Sunday, August 14, 2005

 

Able Danger

We need to know the truth

Perhaps I was too hard on the 9/11 Commission. Perhaps. But they do have trouble telling the truth:
Clearly the Commission has little credibility left. Five days ago, no one could remember the July 2004 briefing, and the Commission only admitted to it when pressed by the New York Times. Four days later, they have a prepared rebuttal with everything but pictures showing how they gave the allegations serious consideration but ultimately rejected it. Why? As I posted yesterday, the naval officer did not have any documentation with him -- which would, incidentally, have landed him in Leavenworth for life -- and the time frame didn't match up with the Commission's understanding of when Atta entered the US.

Color me unimpressed. If the Commission had this level of understanding about Able Danger and the July 2004 briefing, why did it deny knowledge of the program and the subsequent briefing that named Atta? The statement itself shows the absurdity of taking Hamilton, Kean, and the Commission at face value.
AJStrata has an updated timeline and a useful summary.

The Bergen Record has more:
In those horrific weeks after the attacks, the official story line was that U.S. counterterror officials had no idea who Atta was before that murderous plot unfolded - or where he was before 9/11. Only after the attacks could authorities track Atta's movements.

Now that story seems to be false.

Federal officials confirmed last week that a year before the attacks, a top-secret military intelligence team was following Atta and three suspected terrorists who turned out to be hijackers. The intelligence operatives tried to sound an alarm but were rebuffed by government lawyers who feared possible legal complications of using military spying techniques to keep tabs on foreign visitors in the United States with legal visas even though they might be terrorists.

A former member of the military intelligence team told me in an interview that it had enough data to raise suspicions. "But we were blocked from passing it to the FBI."

The connect-the-dots tracking by the team was so good that it even knew Atta conducted meetings with the three future hijackers. One of those meetings took place at the Wayne Inn. That's how close all this was - to us and to being solved, if only the information had been passed up the line to FBI agents or even to local cops.
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On the phone last week, the former Able Team member I interviewed told a depressing story of that (CIA-FBI) cooperation that never took place.

His story, he says, tells us just how close U.S. officials could have come to breaking up the 9/11 plot before it unfolded. But there was one problem: The U.S. government did not want to hear what this sleuth and his 10 teammates had to say - before and even after the 9/11 plot.

By mid-2000, the Able Danger team knew it had important information about a possible terrorist plot. Because of a peculiar series of computer links that went through Brooklyn, the team began referring to the four future hijackers as the "Brooklyn cell." Their movements and communications were raising too many suspicions.

The Able Danger sleuth, whose interview with me was arranged by the staff of Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., asked that his name not be revealed so he could maintain his top-secret counter-terror role. He emerged from the shadows of spying and intelligence analysis last week because he wanted to set the record straight.

One of his targets is the 9/11 commission. The commission's staff, he says, ignored him when he approached them on two occasions to spell out Able Danger's work.

Another target are Pentagon lawyers. The sleuth says he and other Able Danger team members became so concerned during the summer of 2000 that they asked their superiors in the Pentagon's special operations command for permission to approach the FBI. Their superiors approached Pentagon legal experts. Those experts turned down the request
Via Jim Geraghty, who comments:
In my previous post, I had stated that the accounts of Weldon’s guy and the 9/11 Commission were so different that this can’t be a simple misunderstanding – somebody’s lying. And an account with a lot of details (like the Commission’s Friday release) tends to seem more plausible than a vague one. Well, this account offers a lot of details. Anybody in North Jersey want to contact the Wayne Inn? They remember anybody who looked like Atta staying a year? Do they still have their pre-2001 guest records?
Captain Ed:
If the Commission's response had its virtue in its details, then Kelly's scoop in the Bergen Record matches it. The obvious conclusion -- someone is lying, either the Commission or the intelligence source for Kelly and Weldon, or possibly everyone. The Commission and Weldon appear to have enough problems with credibility, especially the former after the denials and evasions they released all week long. Congress has to step in and find out what really happened with Able Danger.
He's right. Congress needs to investigate this matter. Now.

UPDATE: New York Post:
As a deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, Gorelick wrote the infamous order creating a "wall of separation" that precluded intelligence on terrorists from being shared with law-enforcement agencies — the very "wall" that kept Able Danger from passing along the information it had uncovered on Mohammed Atta.

As The Post's Deborah Orin reported Friday, then-U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White — who headed up key terrorism prosecutions, like the first WTC bombing — blasted Gorelick's order in blistering memos at the time.

But the memos, like the Able Danger information itself, were not included in the Kean Commission's final report.

When Gorelick's order first came to light, and critics demanded she quit the commission and instead appear as a witness under oath, Kean bristled.

"People ought to stay out of our business," Kean huffed.

Now, sadly, Americans are learning the price of not having held the commission's feet to the fire.

Kean and his fellow commissioners have been barnstorming the country, arrogantly demanding more information from the White House, even though they've concluded their work and the commission has officially disbanded.

Before Kean & Co. start making demands on the White House for information, it's time they started providing some of their own information to the people they were meant to serve.
Jim Geraghty:
Military intelligence guy says there were 11 guys who worked on Able Danger. And he’s specific about what they found – they identified four names that ended up becoming hijackers.

Okay, eleven guys. Step forward. Show us your notes from that era. Folks in authority, declassify what you need to in order to protect sources and methods. Somebody show us something to indicate this isn’t just one guy spouting off a wild “see-I-told-you-so-but-no-one-listened” story and a congressman seeking to sell his book.

If Weldon and military intelligence guys are right, then somewhere in a secure vault in the Pentagon is the evidence to back this up.
John Podhoretz is a skeptic:
Evidently, as Jim reports, it was well known that two of the hijackers lived in the Wayne N.J. motel. But see, if that were true, it would also be well-known that Atta had lived there, since this information was gleaned right in the aftermath of 9/11. That fact would not have just emerged yesterday -- or in a single-day story in the Bergen Record in 2003 in which a local police chief alleged without providing proof that Atta had lived in the motel. We would have known more about this before yesterday.

Theory: the source of the story about Atta being in Wayne NJ is Weldon's original source (we know the reporter for the Bergen Record was introduced to his source by Weldon's office). He may have done a little data mining on his own and found the Bergen Record story from 2003. And now everything he and we know about the hijackers is getting thrown into the mix like a big salad to "prove" something that, unless some actual paper turns up, is unprovable and not entirely believable
AJStrata has more.

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