Weldon press conference transcript
UPDATE: Here is a key quote from the transcript. A new witness has come forward, although they are not willing to testify publicly:
From AJ Strata:
From Michael Tanji at Group Intel:
Here is the full transcript. We fixed the formatting now:
I've learned some additional things that are new. You saw the Arlen Specter hearing in Judiciary that occurred in September. It's very troubling to me that it appears as though the DOD witness did not tell the truth. We had testimony that all of the Able Danger data-mining material was destroyed. I now know that that's not the case. In fact, I now know there's data still available. And I am in contact with people who are still able to data mining runs on pre-9/11 data. In those data runs that are now being done today, in spite of what DOD said, I have 13 hits on Mohammed Atta, spelled Mu and Mo. Not Mohammed Attif, not Mohammed Attel; Mohammed Atta. Thirteen times we have hits in the data that's still available, that we were told was destroyed. That was pre-9/11 data, where Mohammed Atta's name was spelled two different ways, but it was Mohammed Atta.
From AJ Strata:
It has always been my belief that the classified data sets sent to SOCOM still existed. Apparently I was correct.
From Michael Tanji at Group Intel:
Generally speaking history doesn’t give you second chances. I’ve been witness to a number of lost intelligence opportunities that I wish I could have gotten a “do over” on. Sometimes these were opportunities that were just pissed away by the near-sighted and narrow-minded, sometimes we faced a no-win situation and something had to give.
The opportunity to repeat history – and in fact improve upon it since technology and methodology have only gotten better in the past three years – is unique and something that should be pursued with all possible speed and vigor. While it is too early to speak with certainty, I think it is fair to say that at the very least the opportunity to shoot holes in a lot of pre-conceived notions, and to drive home the need for more reforms, is not that far away.
Here is the full transcript. We fixed the formatting now:
REPRESENTATIVE WELDON HOLDS A NEWS CONFERENCE ON ABLE DANGER
FEBRUARY 14, 2006
WELDON: Good afternoon. I apologize for being late. Traffic coming down from Pennsylvania was a little heavier than I thought.
Thank you for coming out. I'm Curt Weldon and I'm here to announce the hearing that everyone said would never occur, that will begin tomorrow.
But, before that, I want to say that, as most of you know, I have been subpoenaed by the defense lawyer for Moussaoui for the sentencing process that will begin in March.
I have talked to the defense attorney. My counsel and my chief of staff has talked to him. We understand what the subpoena would involve. And I, this morning, talked to Rob Spencer, who is the U.S. attorney handling the case.
Obviously, he's not going to tell me what to do because he can't. But I have come to the conclusion, talking to my own counsel and staff counsel for the House, that I would rather not testify.
So we'll be notifying the defense attorney for Moussaoui that I will invoke the House Speech and debate clause providing me with House defense counsel and will not be available to testify as a defense witness in the Moussaoui trial.
Ed McMahon is the defense counsel. He has been very polite in talking to my staff and my attorney. But, in both talking to my counsel and the House counsel, I think it's better that I not appear as a witness there.
The hearings will begin this week, tomorrow at 2:30. And they're going to be everything that we said they would be, filled with a lot of still-unanswered questions.
Many discounted this whole process when it began in earnest in August, when the New York Times wrote the first story with Fox News. I wanted to thank both of those media outlets for staying the course.
WELDON: While the mainstream media chose to ignore this story, they paid attention. And except for certain select people, like Lou Dobbs and others, we've had to the bulk of our investigative work ourselves.
I can tell you that here we are in February, and we're still identifying additional witnesses. At least one additional witnesses has come forward who just retired from one of the intelligence agencies who will also testify under oath that he was well-aware of and identified Mohammed Atta's both name and photo prior to 9/11 occurring.
The hearings that are being held this week and throughout this sessions of Congress are numerous. Tomorrow it's the Armed Services Committee, joint hearings of two subcommittees.
Our witness list includes Dr. Steve Cambone, Eric Kleinsmith, J.D. Smith, Lieutenant Colonel Tony Shaffer, Commander Scott Philpot and Dr. Eileen Pricer.
Most of the hearing will be open; there will be some that's closed. And part of the closed hearing is not necessarily due to classified information, but rather witnesses that are concerned for their careers. I shouldn't have to say that. That shouldn't have to be, but it is the case.
In fact, when I leave here, I'll be testifying at Chris Shays' hearing on whistleblowers, where Tony Shaffer will testify.
What's happening to witnesses that have truthful information to tell, in my opinion, is unconscionable, that we would have people who'd be threatened and intimidated not to come forward and tell their story.
But that has happened in this case. I'm aware of it happening numerous times in the previous administration.
And when I go before Chris Shays' subcommittee in a few moments, I will give a number of specific examples about people whose careers were ruined, whose lives were ruined, who were threatened and intimidated because they simply wanted to tell the truth. And believe me, I felt significant pressure myself for pushing this story as hard, as long as I have.
Rob Simmons on the Homeland Security Intelligence Subcommittee will do hearings. I mentioned Chris Shays'. Dana Rohrabacher, chairman of the Investigations Subcommittee on International Relations, has tentatively scheduled hearings. Arlen Specter continues his hearings.
