Able Danger Blog

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Weldon and Roemer on Lou Dobbs tonight

From CNN:

New information now shows the top-secret military intelligence
unit Able Danger identified Mohammed Atta, the leader of the
Sept. 11 hijackers, 13 times before the 2001 attacks. Former
9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer and Congressman Curt Weldon join
Lou for reaction to the Able Danger congressional hearings.

UPDATE: Lou devotes almost the entire second half of the show to Able Danger. Yet, he still feels the need to retell the story every single night, so not a lot of new ground gets covered. Weldon mentioned that Zelikow did not discuss anything classified in the closed session. Why was he allowed to testify off the record in closed session then? Lou also talked to General David Grange briefly about Able Danger. Here is that exchange, in which Grange stressed that it is the duty of our military officers to tell the truth:

DOBBS: As we explore what is happening with Able Danger and the controversy and the hearings that were held yesterday, an extraordinary effort led by Army intelligence, to see that kind of bureaucratic nonsense taking place -- and tragedy, frankly, within the Department of Defense, scuttling lives and careers in point in fact.

Is there anything that can be done to bring a level of leadership that will demand that that kind of attitude be removed from our Department of Defense and our U.S. military?

GRANGE: Well, actually, I mean it's against code not to tell the truth. And when a military person comes forward with the truth, I mean it has to be honored. In court, or honored in testimony of some sort and should be reported. It's the duty of the soldier to do such thing.

DOBBS: And the duty certainly of the men and women who lead the U.S. military from the Pentagon. Are you -- are you hopeful that we're going to see a better response in terms of -- and I will limit this to Defense Department intelligence?

GRANGE: I believe so. I think there's a lot of effort there. It's the long poll in the tent for any operation today against terrorists. And I think so, Lou. I think there is a lot of work being done.

DOBBS: Thank you Dave Grange. We appreciate it.

Anyway, here is the rest of the Able Danger discussion:

DOBBS: Ed Henry, thank you very much.

Able Danger Army intelligence officers have finally told their story in a major hearing on Capitol Hill. Able Danger officials yesterday testified how they identified Mohamed Atta and other 9/11 radical Islamic terrorists more than a year before 9/11, using data mining technology. And they explain how they were not allowed to share the information they had gathered with the FBI.


LT. COL ANTHONY SHAFFER, U.S. ARM RESERVE: We tried to arrange three separate times meetings between the FBI. I called down to Captain Philpot, as I recall, and said, Why? What's going on? Why aren't you guys showing up for these meetings? And that's when I was informed that they were told that they -- special operations command were told by their legal advice, their legal attorneys, they were not supposed to show up for these meetings.


DOBBS: Able Danger officials say that if the meetings had been allowed to go forward, intelligence officials might, might have been able to prevent 9/11. It has taken years for Congress to finally hold these hearings on Able Danger and what happened to that project. The Able Danger unit began its operations in the fall of 1999. In early 2000, Able Danger uncovered its first information about the 9/11 radical Islamist terrorists.

The unit and its officers say they also uncovered information that might have prevented the terrorist attack against the U.S.S. Cole in October of 2000. The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff was finally briefed about Able Danger findings in January of 2001. But that spring, just months before September 11th, the Able Danger project was shut down.

Congressman Curt Weldon who fought for months to bring these Able Danger hearings to Capitol Hill was openly frustrated yesterday but what he calls Washington's failure to take Able Danger claims seriously.


REP. CURT WELDON, VICE CHAIR., HOUSE ARMED SVRC. CMT: Like Jay Stewart, who had his career ruin at DOE back in the '90s. I mention Doctor Gordon Ehlers, a CIA nonproliferation director at the CIA, who was forced out. Partly as a result of Iran's development of their missile technology in Shahab (ph) three.


DOBBS: Tim Roemer, a former member of the 9/11 commission, joins me now from Chicago tonight.

You heard Congressman Weldon's charges. You've seen much of what has -- what transpired in the open part the hearings yesterday. What's your reaction?

TIM ROEMER, FMR. 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: Well, Lou, first of all my reaction is I'm glad that the oversight function of Congress, which the 9/11 commission criticized, as almost dysfunctional itself -- is working. That they're trying to get to the bottom of this.

Was there in fact a chart, a picture of Atta before 9/11? Was there some evidence of this? So far, the Defense Department is saying, no. Steve Cambone testified they'd been unable to find it. The 9/11 Commission did not see factual evidence of it.


DOBBS: In fairness the staff of your commission did not -- point in fact, spend anytime at all seeking it out. I mean isn't that correct, Tim?

