Able Danger Blog

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Arkin vs Kelly

Bill Arkin and Jack Kelly clarify the difference between the kind of thinking that let 9/11 happen, and the kind of thinking that could prevent the next major attack.

First we have Bill Arkin. In a post titled "Able Danger and 9/11 Heartstrings" the liberal national security reporter demonstrates how a lack of interest in determining all the facts in case it might disrupt your preconceived notions - combined with a healthy mix of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt - will lead you to asinine conclusions every time:

What is most interesting is his elliptical and almost unintentional discussion of a host of compartmented projects in the pre-9/11 period that were fighting the war on terrorism, conducting special operations, engaged in some Top Secret activity that Shaffer still believes was of some great value.

Shaffer suggests that. What's missing from his testimony and Cambone's is any substantiation that all of this secret, compartmented activity achieved anything useful, nor that it necessarily achieves anything useful today.

Cambone is not to be completely believed because he is the mouthpiece for a damaged administration and a Pentagon that is not above lying when it suits it. Shaffer can not be relied upon because he is a nut.

Yet Cambone and Shaffer share the same agenda. For these secret warriors, it is the lawyers and the bureaucrats and the strait-laced military officers and the human rights activists and the media who are the real problem: They should all just get out of the way and let the patriots do their job. Cambone, Shaffer, Weldon all tug on the heartstrings of those who want to believe that the government could have done something to prevent the attack. It is their ticket.

In other words, without even examining the evidence, we all know that nothing could possibly have prevented 9/11 - and nothing could possibly prevent the next major attack - so why don't we stop all the patriotic huffing and puffing already. Clearly, this is contradicted by the testimony of Smith, Shaffer, and Kleinsmith. Which is no doubt why he ignored that part of their testimony.

In contrast, conservative national security columnist Jack Kelly of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, went out of his way to attend the hearing so he could get all the facts and hear first hand what the witnesses had to say:

1. Curt Weldon is a national hero. He badgered the Armed Services Committee into holding this hearing. I describe in my column how he humiliated Stephen Cambone, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, who seems to be orchestrating the coverup. Friends in the military have described Cambone to me in terms unfit for printing in a family newspapers. After seeing him in action, I understand why.

2. Tony Shaffer makes a most credible witness. He has a thorough grasp of the facts, and doesn't speculate about matters beyond his personal knowledge.

3. News coverage was horrible. CSPAN didn't cover the hearing. The AP wrote a small dispatch. CNS had a longer dispatch, which is here. The best of the handful of accounts was by James Rosen of the Raleigh News & Observer, whose story is here. Most newspapers, including the one I work for, didn't run anything on the hearing.

4. There definitely is a campaign to intimidate witnesses. Only three testified in open session, for fear of retaliation. They have good reason to be afraid. After Tony Shaffer "outed" himself as one of Weldon's sources, the DIA tried to fire him. The grounds? When Shaffer was being interviewed prior to becoming an intelligence officer years ago, he admitted that at age 13, he'd stolen a box of pens from the embassy where his father worked. That, $67 in disputed telephone charges and $180 in disputed travel charges were the reasons why DIA said he should be canned.

5. The key figure is Dr. Eileen Preisser, the scientist (Shaffer calls her a genius) who devised the data mining program that dredged up Mohammad Atta's name and his connection with the Brooklyn cell....

Conspiracy theorists add 2 and 2 and get 22. I'm not prepared to do that here. But there seems to be a bipartisan interest in keeping the truth about ABLE DANGER from the American people.

Let's see: Critical thinking, an attempt at objectivity, and avoiding rushes to judgment? Openness to the possibility of other points of view and new evidence as it arises? This Jack Kelly must be a sentimentalist who's been tugging at 9/11 heartstrings for too long.

UPDATE: This comment from someone named Tex at Arkin's blog, was too good to pass up:

Arkin - guess you forgot to mention the specifics of Shaffer's testimony, backing up the unclassified facts in the open testimony, could only be provided in closed session - note that his testimony is marked UNCLASSIFIED, which one would asume there is a CLASSIFIED verson as well that probably contained the rest of the story that we don't get to see.

Funny how you conveniently failed to mention this fact in you rant. The closed session followed the open session yesterday - it was in the news and on the HASC schedule, or do you not pay attention to the news?

Then again, even if you did know, you never seem to let the facts stand in the way of your "alternate universe" view of the world.

A commenter here clarifies one point from the Kelly post:

Just to clarify one thing that I believe that Congressman Weldon stated first and is now repeated in this article, Lt. Col. Shaffer's father did NOT work at the embassy, he was an officer of the United States Air Force, assigned to the MAAG. Believe me the military is barely acknowledged by the State Dept, when overseas.

MAAG is an abbreviation for Military Assistance Advisory Group.