There was a DOD I.G. investigation -- it's been under way for several months -- looking into DIA harassment of Lieutenant Colonel Shaffer, and that investigation is proceeding, in my opinion, very well.
Tony is fully cooperating with them, and I think you're going to see some unusual but very positive results come out of that DOD I.G. investigation of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
I did talk to the head of GAO, and he came back and said because these were largely intelligence-related issues, they did not feel that they would have jurisdiction. But I did ask them to do an investigation.
So there are a number of activities under way.
There are a number of questions that need to be answered that have not been answered. The witnesses, starting tomorrow, will testify under oath, something that's not happened yet. DOD has talked about having an internal investigation. Well, that never happened. There was no swearing in of witnesses. There was no testimony under oath. That will begin tomorrow.
The questions will revolve around why was this information collected before 9/11, and if so, who in fact can verify that under oath. And there will be a number of people who will say -- and there are others who are not appearing who will also give similar testimony when they're appropriately called.
We will get into the attempts to transfer the information to the FBI.
WELDON: Now, since this whole process began, you saw Louie Freeh, former FBI director, on "Meet the Press" in October respond to Chris Matthews and say publicly, "If I would have had the kind of information Able Danger had, we in the FBI may well have been able to stop 9/11 from ever occurring."
How the 9/11 Commission can call Able Danger historically insignificant is just beyond my imagination.
In addition, several months ago, General Hugh Shelton came out for the first time publicly and has said that he was the one who personally authorized the creation of Able Danger; that it was a top- secret, elite organization of approximately two dozen individuals whose total purpose was to identify Al Qaida operatives around the world and in the U.S.
So we have General Shelton testifying that he created it. You have Louie Freeh saying if he'd have had the information it could have helped stop 9/11, perhaps. And now we have information that will be testified to under oath that there were attempts to transfer information to the FBI on at least three occasions, and on all three of those occasions in September of 2000, lawyers within the administration denied those meetings from taking place.
I've learned some additional things that are new. You saw the Arlen Specter hearing in Judiciary that occurred in September. It's very troubling to me that it appears as though the DOD witness did not tell the truth.
We had testimony that all of the Able Danger data-mining material was destroyed. I now know that that's not the case. In fact, I now know there's data still available. And I am in contact with people who are still able to data mining runs on pre-9/11 data. In those data runs that are now being done today, in spite of what DOD said, I have 13 hits on Mohammed Atta, spelled Mu and Mo. Not Mohammed Attif, not Mohammed Attel; Mohammed Atta. Thirteen times we have hits in the data that's still available, that we were told was destroyed. That was pre-9/11 data, where Mohammed Atta's name was spelled two different ways, but it was Mohammed Atta.
It is outrageous to me that the Defense Department would say, as we will hear from Eric Kleinsmith tomorrow, that, yes, he did destroy the LIWA data, but the LIWA data wasn't all the data. There was other massive data mining that was collected, that we just don't know the whereabouts of.
WELDON: But I do know -- I'm not going to give you the name of who I'm working with -- I do know there are still data available that was collected through the legal process.
In addition, we have people now coming out of the woodwork refuting these witnesses.
Today and tomorrow, Lieutenant Colonel Shaffer will testify in his uniform under oath in spite of an aggressive effort by D.A. bureaucrats to tarnish his image.
In checking Lieutenant Shaffer's files, you'll see that letters of highest recommendation and commendation from every DIA director, from the CIA directors for his work. And then you will see a pattern that began when he started to talk about Able Danger of destroying this man and his career, eventually trying within two days to take away the health benefits for his kids and the salary and benefits for himself.
Thank goodness Gordon England had the decency to work with me on behalf of the secretary of defense to stop that process from going forward.
Tony Shaffer has been allowed to return to DIA and is currently cooperating, and will testify in uniform both today and tomorrow.
We saw a statement by one of the two -- actually, the staff director of the 9/11 Commission. Is it Dr. Zelikow?
In an interview last week, supported by Senator Bob Kerrey, who believes him, but he never met with Tony Shaffer, so he's completely refuting Tony Shaffer as a witness.
Well, tomorrow, we will present irrefutable evidence that Zelikow did meet with Tony Shaffer, and we'll present physical evidence of that meeting.
I don't know what's going on. But I can tell you that this country needs to get to the bottom of who does not want the American people to know the facts leading up to 9/11; why the 9/11 Commission deliberately denied information to the commissioners?
I don't think the commissioners were ever briefed on Able Danger. In fact, I know two of them were never briefed, because I talked to them personally. Was this an effort by both administrations to keep information from the American people about what was known before 9/11? If that's the case, that is outrageous and wrong.
The hearings are designed to get at the facts, nothing more, nothing less. There's no spin on these witnesses. They're not out to tell a story for some private gain. They're simply here to tell the story so the American people will hopefully begin to understand the information leading up to the most terrible and egregious attack in the history of our country; an attack that's very personal for me because I lost good friends.
