The Able Danger Program
ABLE DANGER ARCHIVE
This is a very long archive of 24 articles on Able Danger associated with the analysis published Sep 2, 2005 at 911Truth.org.
Four in 9/11 Plot Are Called Tied to Qaeda in ’00
NY TIMES, August 9, 2005
By DOUGLAS JEHL
WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 – More than a year before the Sept. 11 attacks, a small, highly classified military intelligence unit identified Mohammed Atta and three other future hijackers as likely members of a cell of Al Qaeda operating in the United States, according to a former defense intelligence official and a Republican member of Congress.
In the summer of 2000, the military team, known as Able Danger, prepared a chart that included visa photographs of the four men and recommended to the military’s Special Operations Command that the information be shared with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the congressman, Representative Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, and the former intelligence official said Monday.
The recommendation was rejected and the information was not shared, they said, apparently at least in part because Mr. Atta, and the others were in the United States on valid entry visas. Under American law, United States citizens and green-card holders may not be singled out in intelligence-collection operations by the military or intelligence agencies. That protection does not extend to visa holders, but Mr. Weldon and the former intelligence official said it might have reinforced a sense of discomfort common before Sept. 11 about sharing intelligence information with a law enforcement agency.
A former spokesman for the Sept. 11 commission, Al Felzenberg, confirmed that members of its staff, including Philip Zelikow, the executive director, were told about the program on an overseas trip in October 2003 that included stops in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But Mr. Felzenberg said the briefers did not mention Mr. Atta’s name.
The report produced by the commission last year does not mention the episode.
Mr. Weldon first spoke publicly about the episode in June, in a little-noticed speech on the House floor and in an interview with The Times-Herald in Norristown, Pa. The matter resurfaced on Monday in a report by GSN: Government Security News, which is published every two weeks and covers domestic-security issues. The GSN report was based on accounts provided by Mr. Weldon and the same former intelligence official, who was interviewed on Monday by The New York Times in Mr. Weldon’s office.
In a telephone interview from his home in Pennsylvania, Mr. Weldon said he was basing his assertions on similar ones by at least three other former intelligence officers with direct knowledge of the project, and said that some had first called the episode to his attention shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The account is the first assertion that Mr. Atta, an Egyptian who became the lead hijacker in the plot, was identified by any American government agency as a potential threat before the Sept. 11 attacks. Among the 19 hijackers, only Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi had been identified as potential threats by the Central Intelligence Agency before the summer of 2000, and information about them was not provided to the F.B.I. until the spring of 2001.
Mr. Weldon has long been a champion of the kind of data-mining analysis that was the basis for the work of the Able Danger team.
The former intelligence official spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying he did not want to jeopardize political support and the possible financing for future data-mining operations by speaking publicly. He said the team had been established by the Special Operations Command in 1999, under a classified directive issued by Gen. Hugh Shelton, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to assemble information about Al Qaeda networks around the world.
“Ultimately, Able Danger was going to give decision makers options for taking out Al Qaeda targets,” the former defense intelligence official said.
He said that he delivered the chart in summer 2000 to the Special Operations Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla., and said that it had been based on information from unclassified sources and government records, including those of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
“We knew these were bad guys, and we wanted to do something about them,” the former intelligence official said.
The unit, which relied heavily on data-mining techniques, was modeled after those first established by Army intelligence at the Land Information Warfare Assessment Center, now known as the Information Dominance Center, at Fort Belvoir, Va., the official said.
Mr. Weldon is an outspoken figure who is a vice chairman of both the House Armed Services Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee. He said he had recognized the significance of the episode only recently, when he contacted members of the military intelligence team as part of research for his book, “Countdown to Terror: The Top-Secret Information That Could Prevent the Next Terrorist Attack on America and How the C.I.A. Has Ignored It.”
Mr. Weldon’s book prompted one veteran C.I.A. case officer to strongly dispute the reliability of one Iranian source cited in the book, saying the Iranian “was a waste of my time and resources.”
Mr. Weldon said that he had discussed the Able Danger episode with Representative Peter Hoekstra, the Michigan Republican who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and that at least two Congressional committees were looking into the episode.
In the interview on Monday, Mr. Weldon said he had been aware of the episode since shortly after the Sept. 11 attack, when members of the team first brought it to his attention. He said he had told Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser, about it in a conversation in September or October 2001, and had been surprised when the Sept. 11 commission report made no mention of the operation.
Col. Samuel Taylor, a spokesman for the military’s Special Operations Command, said no one at the command now had any knowledge of the Able Danger program, its mission or its findings. If the program existed, Colonel Taylor said, it was probably a highly classified “special access program” on which only a few military personnel would have been briefed.
