Able Danger Blog

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

From the archives

Look what the Google dragged in. I may have to go watch that grainy Heritage speech again now:

Congressional Record: May 21, 2002 (House)
Page H2820-H2834

In fact, Mr. Speaker, I firmly believe that if we would have implemented the NOAH, which John Hamre offered to pay for with DOD dollars, back when we first recommended it, I am convinced we could have stopped or known about and prevented September 11 from ever happening.

Let me give an example. CIA information on terrorism, combined with what the FBI knew about training pilots and open-source information on remarks by al Qaeda, would have helped the intelligence community and enforcement agencies focus better on the threat. For example, in August of 2000, an al Qaeda member had been interviewed by an Italian newspaper and reported that al Qaeda was training kamikaze pilots. The intelligence community and enforcement agencies, however, do not read open-source information. Yes, they read all the classified stuff, but this interview in 2000 was in an open-source newspaper account in Italy.

If we would have had a fusion center, all of that data would have been processed, and in very real quick time, through massive high-speed computers, and we would have seen the linkages between what was occurring. But with each agency doing its own thing, it is impossible to see the linkages. And that is why when President Bush before September 11 got a bit of information from the CIA and a bit from the FBI, and something else, and nothing from open sources, there is no way he could have foretold what was about to occur.

If we would have had the NOAH in place, an idea that was developed with the intelligence community, an idea that was briefed to the FBI, briefed to the CIA and briefed to the Defense Department, I think we could have done something to prevent al Qaeda.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, there is another interesting development that occurred. After the Army showed the capability of the LIWAC model at Ft. Belvoir, other services began to take interest. Special forces command down in Florida contacted the Army and said, hey, we hear you are doing some neat things. We want to build a mini version of what you are doing down at our headquarters.

I did not find out about this until October of 2001, after the attack on the trade center. A year before, special forces command developed their own mini version of a data processing or collaborative center with very limited capabilities. But what they did, Mr. Speaker, they did a profile of al Qaeda 1 year before 9-11.

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Issa). The gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Weldon) is recognized to continue until midnight.

Mr. WELDON of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, here is the chart, the unclassified chart of what special forces command had 1 year before 9-11. Interesting. The entire al Qaeda network is identified in a graphic chart with all the linkages to all the terrorist groups around the world.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, I was told by the folks who developed the capability for special forces command that this chart and the briefing that was supposed to be given to General Shelton, Chairman of our Joint Chiefs, had a recommendation to take out 5 cells of bin Laden's network. Mr. Speaker, this was 1 year before 9-11. This was not during President Bush's administration. This occurred in the fall of the
remaining term of President Bill Clinton.

The key question I have been trying to get at is why was this 3-hour briefing, which I also got, I got General Holland to bring his briefers up from Florida with special forces, I went in the Pentagon, went in the tank, and they gave me the briefing, as much as they could give me, because part of it is being used for our operational plan, why was that 3-hour briefing with the recommendations to take out 5 cells of bin Laden's network condensed down to a 1-hour brief when it was given to General Hugh Shelton in January of 2001? And why were the recommendations to take out 5 cells not followed up on? That is the question we should get answered, Mr. Speaker.

Because 1 year before 9-11, the capability that special forces built actually identified to us the network of al Qaeda. And they went beyond that and gave us recommendations where we could take out cells to eliminate their capability. So for those pundits out there sitting in their armchairs criticizing President Bush, they have it all wrong.

Facts are a tough thing to refute, and the fact is that back in 1997, we told the administration at that time what to do. In 1998, we briefed the agencies. In 1999, we put language in a defense bill. In 2000, we put language in a defense bill. In 2000, special forces command built another mini version of that capability. And in 2000 they briefed General Shelton telling him to take out 5 cells of bin Laden's network. All of that activity could have prevented or helped to prevent 9-11 from ever occurring. I challenge my colleagues, Mr. Speaker, to review the facts. I challenge the media to report the truth.

We still do not have a national collaborative center. That capability still does not exist. We are getting there, but it has been a long road. I briefed our Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, with the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Burton), chairman of the Committee on Government Reform, about 4 months ago. He agreed with us, but he has not yet been able to achieve this new interagency collaborative center, and that is an indictment of our government that the American people deserve to be outraged over.

We need this kind of capability in the 21st century, because these bits of pieces of information have to be pieced together, both classified and unclassified, so that our analysts can get the clear picture of what may be about to occur against our people and our friends.

From Cambone's testimony:

WELDON: I thank the gentlelady for yielding.

Dr. Cambone, do you agree in your assessment -- or your team here -- that the Able Danger team identified five hotspots, what they called hotspots, which would include Malaysia, Mauritania, Hamburg, Germany, New York and Aden, Yemen?

CAMBONE: Yes, there's said to be that sort of designation of places, to include the Brooklyn cell issue.

WELDON: Now, I realize you can't speak on behalf of the 9/11 Commission, obviously, and I'm not asking you to. But let me ask you this.

After having identified those five hotspots, and then having an attack on the USS Cole in the Port of Aden, Yemen, how could anyone in their right mind classify Able Danger as historically insignificant?

Seventeen sailors were killed in one of the five hotspots that the Able Danger team, you've just acknowledged identified?

How in the world could any commissioner on any -- well, I'm asking you -- could you think of how anyone could classify that work, after we had a warship, 17 sailors killed at one of those hotspots, and to call that work historically insignificant?

CAMBONE: Sir, I didn't do the work for the 9/11 Commission, and I was not involved in that kind of effort.

WELDON: How about your own opinion?

CAMBONE: I don't know how they would answer.

WELDON: I think that there's a lot of information that was generated over that period of time. And I don't know that the crew in the Able Danger exercise was the only one to have identified troubles in Yemen and Aden at the time.

And that, as a consequence of the investigations that were done, what we discovered is, information that might have been available through a variety of channels, hadn't been made available. That's a matter of record, sir.

And so, you know, there you are. I didn't do the look at Brooklyn cell and the other cells. I mean, that was the 9/11 Commission's function.

WELDON: But you know that they identified five cells. And one of those five cells was, in fact, a location of where 17 of our sailors were murdered.

The Department of Defense has conducted a search specifically for Able Danger products. Has any search of DOD databases been conducted, to determine if any Able Danger data was incorporated into other second and third order intelligence products? And if not, why not?

CAMBONE: Intelligence products as such, I don't know that. I do know that -- I know -- what I've been told is, and I've mentioned this already, as the planning process moved forward in the 2001 timeframe, in the Joint Staff, information generated in the Able Danger project was taken into other planning efforts and documents. Substantially.

But in terms of an intelligence product, I don't know the answer to that.