responders and cleaning up the messes that might've been prevented by examining the successes of Able Danger.

Added former Democratic commissioner Jamie Gorelick:

"No parent would be happy with this report card."

Ms. Gorelick, You're the 'ommissioner' with the least credibility of them all and that's saying something. If the American people knew that you built the wall that prevented Able Danger from sharing their findings with the FBI, you'd get a grade lower than F-. Your comments are silly at best and idiotic at worst. You deserve constant shaming for what you did and what you prevented.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Peter Lance on Lou Dobbs Monday

UPDATE: It looks like Lou took the day off day, and the interview with Peter Lance has been postponed until Monday, not Friday as they said on the show Thursday night.

From Lou Dobbs on Friday:

Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us next week. We'll have the very latest on the Able Danger controversy. Author and Emmy-winning journalist Peter Lance (ph) has been investigating intelligence failures before 9/11. He'll be here. Also, presidential historians Richard Reeves, James Taranto will join us.

From Lou Dobbs on Thursday:

DOBBS: It's been 12 days since Congressman Curt Weldon sent a letter signed by more than half of the members of the House of Representatives to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, demanding Able Danger military officials be allowed to testify before Congress. But as of tonight, the Pentagon has not responded.

Able danger officials, when they tried to alert the FBI about 9/11 mastermind Mohamed Atta and other 9/11 radical Islamist terrorists more than a year before those attacks, they say the Pentagon prevented them from sharing that information with the FBI. My guest here tomorrow will be journalist Peter Lance, who has written a book dealing with Able Danger and the failure of our nation's intelligence agencies.

I don't think his book mentions Able Danger, since it was first published in 2004, before anyone knew about it. However, he raises serious questions about why Dieter Snell was allowed to write the entire section of the 9/11 Report that deals with the 9/11 plot itself, when he played a role in the series of failures that allowed the attacks to occur:

Valerie Caproni, now the FBI general counsel, was a prosecutor in Scarpa’s 1998 trial in Brooklyn, N.Y. At the time, Scarpa testified he spied for the FBI on four suspects in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, including convicted mastermind Ramzi Yousef, while they were jailed together in Manhattan.

Scarpa said he passed on to the FBI plans that said associates of the four men would kill a prosecutor in one of Yousef’s trials and attack a federal judge he declined to name as well as unspecified “government installations.”

Caproni and U.S. District Judge Reena Raggi scoffed at Scarpa’s claims, which the judge called insignificant at best and more likely “part of a scam.”

Freelance journalist Peter Lance has argued in his recent book, “Cover Up,” that Scarpa’s information was accurate and included tips that could have led the FBI to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Yousef’s uncle, long before the Sept. 11 attacks Mohammed purportedly helped plan.

You can read more about Peter Lance at his website. Here is a description of his latest book, now in paperpack:

Cover Up: What the Government Is Still Hiding About the War on Terror

Ever since the dust settled at Ground Zero, investigative reporter Peter Lance has been leading the fight to expose the intelligence gaps that led to the attacks. Now, in the follow-up to his bestelling 1000 Years for Revenge, he returns with devastating new evidence revealing that the U.S. government has been covering up its own counterterror failures since the mid-nineties-and continues to do so today. In Cover Up, Lance shows how our government has chosen repeatedly to sacrifice the national security for personal motives and political convenience. At a time when Americans still feel vulnerable, this book will be welcomed by readers who want the complete story behind 9/11-and inspire us all to keep demanding the truth.


UPDATE: Regular commenter "bb" has cleared this up.

I saw this:



ABLEDANGER (Rosen, McClatchy Newspapers) _ Recommended for weekend use. WASHN: It's either the grandest conspiracy since the JFK assassination and the grassy knoll or much ado about nothing. Able Danger, a top-secret military program set up in 1999 to probe the al Qaeda terrorist network, is rekindling fierce debate about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. 1,200. With ABLEDANGER-CHART.

But overlooked the article itself. From McClatchy Newspapers:

Weldon's crusade on Able Danger, though, has drawn derision in some quarters, even from some current or former lawmakers who have known him for years.

"By the way he talks about Able Danger these days, you'd think it would have prevented Pearl Harbor," said Timothy Roemer, a former Indiana Republican congressman and member of the 9/11 commission....

Breitweiser said she is confident additional facts about Able Danger will emerge.

"As more and more information is coming out, more and more Americans are questioning how this attack could have happened," Breitweiser said. "We're finding out we are not being told the truth. A lot of information was known, and the attacks could have been prevented."

This is similar to the Star Tribune piece, but the above at least is new.

And it looks like the chart they were referring to is this timeline of events, not the infamous pre-9/11 Mohamed Atta chart.

Jumping hurdles and knocking over barriers

High Country Conservative points to this post by columnist Mark Rose:

Indeed, it seems the commission was either incompetent or had the agenda of protecting the members of Washington's political class.

This intelligence web and those who have spun it and been caught in it are far too complex to be given much detail in one column. On the one hand, it is a testament to American intelligence (and that from other governments) that there has not been a terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. On the other hand, the American people are not being told the truth about the preventability of 9/11 in the first place. Politics is ingrained so deeply in both the military and civilian bureaucracies and the 9/11 Commission that it requires a U.S. Congressman to jump hurdles and knock over barriers to piece together information that ought to have been woven together from the outset.

Senator Salazar's response to Able Danger

Here is a response received from Senator Salazar (D-CO) regarding Able Danger. I strongly considered not linking to the source but trust me, it's not worth clicking on the link to find out why. Let's just say the poster is a self-proclaimed, uh, jerk. The letter looks authentic, though. It sounds like there is at least one Senator who would be willing to sign Weldon's letter:

Thank you for writing me about the claim that a secret military intelligence unit called Able Danger identified four September 11 hijackers as al Qaeda members a year before the 2001 attacks. The Pentagon has so far been unable to validate this claim, but a number of service members have stepped forward to support it.

These allegations are extremely concerning and should be investigated fully.

It is clear that our homeland security apparatus was ill-prepared for the September 11 attacks. The 9/11 Commission has made a thorough investigation of what went wrong and I share your concerns that after an initial flurry of activity including the intelligence overhaul bill and the reation of a Director of National Intelligence, Congress and the White House have slowed down in implementing some important reforms recommended by the Commission.

Among the reforms that have yet to be accomplished are properly consolidating terrorism watch lists, clearing more of the radio spectrum for emergency responders and reforming the structure of congressional committees to simplify oversight of the Department of Homeland Security.

We cannot wait for another attack to occur before we act to shore up our homeland security. Thank you again for contacting me. I will keep your concerns in mind.


Ken Salazar

United States Senator

Where is the Able Danger coverage?

I was scraping the bottom of the barrel again for some in depth coverage of the Able Danger story, but I did find this column by Thomas Lindaman of

We’ve become a society of celebrity worshipers and mass media junkies at the expense of people and issues that should be at the forefront of our minds. Why talk about Able Danger when we can talk about Angelina Jolie? People can tell you every little detail about “Lost” but can’t name the three branches of government and what they do. And the war between the Palestinians and the Israelis? Not as sexy as the feud between Oprah Winfrey and David Letterman.

Ha. He might be onto something here. If you've seen Good Night and Good Luck, you might remember this speech, too:

To those who say people wouldn't look; they wouldn't be interested; they're too complacent, indifferent and insulated, I can only reply: There is, in one reporter's opinion, considerable evidence against that contention. But even if they are right, what have they got to lose? Because if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost.

This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful.

Well, at least we have Lou Dobbs.

UPDATE: Intelligence Summit has the video of Weldon on Dobbs from Tuesday.