Chief Ray Downey, the chief of all rescue for New York City Fire Department, was one of my best friends. He was overseeing the rescue at 9/11. He was killed when the first tower came down. He was the fire officer who took me through the Trade Center in 1993. He was the man who convinced me to introduce the legislation and create the Gilmore Commission, which issued three reports before 9/11. And he's dead today, in overseeing 343 firefighters who were killed trying to rescue the 70,000 or 80,000 people in the Trade Center complex.
WELDON: One of the pilots of one of the planes was a neighbor of mine, Michael Horrocks. We went to the same university. He leaves behind a widow and two kids.
He had his throat slit because he simply was in the pilot seat of one of the planes.
I am not going to sit still until we have the facts and the true information about what we knew before 9/11.
And why is there this effort to silence these people? Why have there been intimidating threats made when people simply want to tell the truth?
Why did it take so long and require me to get 248 signatures from my colleagues in Congress, including Steny Hoyer and Roy Blunt, including Jack Murtha and Bill Young, including senior leaders of both parties, to get these people to be able to testify in an open setting before the Congress?
I don't have the answers to those questions. But the American people deserve those answers.
The 9/11 Commission has hemmed and hawed. They called this a historically insignificant process.
When you listen to what these brave Americans have to say, you will, as I have believed and come to believe, that there is no -- anything historically insignificant about this.
And when Louis Freeh says it could have helped prevent 9/11, and when General Shelton said he organized this, clearly the work of the Able Danger team, the work of the LIWA, processing effort of massive amounts of open-source data was not historically insignificant.
I would also add that as recently as two weeks ago additional Able Danger material was found in files at the Pentagon. I cannot understand how we could have an exhaustive search of all efforts and then two weeks ago I would get it again through my sources -- and a general was present as the information was taken out of file cabinets -- that more Able Danger material was still being found.
So we begin the process today with the whistleblower hearing of Chris Shays. Tony Shaffer will testify. And tomorrow we continue with Dr. Cambone, the other witnesses.
This is not about me embarrassing anyone. This is not about me taking sides.
I still don't understand why Jamie Gorelick would have called me on the Friday of the first week when the New York Times broke the story to tell my chief of staff to, "Please get a hold of Congressman Weldon and tell him that I did nothing wrong."
WELDON: I've never met Jamie Gorelick, have no idea who she is and don't know why she would have called me to convey that message, the same message she conveyed personally twice to Arlen Specter's staff on the Senate Judiciary Committee in August.
But there's something fundamentally wrong here. The information has not been sorted through. The 9/11 Commission did not look at this material. The 9/11 Commission never spoke to any of the Able Danger principals during its entire time of being in operation.
And I supported the commission with my vote and my voice.
None of the people involved with Able Danger were talked to by the 9/11 Commission staff, except for the two volunteers who, on their own, went to the commission, Tony Shaffer and Scott Philpot. And they were both largely ignored or told their information wasn't worthy of further consideration.
And so the hearing begins tomorrow. No one's happy with this hearing. I made a lot of enemies, I'm sure, in the White House, in the agency network. And I know the Clinton people are not happy.
But in the end, I'm here to do a job. And I'm here with my colleagues who support this effort, on both sides of the aisle.
And I could name dozens of members of Congress, from Rush Holt and Solomon Ortiz and Silvestre Reyes on the Intelligence Committees, to Republicans like Pete Hoekstra, Frank Wolf. And Pete Hoekstra and Frank Wolf are doing their own effort, which I'm not supposed to talk about, I understand. But as the chairman of the Judiciary Oversight Committee and the Intelligence Oversight Committee, they have both taken joint efforts which are now under way that I cannot get into.
These members simply want to know what happened; not to point fingers, not to blame anyone but to understand what happened before the largest attack in our country's history.
We're also going to hear testimony tomorrow -- this will be in a closed session, unless we can convince the one witness to testify in the open -- and he has been allowed, but for his own personal career interest, he doesn't want to testify right now in open -- and he will testify that Able Danger identified a problem in Yemen two weeks before the attack on the Cole.
Two days before the attack on the Cole, they knew it was tied into the port of Aden and involved a U.S. platform. WELDON: Two days later, the Cole was hit: 17 sailors died and the career of the commander of the Cole, Kirk Lippold, who I've met with, has been put on hold because some have blamed him.
He told me in my meeting he had three options that day: to refuel the Cole at sea, to refuel the Cole at Aden in Yemen, or to refuel the Cole in another port.
If anyone would have told him there was any indication of a problem in Aden, he would not have gone there. He had no clue.
And yet we will hear testimony tomorrow that there was, in the intelligence world of Able Danger, direct clues that they were jumping up and down over: an incident that would involve a U.S. platform in the port of Aden in Yemen that happened two days after they saw this massive amount of activity occurring.
In the end, what I hope to accomplish from this is to finally get the truth and finally get the whole truth. And that will lead to all kinds of other issues involving the 9/11 Commission.
Did they arbitrarily pick 1996 to begin their investigation and why? Or should we look at what Peter Lance, who was an ABC news 20/20 journalist, who's writing a book this year that says they deliberately chose '96 not to go back and include data from the trial of the blind sheik and from the ties of Ramzi Yousef and others, where it would indicate further agency failures.
