Able Danger Blog


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Monday, January 15, 2007

My rebuttal to the SSCI review

Last Tuesday, I posted a rebuttal to the SSCI review of Able Danger which I obtained from sources in the House of Representatives. Apparently, someone is still reading Able Danger Blog because two days later the full SSCI report showed up at FAS.org:

The Senate Intelligence Committee concluded its review of the ABLE DANGER program with a letter report (pdf) finding that, contrary to claims advanced by former Rep. Curt Weldon and others, the program "never produced a chart with Mohammed Atta's photograph or name prior to the 9/11 attacks."


Well, here is my take on the SSCI "review" of Able Danger.

To start with they admit on page two they had already concluded the Able Danger story was dubious before they even talked to all of the witnesses:

In September 2005, Committee staff advised Committee Members during a briefing about this inquiry that, based on initial witness interviews and document reviews, staff believed the individuals who claimed to see Mohammed Atta's picture on an Able Danger chart prior to September 11, 2001, were mistaken. Following that brief, Committee staff conducted additional interviews and document reviews. Committtee staff interviewed numerous individuals who had worked on the Able Danger program or had knowledge of the issues surrounding its activities, including each of the individuals who claimed to have seen Mohammed Atta's name and picture on an Able Danger chart produced prior to 9/11.


Of course, that last sentence is directly contradicted by both the rebuttal I posted earlier and the DODIG report the SSCI review claims to agree with:

Dear Colleague,

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence staff has completed its review of the Department of Defense (DOD) program known as "Able Danger" and we wanted to appraise you of the findings. The results of this staff review were confirmed in all respects by the DOD Inspector General investigation of the Able Danger program (Case Number H05L9790521) released on September 20, 2006.


From page three of the SSCI review:

Committee staff found that all Able Danger charts containing photographs were produced by a single defense contractor, using open source information. These charts were produced for training purposes to show link analysis of known al-Qa'ida members. The former president of the defense contractor and the former employee who produced the charts with the photographs of al-Qa'ida associates were emphatic that no charts produced by the defense contractor included the name or photograph of Mohammed Atta, or any of the other 9/11 hijackers, prior to the 9/11 attacks.


The only problem is the DOD IG identified not one but two former Orion employees who produced charts of Al Qaeda associates with photos, Jay L Boesen and James D Smith. While Boesen denies producing such a chart, Smith not only claims to have produced it, but actually kept a copy on his wall and looked at it every day for two years:

Mr. XXXXXX testified that from October 2002 until August 2004 he prominently displayed the chart containing Mohammed Atta's picture while he was employed by Beta Analytics in Maryland. He testified that he placed the chart on the wall directly across from his desk and stated, "I stared at that everyday." Mr. XXXXXX testified that he worked with four other people in the office area, but of those four coworkers, "Some of them recall the chart, but don't specifically recall Atta." Mr. XXXXXX added that on 30 to 40 different occasions, when people came to his office and asked about the chart he would "go right to the picture [of Mohammed Atta] and say there, there is that asshole right there."


Furthermore, discussing Dr. Preisser on page four, the SSCI states:

Likewise, when interviewed by Committee staff, she said that at the time of the Hadley meeting, she did not have any pre-9/11 Able Danger charts in her possession.


Compare this to the DOD IG report:

She recalled that one chart was produced by Orion and allegedly contained a photograph of Mohammed Atta. However, she denied that this was the chart at Figure 1. The other chart was a "parentage" or "dot" chart that was produced by LIWA. Dr. XXXXXX described the parentage chart as not having any photographs but, rather containing names of entities such as people or companies designated by small circles, or "dots," on the chart (similar to the propeller chart at Figure 3). Both charts were provided to CAPT XXXXXX in order to demonstrate link analysis. Dr. XXXXXX testified that any link analysis chart with photographs was produced by Orion because LIWA did not have that capability to produce such charts.


The SSCI makes it sound like she has no recollection of any Atta charts despite the fact they know full well this is not the case! Last but not least, the SSCI claims:

Committee staff found no evidence to support the Lieutenant Colonel's claims. Furthermore, Committee staff found no evidence that the Able Danger program produced any actionable intelligence or any information which would have warranted sharing with the FBI.


You know, it's interesting how both the DODIG and SSCI go to great lengths to avoid discussing the attack on the USS Cole, but as Rory O'Connor has previously reported:

After the attack on the USS Cole, was there any attempt to use the information Able Danger had based its prediction on - either to investigate the attack, or to determine how they had been so accurate - in order to replicate their efforts?

Yes - there was an “after action” forensic investigation and briefing of the Able Danger data, which is still extant but highly classified.


That sure sounds like "actionable intelligence" worth sharing with the FBI to me! Funny how the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence did not bother to mention it.