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Sunday, May 21, 2006

10,000 Able Danger documents located

Scott Malone of NavySeals.com and Christopher Law of PublicEdCenter.org have been following the Able Danger story from the beginning. Back in November, Chris submitted a FOIA request for all documents and emails that could be located related to Able Danger. He was routed from the Pentagon to SOCOM, back to the Pentagon, asked to resubmit his request, then told he had submitted duplicate requests. Last week, his request was finally denied. DOD refused to turn over a single document, but admitted there were at least 9,500 pages of data responsive to his request! Considering that DOD has maintained all along they have not been able to find much material on Able Danger, and has been slow to respond to requests for documents on Able Danger from both the Congress and the 9/11 Commission, this is quite a surprise.

You can download the original request and administrative responses here.

You can also download the denial he received with the admission the documents exist.

Scott Malone has written an article, describing the whole ordeal. He gave me permission to post it in its entirety here at Able Danger Blog. Thanks to both Chris and Scott for their continued work on this effort:

10,000 “DESTROYED” ABLE DANGER DOCUMENTS STILL CLASSIFIED

Motion Filed by Secret Team Members Requests Their Lawyers Be “Cleared”

By W. Scott Malone, Senior Editor NavySEALs.com

NavySEALs.com / MediaChannel.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 21) – In two possibly related developments in the past week, the Pentagon denied access to almost 10,000 pages of classified documents relating to a top-secret intelligence program senior officials have three times previously testified were destroyed or unable to be located. And the attorneys for the secret team members who disclosed the existence of the data-mining counter-terrorism program, called ABLE DANGER, have argued in a new court filing that they be “cleared” to review such files.

The Defense Department’s Inspector General’s office (DoD-OIG) and the joint Special Operations Command (SOCOM) have amassed some 9,500 pages of documents on a program that senior DoD and 9/11 Commission officials have stated repeatedly were destroyed or can no longer be located.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, “The Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, has determined that approximately 9,500 pages of these collected documents are potentially responsive to your FOIA request.”

The still ongoing Inspector General’s Office investigation was cited as the primary reason for exempting the documents from public release. Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, Dr. Stephen Cambone, had promised congressmen last February that the OIG report would be completed by May. It has not been released. The letter of denial, which came from Cambone’s office, was dated the 8th of May.

National Security News Service reporter Christopher Law, who filed the request last November, said that he was somewhat surprised at the denial. “It wasn’t exactly what I asked for.” He had requested only the September, 2005 “Defense Department’s Intelligence Oversight Report” on ABLE DANGER, and any backup documents.

“I certainly didn’t expect them to have 9,500 pages of files which they had stated officially had been destroyed,” Law said Sunday. “We plan to appeal the denial,” Law said, along will keeping their original FOIA request open and “concurrent.”

Early last February, “a file cabinet full” of additional suspected ABLE DANGER records were seized by the Commanding General of the US Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) during a surprise Friday afternoon visit to the classified intelligence section of the information warfare center at Ft. Belvoir in Virginia, according to Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA), whose persistent investigation of the ABLE DANGER case has apparently prompted the Pentagon to get serious in their record searches.

“The data that was discovered at INSCOM,” Thomas Gandy of Army Intelligence later told Rep. Weldon, “was the data that Congress had subpoenaed. They were searching for Able Danger data,” but “it was reported to me they did not come up with any.”

It could not be determined last week whether any of the seized INSCOM records were part of the withheld 9,500 pages. Additional reasons cited in the Pentagon denial included that some of the documents were “properly classified” pursuant to a Clinton-era Executive Order which covers US military weapons or systems; intelligence sources and methods, and the privacy rights of individuals and “third parties.”

In the District federal court in Washington, the attorneys for former ABLE DANGER team members Army Reserve Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer filed an “opposition” motion to a Department of Justice motion to dismiss their suit to reinstate his wrongfully-dismissed security clearances, partially on the grounds that he has been denied the full services of counsel because the Pentagon has so far refused to grant his attorneys high enough security clearances.

“The plaintiffs,” the filing reads, referring to Lt. Col. Shaffer and civilian programmer J.D. Smith, “filed this action to permit their attorneys to be provided at least verbal access to allegedly classified information necessary for protecting their legal interests,” before closed-door, classified congressional hearings, and during the ongoing Inspector General’s investigation.

”It is about the need for effective and appropriate legal representation and the scope of what that entails,” the filing, dated May 12, reads.

“ABLE DANGER identified the September 11, 2001 attack leader Mohamed Atta, and three of the 9/11 plot’s 19 hijackers, as possible members of an al Qaeda cell linked to the 1993 World Trade Center Attacks or its participants,” over a year before the September 11th attacks. When Lt. Col. Shaffer revealed to Rep. Weldon last summer that the program had actually identified four of the 9/11 terrorists, Rep. Weldon took to the House floor to announce his own investigation.

According to their new filing: “Everything changed when the news of ABLE DANGER became publicly known in August 2005. The [Defense Intelligence Agency’s] retaliation and vendetta increased in intensity. Just days 5 before Shaffer was to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee the following month, DIA revoked his clearance. Upon information and belief, this was a deliberate action undertaken by the defendants to attempt to further discredit Shaffer’s credibility and directly tied to ABLE DANGER.”

Lt. Col. Shaffer said Sunday that he could not comment on either the newly disclosed existence of the 9,500 pages of ABLE DANGER documents, or even his own attorneys’ court filings, without explicit clearance from his employers at the DIA. “Sorry, I just can’t,” he said. J.D. Smith could not be reached for comment.

"The DIA's actions to prevent my access to relevant materials that are necessary to properly and effectively legally represent Tony Schaffer are inconsistent with the long-standing relationship I've had with DIA,” said Mark S. Zaid, of Krieger & Zaid, who is representing Schaffer. “Serious questions abound as to why that is, and many of them involve Able Danger," Zaid said Sunday.

The FOIA request letters, and the new court filing, were posted Sunday on the AbleDangerBlog.com [http://www.abledangerblog.com/] website, in conjunction with efforts by NavySEALs.com [http://www.navyseals.com/community/main.cfm]; MediaChannel.org [http://www.mediachannel.org/]; and the National Security News Service [http://www.storiesthatmatter.org/] to secure the release all pre-9/11 US terrorist warning intelligence records.

As part of these efforts, last week NavySEALs.com and MediaChannel.org published an exclusive interview with former New York Times reporter Judith Miller. Miller described how her investigation of the Al-Qaeda attack on the USS Cole in October, 2000, had led her to an even more serious top-secret NSA Al-Qaeda intercept warning to the top National Security officials at the White House during the July 4th weekend of 2001, two months before the tragic September 11th attacks. Those intelligence warnings had been presaged similarly in the two weeks before the attack on the Cole by the ABLE DANGER program.

“Since DoD and other agencies have been known to re-classify and/or classify previously open source documents and testimony,” said the National Security News Service’s Law, “we are requesting some copies from their declassified file to make it procedurally more difficult to re-classify them somewhere down the road.”

And Rep. Weldon has announced that he plans to continue his investigation in to whether official claims that the top-secret spying unit’s data was destroyed, were false. Rep. Weldon has said repeatedly since his only official hearing last February that “knows to a certainty” that voluminous ABLE DANGER files and data still exist, and that more military intelligence officers, recently retired, have come forward with further confirming information in recent weeks.