I'm not alleging that, but others will.
But why'd the 9/11 Commission not include Able Danger? Why'd they not list it as a footnote? Why'd they not want to pursue the material that Ton Shaffer offered in October of '03 when he came back from duty and offered to come in and volunteer with them?
Why was all the material that Tony Shaffer had in his office at DIA headquarters not provided to the 9/11 Commission? And who made that decision?
So there are a lot of unanswered questions here about the original operation of Able Danger, the material they collected, a whole second data-mining operation that was stood up by Special Forces Command down in Texas, in Garland, Texas, overseen by General Schoomaker, that collected identical data to what the LIWA facility had at Fort Belvoir. When Senator Specter had the Judiciary Committee hearing, you heard Erik Kleinsmith testify publicly that he was ordered to destroy the LIWA data, which he did.
What he didn't tell us was that there was a whole set of other data that we don't know whether or not it was destroyed, that was equal to some -- and, in fact, the director of that operation, who I've also talked to personally, again in the 9/11 Commission, never even knew who to interview -- Dr. Bob Johnson.
WELDON: He maintains more data than what the LIWA had at Fort Belvoir. And in spite of Erik Kleinsmith's testimony, I will tomorrow talk about continuing capabilities to data-mine the original 9/11 data, with 13 hits on Mohammed Atta.
Now some are saying, "Well, this is all about a chart. If you don't have the chart, it doesn't mean anything."
This is not about a chart.
Steve Hadley has not denied that I gave him a chart. He maintains The Washington Post spun his story and his statement when he told them he doesn't remember meeting with me -- or he remembers meeting with me and he remembers seeing a chart, but doesn't remember me giving it to him.
We've talked to Steve Hadley's staff since, and he said he did not mean to indicate that I did not give it to him. I did give it to him. And as you all saw, Congressman Dan Burton, who at the time was chairman of the House Oversight Government Operations Committee, was with me when I presented that chart to Steve Hadley in the White House.
And Dan Burton has said publicly that he even explained the linkages on the chart to Steve Hadley.
It's not about a chart.
It's about a process that identified massive amounts of information about Al Qaida before 9/11. It's about an effort that tried to transfer this information to the FBI before 9/11 and were denied. It's about why the 9/11 Commission never looked at any of this. And it's about why that data was never transferred.
And it's about why, as Louis Freeh has said, that information that may well have allowed the FBI to investigate the Brooklyn cell thoroughly, to understand Mohammed Atta and those other three terrorists, might have been able to give America a forewarning of what was going to occur.
So let the hearings begin.
QUESTION: You mentioned that Mohammed Atta's name has come up in pre-9/11 databases that are available at the Pentagon...
WELDON: I didn't say "at the Pentagon." I said there are data sets available that were a part of the data-mining operation that allegedly was destroyed that I'm still getting information on, as recently as last week.
WELDON: Well, we have 13 hits of Mohammed Atta's name, spelled two different ways. But it's not Mohammed Attif. It's Mohammed Atta, spelled with an "Mo" and an "Mu." Mohammed is spelled two different ways. Thirteen times.
QUESTION: How did it come up? Can you tell us more about it...
WELDON: I worked through what should the 9/11 Commission and the DOD should have done, to find out who was doing this work and to understand what was happening.
WELDON: And I located someone who -- and a lot of people are coming forth privately who don't want to talk publicly. And he said, "I still have access to that data," even though I was told it was destroyed.
QUESTION: Are you corroborating the report that (OFF-MIKE)
WELDON: The person who said that is not testifying.
QUESTION: But you're corroborating that that person (OFF-MIKE)
WELDON: Absolutely. You mean the story that ran in the New York Post this morning? I'm saying that that statement was given to me by an employee of one of our agencies who still has access to data sets.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) verifying that? I mean, does this verify the information or...
WELDON: Well, you're going to tell me the guy lied to me? I don't know. I'll put him under oath, the same way I want the 9/11 Commission put under oath.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) putting him under oath?
WELDON: I have not brought him in yet because, obviously, this will be very detrimental to his career if I give his name.
You know, I went to Steve Cam bone when this whole story broke and said, "I'll cooperate with DOD but I want these people -- I don't want their careers ruined." And I have had two people whose careers have been directory threatened in phone call conversations that I'm aware of, which I turned over to DIA, threatening to pull their security clearances if they talked.
Tony Shaffer you saw publicly. They destroyed the guy. They took away his security clearance. A 23-year veteran of military intelligence, a Bronze Star recipient, they take away his security clearance, and they're two days away from taking away his pay and his health care benefits for his two kids and destroying him.
And his lawyer, Mark Zaid, said -- he represents whistleblowers -- he's never seen an effort so aggressively abusive of a person than what they were putting forward against Tony Shaffer.
Because they were not going to actually dismiss him from his job. They wanted to keep him in his job unpaid, without benefits, so he couldn't talk to Congress or the media.
Gordon England, on behalf of the secretary of defense, stepped in and was the new head of DIA.