ROEMER: I don't think that's entirely factually correct, Lou. What chief of staff, I believe said, he said this to us before. I don't know what he said yesterday in closed testimony.

DOBBS: Right. Nor do any of us.

ROEMER: Right. Nor could we talk about it, Lou. But what he has said to us before was that when Colonel Shaffer talked to the 9/11 Commission in Bagram, Afghanistan, he talked about Able Danger, but he did not talk about Atta or identifying Atta ahead of time. And that's confirmed by a White House person.

DOBBS: In his unclassified testimony yesterday in point of fact, Colonel Shaffer did say, point blank, that they the information about Mohamed Atta just about a year before 9/11.

And then moved into a spirited examination of the reasons that his unit, the Able Danger project, was frustrated. Do you find it remarkable that Dieter Snell, the man pivotal in all of this because working on your commission, at staff level, obviously, and now working for a New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, was not present for these hearings? The request of Eliot Spitzer, the New York attorney general?

ROEMER: Well, I think the 9/11 Commission should be as cooperative as they possibly can with Congress trying to get to the bottom of this. I absolutely embrace Congress doing its oversight and getting to the bottom of it, Lou. They're bringing up the right people, the Department of Defense people, undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Steve Cambone said not able it find any factual evidence of this.

Let's keep digging, Lou. Let's keep looking for this. Because what it does is it verifies what the 9/11 Commission said that maybe in this instance too, government agencies failed to communicate with one another. We propose 41 different recommendations for Congress to fix.

They've only passed half of them, Lou. We still half of them to go to make this country safer and they -- Congress in addition to doing their oversight, they need to act on the 9/11 Commission recommendation, make the country safer, protect us from Al Qaeda and more effectively gauge this war against Jihadists. DOBBS: And Colonel Shaffer, in his public testimony, saying precisely the same thing. That the bureaucratic infighting and all of the sordid impulses of a Defense Department Intelligence Department and political CYA, as he put it, organization, led to failures to reform and to the failures a year before 9/11. And he said the same and just as you're suggest, those failure are still with us.

ROEMER: You know, Lou, --

DOBBS: Tim, are going to have to break. Tim, I appreciate it.

ROEMER: I hope we can talk about more of too much bureaucracy in Department Homeland Security and in Defense. I think we could see changes, Lou.

DOBBS: I'm with you, although, I as soon not talk about, it I would rather somebody get in there and do something about it.


ROEMER: I agree with that.

DOBBS: I have a belly full of talk about it.

ROEMER: I agree with that. Let's go get 'em. I'm with you.

DOBBS: And now if we could just do something, you and I.

ROEMER: Well, we can, thanks, Lou.

DOBBS: Appreciate it.

Coming up next, here, Congressman Curt Weldon will join me with his response to what was a frustrating day, after he succeeded in getting at least partial public hearings on the Able Danger controversy.

And tonight, red storm. New satellite pictures revealing how China is aggressively, and to this point, secretly building up its military including nuclear weapons. That special report is coming right up. Stay with us.


DOBBS: We just heard former 9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer suggest that he wants to see a full investigation of the Able Danger controversy. And now it's time for Congressman Curt Weldon to join us. Congressman Weldon the driving force behind yesterday's Able Danger hearings in Congress and joining me tonight from Wilmington, Delaware.

Congressman, good to have you with us. You spent of what was obviously a frustrating, considerable time yesterday afternoon in the open hearings. Do you believe that enough got out on this issue to be helpful to you, to congress, to the public?

REP. CURT WELDON, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: If the public could have access, unfortunately C-Span didn't cover it. You're only network doing a decent job on it, but information's there, Lou.

In the opening hearing, in the closed hearing, we had five people testify that they agree with Louis Freeh. That the information they had could have prevented 9/11 from ever happening. And they testified under oath. The Defense Department said they didn't have any information.

Lou, I gave them information in the hearing that I have a source within the intelligence community today, who did a run for me one month ago, and in that run came up with the name Atta 800 times. The Mohamed Atta with an O five times. And Mohamed Atta with a U three times. That's pre-9/11 data he used, not post-9/11. So the data's there, Lou. It's question of getting it out.

DOBBS: Colonel Shaffer's testimony at least the part that was unclassified and was public, is fascinating. He's stated straightforwardly, that his project, Able Danger, knew of Mohamed Atta, about a year before September 11th. When he talks about those people who were supportive of Able Danger, and who were important to the success to that point of able danger, and then he talks about the bad guys. What are you going to do about the bad guys?

