Able Danger Blog

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Nothing but office space?

The allegations do not specifically address Able Danger, or even pre-9/11 intelligence, but remember this quote from Ron Suskind while you read the new allegations of criminal conduct by the Pentagon during the investigation of 9/11:

The vast federal government, under stress, does not work quite so efficiently as a single mind. It has protective urges, competing agendas, rules for who does what and who represents actions to the citizenry, the sovereign, the bosses; it accomplishes a great deal, yes, but is defined often by its dysfunctions. And that means it lies and dissembles, hides what it can, and sometimes acts out of self-preservation, because without your trust it is nothing but office space.

From the Washington Post, via Regime of Terror Blog:

Some staff members and commissioners of the Sept. 11 panel concluded that the Pentagon's initial story of how it reacted to the 2001 terrorist attacks may have been part of a deliberate effort to mislead the commission and the public rather than a reflection of the fog of events on that day, according to sources involved in the debate.

Suspicion of wrongdoing ran so deep that the 10-member commission, in a secret meeting at the end of its tenure in summer 2004, debated referring the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation, according to several commission sources. Staff members and some commissioners thought that e-mails and other evidence provided enough probable cause to believe that military and aviation officials violated the law by making false statements to Congress and to the commission, hoping to hide the bungled response to the hijackings, these sources said.

In the end, the panel agreed to a compromise, turning over the allegations to the inspectors general for the Defense and Transportation departments, who can make criminal referrals if they believe they are warranted, officials said.

"We to this day don't know why NORAD [the North American Aerospace Command] told us what they told us," said Thomas H. Kean, the former New Jersey Republican governor who led the commission. "It was just so far from the truth. . . . It's one of those loose ends that never got tied."

You can read the transcripts for yourself. From Captain Ed:

The commission complained early about the spin coming from the Department of Defense and from aviation officials in reconstructing the events of the day. DoD officials blamed sketchy records of the day's events for the confusion on timing. For instance, testimony indicated that the Air Force had tracked United 93 and would have shot the plane down had it approached Washington, but tapes subpoenaed by the Commission later revealed that the military had no idea about United 93 until it had crashed.

The tapes told a much different story than the witnesses, and the Commission was understandably upset that these witnesses gave them demonstrably false information two years or more after the events in question. The DoD could have reviewed the tapes themselves and figured out the facts. Commissioners felt that it approached perjury and wanted to have them prosecuted after they finallly got the tapes through the hostile manuever of subpoenas.

In the end, they allowed the DoD and DoT inspectors general to review the matter. Reports from both are expected shortly as to whether the testimony given was knowingly false. If so, the DoJ should consider prosecution.

However, we should also keep in mind the balls-up that the Commission became. While their recreation of the day's events was excellent work, the rest of their effort produced nothing but the bureaucratic spin of which they accuse the DoD. The inclusion on Jamie Gorelick even after her role promoting the extralegal separation of law enforcement and intelligence units became clear skewed the panel's point of view. She should have been a witness, not a panel member, as she was too much of a participant in the activities that led to the intelligence failures of 9/11.

The Commission also failed to follow up on important information in their haste to blame 9/11 on intelligence operations. They completely missed the ABLE DANGER program that had identified Mohammed Atta and his core of operatives as potential terrorists, and that was not because of DoD intransigence. Multiple members of that team tried to get their interest, and the panel refused to follow up on the leads. Even after these people went public with the information, panel members like Thomas Kean -- quoted heavily in this story -- mocked them and discounted their honor.

UPDATE: Captain Ed has new developments. From the New York Times:

The Defense Department’s watchdog agency said Friday that it had no evidence that senior Pentagon commanders intentionally provided false testimony to the Sept. 11 commission about the military’s actions on the morning of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The agency, the Pentagon’s office of inspector general, said the Defense Department’s initial inaccurate accounts could be attributed largely to poor record-keeping.

The Pentagon initially suggested that the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the military’s domestic air-defense operation, had reacted quickly to reports of the hijackings and had been prepared to intercept and possibly shoot down one of the hijacked planes.

The Sept. 11 commission, which uncovered the inconsistencies in the Pentagon’s account, made a formal request in July 2004 for the inspector general to investigate why senior military officials who testified to the commission had made so many inaccurate statements.