The new head of DIA and Gordon England: I can't praise them enough for their cooperation in restoring Tony Shaffer to allow this I.G. investigation to go forward, which has been under way for several months, requested by the House Armed Services Committee, and to let Tony Shaffer testify, as he will today and tomorrow.
WELDON: I think they wanted to ask me about all this information and what's out there. That's what I assume.
WELDON: I guess their angle was that the government didn't do all that it could have done to prevent 9/11, I assume. I don't know. You'll have to talk to the lawyer. His name is McMahon, Ed McMahon.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) I just want to be really clear and precise on this, OK? Did that happen in replication...
WELDON: We've been told...
QUESTION: ... a post-9/11 replication of what might have happened or could have happened pre-9/11? Or do you have concrete evidence that the 13 hits actually happened pre-9/11?
WELDON: We have an informant that came to us who is a current employee, who said he has access to data sets that were developed before 9/11.
He actually can identify when the data was collected, some after, post-9/11, other pre-9/11. And he made the differentiation for us.
I said I only want to see what you had pre-9/11, not post-9/11.
I have a chart that's post-9/11, you've all seen it. I said I want to know what hits you had pre-9/11. He identified 13 hits, eight with either "Mo" or "Mu," and five with the other. But they were all Mohammed Atta.
QUESTION: There have also been reports that as many as three other hijackers were identified by Able Danger. You have this confirmation only regarding Atta. Do you have it regarding any other...
WELDON: We did ask them to run other names. Did we get information on that?
STAFF: We haven't gotten that yet.
WELDON: Haven't gotten that yet.
I've actually asked a person to recreate the chart for me using the hits that have been identified, and I hope to have -- I hope; I'm optimistic but I'm also pessimistic, because this guy is risking -- you can imagine what we're doing here. I've seen what they do and they're -- neither side wants this to come out.
QUESTION: I'm still confused. You say "running." Are they running new open data-mining...
WELDON: There's been data collected...
QUESTION: ... or are they just finding preexisting data that...
WELDON: Yes. Data that was pre-existing, that was a part of what was collected in the LIWA operation.
WELDON: You see, there were two separate data-mining operations. There was the LIWA operation at Fort Belvoir. When LIWA shut down because the previous administration was partly embarrassed over an analysis they had done of Chinese proliferation.
I was very much involved in looking at that. I went into great detail with it at the time, as the chairman of the Defense Research Committee.
General Schoomaker didn't want to lose the capability. So he established a whole separate data-mining operation with his own money, working under the Raytheon Corporation's management in Garland, Texas.
That operation was run by the individual I mentioned a few moments ago. They did a completely separate data-mining analysis of Al Qaida. So you actually had two separate data sets.
Now what we heard in the Senate hearing was the Kleinsmith was ordered to destroy the LIWA data at Fort Belvoir, which I assume he did as much as he could.
But what I've since learned is there was another whole complete set of data that we just don't know the whereabouts of that SOCOM had at the Raytheon facility at Garland that was eventually transferred back to SOCOM's headquarters.
I don't know the status of that data. That'll be a question that I'll be asking. What I'm also saying, in addition to that, is there are people within our intelligence agency structures who have access to some of that data that was collected that we were told had to be destroyed within three months.
And as recently as the last couple of weeks, they have run data hits looking at my request for the name Mohammed Atta. And they have come up with 13 hits using pre-9/11 data that was collected through the LIWA data-mining model that was available and collected prior to 9/11 ever occurring.
WELDON: No, I don't have that information now.
QUESTION: On the 13 hits, I want to make sure I understand -- you provided the name Mohammed Atta and said: Search the pre-9/11 database and see how many times, if at all, this name comes up? WELDON: I guess I should say that there were people involved with Able Danger who knew about it and who are still working for our federal agencies. And they obviously are watching this story.
WELDON: And I guess he came to us, volunteered. I didn't find him out. He came to us and said "I still have access to this data. I was going through my old files, and I can get into it."
And I said, "Will you do me a favor? Will you get into that pre- 9/11 data? Can you tell when it was put in?
He said, "Yes."
"And see, pre-9/11 how many times the name Mohammed Atta comes up," because we've heard people saying -- I think Steve Cambone tomorrow is going to say it wasn't Mohammed Atta, it was Mohammed Attif, which is what he told me. Well, I'm telling you, this is not Mohammed Attif. This is Mohammed Atta. And it came up 13 times, spelled two different ways -- not Atta spelled two different ways; Mohammed spelled two different ways.
WELDON: If you listen to Tony Shaffer's testimony tomorrow, he will tell you that the reason they wanted to transfer the pre-9/11 data -- and you're right, they didn't know who Mohammed Atta was back then -- but they say connections to a Brooklyn cell that indicated to them that they were up to no good and they were planning something. They didn't know what it was.
Now, if you talk to Peter Lance, he'll tell you there was evidence the Justice Department had that came out in the trial of the blind sheik about a plot that was hatched in the Philippines specifically against the Trade Center towers. But that's a separate issue.
The fact is that the Able Danger team felt that this information about the Brooklyn cell and four people was significant enough to transfer -- four people among others. They were not just the only four, there were others -- to the FBI so they could follow up and look specifically at what this cell was doing.