WELDON: You know, I wish I knew that answer right now. You know, Zelicow (ph) should have testified in open session, because nothing he said was classified. I don't think he wants to be in open session to let the American people see us question him. We should have had Dieter Snell there. He's the guy that debriefed Scott Philpot.

DOBBS: Why did you allow the attorney general in New York to keep him away?

WELDON: I didn't, Lou. The committee hearing was not run by me. I wish it had been; they did not force the issue.

DOBBS: Congressman, apologize for interrupting, but this is beginning to look like it would serve the interest of neither Democrats nor Republicans, the latter Clinton administration, nor the Bush administration for the truth to come out here. Is that what you're really fighting here as well as a Defense Department DIA entrenched bureaucracy.

WELDON: Yes. And I don't think it's either President Clinton, nor President Bush, it's the underlings. It's the bureaucrats who fear embarrassment. They're in this CYA mode. They don't want anything to come out and they will ruin the career and life of anyone who dares to put forth information that's truthful, that could contradict that.

You hit the nail on the head. I said it yesterday. I'm very frustrated because I don't think either bureaucracy, either administration, wants the full truth to be told to the American people. I voted for the 9/11 Commission. I supported almost all their recommendations and continue to do that. But we've never yet had the true story and I don't think the commissioners were ever briefed. That decision to not briefed them was stopped by staff.

DOBBS: And that being the case, the straightforward evidence and even the agreement, that there was at least a level of intelligence that could have, if they had follow the instincts of Able Danger analysts, have perhaps had that been in the hands of the captain of the USS Cole have prevented the loss of 17 sailor's lives. I mean that is extraordinary. I mean there is no equivocation about that.

WELDON: Lou. That's right. The captain of the Cole, Kirk Lippold was in his audience in a civil uniform. And he sat there and listened. I talked to him before the hearing. I talked to him at length privately. He said congressman, I had three options that day. I could have refueled at sea, or refuel at another port. If I had any indications there was any potential problem at port of Yemen, I wouldn't have gone in.

We heard testimony yesterday that we had that information. We had those warnings. Why it didn't get to the right command officer is something we have to look at. This is about protecting American in the future. It's not about pointing fingers in the past. It's about understanding what we can do to prevent the next attack.

DOBBS: Help us understand why you went into closed hearings, because the whole point was to be in the public eye with this information.

WELDON: Well, Zelicow (ph) would not come in a open hearing. He said matter of fact. Be honest with you, two witness -- two very dedicated employees, military employee, and another are fearful for their careers.

In fact, they fear our government more than they do Al Qaeda actions and that's really a tragedy. When our own government employees are fearful their career's will be ruined because they're simply telling the truth. That's not America. We lost 3,000 people here. You know Richard Nixon had to resign for covering up a third rate burglary.

DOBBS: Colonel Shaffer also made it very clear he's more than a little angry that, in his estimation, that the Defense Department has spent $2 million trying to ruin his career, trying to stifle him. And over what are trumped up charges of something less than $300 in bureaucratic nonsense.

WELDON: Absolutely, Lou. We have his file from his career. He has letters of commendation from every DIA director. George Tenet had him personally brief him. This guy had a stellar career, a bronze star recipient.

Within two days the bureaucrats, of taking the health care benefits for his two kids and his salary. And stood on the floor of the House and I said if you do that I'll resign, rather than be a part of this outrage. In sends a signal to every uniform person in our military.

DOBBS: Are we going to be able to have the privilege of watching you and your colleagues on Capitol Hill breakthrough this morass and this veil of disinformation and secrecy, that exists within our own government? WELDON: We have no choice, Lou. This is not about the facts here. It's about dedicated military personnel, who take duty, honor, country seriously. If we let this drop, then none of them will have any respect for the institution of the Congress, for the American government. And they'll all believe that to tell the truth puts them at risk and that's not what America's all about.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Congressman Curt Weldon. We'll be continuing our coverage of the Able Danger controversy throughout. Joined us here tomorrow by Pulitzer prize winner investigative journalist Peter Lance.

And coming up at top of this hour, "The Situation Room" and Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: Thank you very much, Lou. Good interview.

President Bush speaks out for the first time and the vice president shooting accident. He's standing by his man. The president tonight, his own words.

Plus, the vice president's police report released a few hours ago. No charges will be filed, but are there still some questions that are unanswered.

Also, get this, Al Qaeda job benefits. Seized documents by the U.S. military shows how much they're paid, and how much vacation time terrorist get. You have to see it to believe it.