Able Danger Blog

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Weldon and Shaffer speak at Norristown event

No, it was not a political fundraiser. It was an event held for the local library.

Keith Phucas at the Norristown Times Herald:

There are plenty of books and lots of elbow room at Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library, but some departments need to be renovated, according to library officials. On Thursday, library staff held its Third Annual Cocktail Party and showed off a master plan for redesigning parts of the interior....

Congressman Curt Weldon, R-7th Dist., who is running for re-election in the Seventh District this year, was guest speaker at the event.

His special guest was Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, the decorated Army Reserve officer who went public a year ago with the "Able Danger" program that identified hijacker Mohamed Atta, and other al-Qaida terrorists, more than a year before the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Times Herald broke the "Able Danger" story on June 19, 2005, after interviewing Shaffer in Weldon's U.S. House office.

Shaffer was blackballed by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), his employer, after speaking publicly about the secret program in August.

Shaffer and defense contractor, James D. Smith, who also worked on the data mining effort, testified in February that the program linked Atta to a terrorist cell centered at a Brooklyn mosque. The "Able Danger" team also identified four other terrorist cells in other countries.

"They knew what (the terrorists) were planning would be dangerous to America," Weldon said.

However, the Pentagon program was shut down in April 2000, frustrating the project team.

Shaffer said Pentagon bureaucrats were still hiding the reasons why "Able Danger" was scrubbed. He said Defense Department officials should be held to the same standards as corporate executives at Enron.

"If Enron can be held accountable, then why can't Pentagon officials?" He asked.

Last summer, Weldon began complaining publicly that the cutting-edge project to identify al-Qaida was ignored by the 9/11 Commission and left out of the commission's 2004 report. The Congressman also denounced the DIA for intimidating Shaffer and revoking his security clearance.

Weldon unfurled a huge chart with hundreds of al-Qaida members - some pictured, others represented as stick figures - that populated terror cells globally.

"If that doesn't scare you, I don't know what will," Weldon said.

The House member signed copies of his book, "Countdown to Terror," which details intelligence tips he received from an Iranian expatriate "Ali" in Paris, France.

According to the book, Ali alerted authorities to a Pakistani group in Canada plotting to fly a plane into New Hampshire's Seabrook nuclear power plant in 2004, warned about Iran's advanced nuclear program, and in his final fax to Weldon days before Iran's election, "Ali" predicted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would become the country's president.

"Countdown to Terror" is highly critical of the CIA for discounting the Iranian intelligence source. Weldon said he wrote the book to inform the public about the shortcomings of U.S. intelligence.

"The whole effect is to get our intelligence service back on track to protect the American people," he said.

Shaffer repeated his claim that had "Able Danger" been allowed to continue, it could have disrupted the Sept. 11 attacks.

"We had a shot to take those guys out before 9/11," he said. "We did (have a chance)."