Now you're right, they didn't know what they were going to do. There was no at that time plan to attack the Trade Center. But the point is that they had these names identified as potential problems and people that were in this country that needed to be looked at. And they were prohibited from transferring that data to the FBI for their appropriate follow up.
I don't know where it would have gone. All I can tell you is what Louie Freeh said. You saw Louie Freeh respond and say that's the kind of information -- he mentioned Able Danger -- that may well have allowed the FBI to stop the hijackings from ever occurring.
That's not me saying that; that's not Scott Philpot; that's not Tony Shaffer. That's Louie Freeh.
WELDON: Just the name. No.
WELDON: Well, they would have linked in, because that's part of what this is, link analysis. They would have done the massive data- mining runs to prove the linkages.
WELDON: And what you're hearing is the 9/11 commission, everyone else is saying, they never identified Mohammed Atta before 9/11. He wasn't in the country and he was under a different name.
Well, I'm telling you now that we now have a new person that we've just, in the past three weeks, has come forward and came with this information. And we asked that person to unofficially, off the record, do data runs for us with pre-9/11 data -- that was the same data in the LIWA facility.
And he came up with 13 hits of Mohammed Atta's name.
Now, I don't know what the context is.
QUESTION: So how do you know it's the real Mohammed Atta?
WELDON: I don't. All I can tell you: It's spelled the same way. It could be some other Mohammed Atta.
QUESTION: You haven't seen this information; you're just relying on somebody else's say-so...
WELDON: Well, this whole story is relying basically on career military intelligence officers. It's not me. I'm not the firsthand witness to this.
QUESTION: This person hasn't come forward publicly...
WELDON: And he's probably not going to come forward publicly, because he's seen what's happened to Tony Shaffer and others.
And I'll be honest with you, when the American media allows a guy like Tony Shaffer to have his career destroyed and doesn't issue a peep, what do you think they're going to do?
Was anybody defending Tony Shaffer? No. You were dismissing him. The mainstream media dismissed Tony Shaffer as a kook.
Now all of a sudden, as the I.G. investigation has gone forward -- and I'm not going to tell you where it's going; you'll find out for yourself -- we find out that Tony Shaffer was harassed, that there are people within DIA and others who didn't want him to talk.
We did not do our job here in getting to the bottom of what occurred. These people -- and I just named you six of them -- there are another dozen people that will testify under oath, that I've talked to.
They simply want the truth to come out. That's all they ask for -- and have the 9/11 commission spin them as well.
You know, they didn't have a truck. It has nothing to do with the chart. It has to do with the massive amounts of data that pointed to the Brooklyn cell and these individuals who would become our terrorists that the military intelligence felt so strongly about that they wanted the FBI to have that and to go in and investigate -- this is open-source data -- and they were denied.
And so the American people have a right to know: Why were they denied the transfer of that data? And then on top of that, why did the 9/11 commission not investigate that?
Now, they can tell you all they want. Lee Hamilton was a friend of mine.
WELDON: And Tom Kean will say: We investigated it. They didn't investigate it. They did not talk to any of the Able Danger principals except for Lieutenant Colonel Shaffer and Scott Philpot.
And the two of them, they only talked to because they went to the commission to speak. The commission didn't go to them. And, even thought Tony Shaffer went to them in October of '03 and now, Phil Zelikow is saying, he never met with him -- well, tomorrow, we're going to present physical evidence that he did meet with him.
Why didn't they follow up? Why didn't they pursue Tony Shaffer? He could have turned them on to Scott Philpot. He could have turned them on to the LIWA, to the information dominance center at Raytheon in Texas.
Why did they not go through all of that? Why did they ignore the largest-ever assemblage of data on Al Qaida that this country has ever gotten?
Until July of '04 -- and Scott Philpot had not talked to Tony Shaffer -- Scott Philpot, on his own, comes back from active duty -- he was deployed on one of our ships -- and goes to General Schoomaker and says, General: I have additional information from Able Danger which, you know, I headed for you.
And he said: Should I go talk to them? And Schoomaker says: Yes, go talk to the commission.
And so, in October of '04, Scott Philpot tells the commission he wants to brief them. The debriefing is done by a guy named Dietrich Snell, who some say should have been a witness to the commission and not a staff member.
Dietrich Snell, who was involved in the blind sheet trial and all the activities up in New York from the first World Trade Center attack, decided the story wasn't worthy enough to brief the commissioners and told Scott Philpot, what do you want me to do with this now? We go to print in two weeks.
And I can't believe that that's what you would say. Who was it that told me that they were a trial lawyer? I guess it was Louis Freeh or who was it that said, when they were a lawyer, if they had information two weeks before a trial, they'd postpone the trial date?
Instead, the 9/11 Commission said: We're not going to pursue this. And the representative for the commission, when they changed their story three times the first week of August, when the New York Times wrote the story, three straight days.
On Tuesday, the response from the 9/11 Commission was, we knew about Able Danger, but they never told us about Atta. Now, I had to meet with Tony Shaffer, the New York Times and Fox News. And the response by the 9/11 Commission on the second day was, well, we did meet, we did get briefed and they did mention Mohammed Atta.
On the third day, when I had them meet with Philpot and Tony Shaffer, they were embarrassed. For the third straight day, they said, well, we determined that what they had to say was historically insignificant.
They changed their story three times.
WELDON: Now, I'm not trying to take away from all the other work the 9/11 Commission did. There are a lot of good recommendations that I fully support. In fact, I got a letter of praise from them for my work on interoperable communication systems.
What's interesting is I wrote them a letter in the second week of August asking for them to respond to my concerns. I have yet to receive a response, even though Kean and Hamilton took the time to send me a congratulatory letter for my work on interoperable communications.
I don't know what's going on here. I wish I had the answers. I'm not a prosecutor. I am a guy that's going to ask questions, because my ultimate responsibility as the vice chairman of Armed Services and Homeland Security is to understand how to protect against the next threat, and I have a personal stake here.
I lost some good friends; New York firefighters I'm very close to. In fact, many of the firefighters I knew. Republican Convention was held in New York just a year or so ago. The first day I was up there, I went with the New York City Fire Department for the entire day and spent two hours in Engine 54 Ladder 4, midtown Manhattan, riding with them, because that's where Angelini, father and Angelini sons were killed when all 15 firefighters from that station were wiped out when the first tower came down.
Many of you know I represent all the firefighters in America. They want to know the truth. I want to know the truth. I'm convinced none of us know the truth right now, at least as far as what Able Danger did and the potential impact that information could have had on the run-up to 9/11.
WELDON: Not lives, careers.
Intimidations -- yesterday -- yesterday, Lieutenant Colonel Shaffer is scheduled to appear. He's at DIA (inaudible) and a DIA employee goes up to him and intimidates him personally.
Am I right or wrong? I haven't talked to Tony yet.
WELDON: And he'll say that today -- yesterday.
So am I aware of threats? Yes.
And why? Is this Bush doing this? No, I don't think it's Bush. I think it's career underlings that were holdovers from the previous administration who are fearful they're going to be embarrassed when the story is told.
They're more concerned about their careers than the safety of the country. They're more concerned with their careers and their little fiefdoms than they are about what really happened in the run-up to 9/11.
I mean, Richard Nixon covered up a third-rate burglary and had to resign from office. What's going on here?
WELDON: The 9/11 Commission -- it's explanations are anywhere near valid.
And they can point to me and say that this is something that I want. It's not about me. I'm just telling the -- I'm the messenger for these people that have confided in me. And the list keeps growing, as I said. Just a month ago, we had a another guy call us who had just retired from the intelligence service.
You talked to him, right?
WELDON: Another guy signed an affidavit saying, "Not only did I know that we identified Mohammed Atta, I saw the photo of him."
I mean, how many more people are there? And why don't people want this information? What are we, afraid to embarrass people because it happened in the year following the change over of two governments.
I don't want to embarrass President Bush; I'm a Republican. But this is bigger than a president, it's bigger than the administration. It'd be like denying what happened in the run-up to Pearl Harbor.
The American people deserve the truth. That's why 248 of my colleagues signed the letter.
And, believe me, I didn't want to do this to cause pain for anyone, but the American people deserve to know what happened. The 9/11 Commission did not look at this at all.
I talked to every witness in the Able Danger program and I will emphatically say, the 9/11 Commission staff talked to none of them except Tony Shaffer, who went to them, and Scott Philpot, who went to them. They talked to none of the other principals. They didn't talk to Eric Kleinsmith. They didn't talk to J.D. Smith. They didn't talk to Eileen Pricer. They didn't talk to the FBI person who arranged the meetings. They didn't talk to Dr. Bob Johnson. They didn't talk to any of them. They didn't even know they existed.
How can they say they investigated this? And how can they say it was historically insignificant when they didn't even look at it?
Now, I understand that happened. It was a staff decision made. The commissioners were never aware of it, and they got caught after the book was out. So what were the commissioners going to do? They're going to defend the staff based on staff summaries to them. Well, that's not acceptable.
And now when Dr. Zelikow comes out and says he did not even meet with Tony, then under oath I will have Tony stand up and take the oath, and then he'll present physical evidence of the meeting.
So somebody's distorting here. Somebody's not telling the truth.
Why did Jamie Gorelick call my office and say she did nothing wrong? Why did she call Specter's office twice and say the same thing? I don't even know the woman. She did that the first week the story broke. So she can't say it was because of blogging activity.
WELDON: She did that the first week the story broke. So she can't say it was because of blogging activity.
WELDON: The story ran three days in the New York Times, she calls my office on the fourth day, says, "You got to tell Congressman Weldon. Extremely important. I did nothing wrong."
Well, who accused her of doing anything wrong?
And what about Dietrich Snell? Should he have been a witness, as opposed to a staffer on the 9/11 Commission? And who was he working for? Was he working for Jamie Gorelick? I don't know the answer to that.
And why did the 9/11 Commission start only in '96 and go forward? Why did they arbitrarily pick that date? Why didn't they want to look evidence that was obtained from conversations between a criminal in New York by the name of Scarpa and conversations he had with a blind sheik while he was awaiting trial? Those are all questions Peter Lance is looking at.
And I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I can tell you what I see in terms of the information that I wanted from the 9/11 Commission is not what we got. And I support almost every other recommendation they've made -- on interoperable communications, on realigning the Homeland Security agency.
You know, I was the one that authored the language to create the Gilmore commission, which issued three reports before 9/11.
So, you know, I'm not somebody taking a shot at them. I'm saying in this area, for whatever reason, they didn't do their job.
QUESTION: Why is the hearing tomorrow before a subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee (OFF-MIKE)?
WELDON: That's a good question. I didn't make that call. I'm happy we're having hearings. That was the chairman's choice.
QUESTION: The chairman of the full committee?
WELDON: I don't know whether...
WELDON: I don't whether Defense Department has weighed in or not. I have no idea. I'll be there, though.
QUESTION: In your mind, does this lower the significance of the hearing?
WELDON: Not to me, it doesn't. People who know me know that that's not going to -- the hearing will be the hearing. And this is hopefully going up other hearings.
There's too many unanswered questions here just to brush this aside, as the mainstream media has done, to brush this aside and said, "Oh, well, it's a lot of hoopla about nothing." If I thought that, I wouldn't have spent nine months on my own with one staffer and a part- timer, gone through interviewing all these people, with more and more people coming in.
And what really bothers me is, these people who want to testify closed tomorrow, they're fearful. They're actually scared. You've talked to them. They were very scared about their careers and about what can happen to them.
WELDON: Is that what we want in this country? People to be fearful of telling the truth? We don't want to create hype or hoopla or connect things that aren't there. We simply want to know, "What happened; what did you know; when did you know it; what did you do with it?", so we can learn from that. That has not been the case with this, at all.
WELDON: I got a letter signed by 248 members of Congress, and I have just been on their back continuously. They're not happy. I mean, I have evidence. I mean, two reporters told me that they were actually told by one of the Pentagon press people, they wanted to know when this was going to go away.
And it's not about going away. It's about just getting the facts.
I'm convinced there are bureaucrats within agencies who have been there, who are fearful when this comes out they are going to be embarrassed.
Is that what we have to worry about, embarrassment? I mean, it's not about embarrassment. It's about understanding so we can learn. Everybody made mistakes. Congress made mistakes before 9/11.
I'm willing to admit that. I should have pushed harder on the CIA to put the data fusion center together, and I didn't. And I blame myself for that.
But I don't know why there's been such an aggressive effort, except for that, to shut it down. People just don't want this story to be told. And I don't think it's about classified capabilities.
I've been on the Armed Service Committee 20 years. I would never do anything to jeopardize our national security. If somebody in the administration came to me and said, "Curt, you're pushing in the area that's going to jeopardize our methods and operations," I would have said, "OK, I'll stop." Nobody's done that.
This is not about methods and procedures. We're not going to reveal any information publicly.
It's about what we knew, when we knew it, open-source information, and what could have been done. And the story needs to be told, because it actually is a good news story. Our military intelligence efforts, using data obtained overseas, linked into Mohammed Atta and the Brooklyn cell and others, actually knew in the five cells they identified -- one was in Yemen; one was in Hamburg, Germany; one was at Brooklyn; one was -- was one in Africa?
WELDON: There were two others. Nairobi, and there was a fifth one.
They did great work. And all they wanted to do was transfer the U.S.-based information to the FBI.
We needed to know why. Was it because of the Gorelick memo firewall? Is that why? And could that have helped us?
I don't know the answer to that, but I know what Louis Freeh said publicly two months ago. He said it could have been very significant.
And when the 9/11 commission says all this was historically insignificant, and Louis Freeh says that, and then you have General Shelton come out publicly in an interview in the San Francisco paper and say, "I authored Able Danger. I was the one that requested it and I asked Schoomaker to run it with 20 people" -- to me, that's not historically insignificant. That needs to be looked at.
QUESTION: Congressman, you've said that you've been under pressure because of your interest in this issue and you're pushing it. Can you talk a little bit about that pressure -- from whom, what kind of pressure?
QUESTION: White House, Pentagon?
WELDON: Just -- I'm doing what I have to do. I don't want to talk about that.
QUESTION: (inaudible) why did it decide not to use this...
WELDON: Because I don't want what I did misconstrued by Moussaoui's defense lawyers. I think Moussaoui's a thug. I think he deserves to be given the harshest punishment that our country can afford.
I don't have any tangible information to help them understand what Moussaoui's role was and, therefore, I just don't want to be -- if they were going to use me, I don't want to be used.
My information is for the benefit of future attacks against us and our allies. And that's the context I want it used in. And I just made my own personal determination that it's best I not appear. And since I have that ability under the House counsel to make that, I've asked them to so instruct the speaker that I will not respond to the subpoena.
WELDON: They told us two weeks ago, and the subpoena actually came a week ago.
WELDON: I think they subpoenaed others, too, in the Able Danger story.
So thank you all.