During the interview in Mr. Weldon’s office, the former defense intelligence official showed a floor-sized chart depicting Al Qaeda networks around the world that he said was a larger, more detailed version similar to the one prepared by the Able Danger team in the summer of 2000.
He said the original chart, like the new one, had included the names and photographs of Mr. Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, as well as Mr. Mihdhar and Mr. Hazmi, who were identified as members of what was described as an American-based “Brooklyn” cell, as one of five such Al Qaeda cells around the world.
The official said the link to Brooklyn was meant as a term of art rather than to be interpreted literally, saying that the unit had produced no firm evidence linking the men to the borough of New York City but that a computer analysis seeking to establish patterns in links between the four men had found that “the software put them all together in Brooklyn.”
According to the commission report, Mr. Mihdhar and Mr. Hazmi were first identified in late 1999 or 2000 by the C.I.A. as Qaeda members who might be involved in a terrorist operation. They were tracked from Yemen to Malaysia before their trail was lost in Thailand. Neither man was put on a State Department watch list before they flew to Los Angeles in early 2000. The F.B.I. was not warned about them until the spring of 2001, and no efforts to track them were made until August 2001.
Neither Mr. Shehhi nor Mr. Atta was identified by the American intelligence agencies as a potential threat, the commission report said. Mr. Shehhi arrived in Newark on a flight from Brussels on May 29, 2000, and Mr. Atta arrived in Newark from Prague on June 3 that year.
The former intelligence official said the first Able Danger report identified all four men as members of a “Brooklyn” cell, and was produced within two months after Mr. Atta arrived in the United States. The former intelligence official said he was among a group that briefed Mr. Zelikow and at least three other members of the Sept. 11 commission staff about Able Danger when they visited the Afghanistan-Pakistan region in October 2003.
The official said he had explicitly mentioned Mr. Atta as a member of a Qaeda cell in the United States. He said the staff encouraged him to call the commission when he returned to Washington at the end of the year. When he did so, the ex-official said, the calls were not returned.
Mr. Felzenberg, the former Sept. 11 commission spokesman, said on Monday that he had talked with some of the former staff members who participated in the briefing.
“They all say that they were not told anything about a Brooklyn cell,” Mr. Felzenberg said. “They were told about the Pentagon operation. They were not told about the Brooklyn cell. They said that if the briefers had mentioned anything that startling, it would have gotten their attention.”
As a result of the briefing, he said, the commission staff filed document requests with the Pentagon for information about the program. The Pentagon complied, he said, adding that the staff had not hidden anything from the commissioners.
“The commissioners were certainly told of the document requests and what the findings were,” Mr. Felzenberg said.
Philip Shenon and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting for this article.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times. Used here for information purposes under fair-use provisions, please see Fair-Use Notice, below.
9/11 Commission’s Staff Rejected Report on Early Identification of Chief Hijacker
NY TIMES, August 11, 2005
By DOUGLAS JEHL and PHILIP SHENON – NY Times
WASHINGTON, Aug. 10 – The Sept. 11 commission was warned by a uniformed military officer 10 days before issuing its final report that the account would be incomplete without reference to what he described as a secret military operation that by the summer of 2000 had identified as a potential threat the member of Al Qaeda who would lead the attacks more than a year later, commission officials said on Wednesday. The officials said that the information had not been included in the report because aspects of the officer’s account had sounded inconsistent with what the commission knew about that Qaeda member, Mohammed Atta, the plot’s leader.
But aides to the Republican congressman who has sought to call attention to the military unit that conducted the secret operation said such a conclusion relied too much on specific dates involving Mr. Atta’s travels and not nearly enough on the operation’s broader determination that he was a threat.
The briefing by the military officer is the second known instance in which people on the commission’s staff were told by members of the military team about the secret program, called Able Danger.
The meeting, on July 12, 2004, has not been previously disclosed. That it occurred, and that the officer identified Mr. Atta there, were acknowledged by officials of the commission after the congressman, Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, provided information about it.
Mr. Weldon has accused the commission of ignoring information that would have forced a rewriting of the history of the Sept. 11 attacks. He has asserted that the Able Danger unit, whose work relied on computer-driven data-mining techniques, sought to call their superiors’ attention to Mr. Atta and three other future hijackers in the summer of 2000. Their work, he says, had identified the men as likely members of a Qaeda cell already in the United States.
In a letter sent Wednesday to members of the commission, Mr. Weldon criticized the panel in scathing terms, saying that its “refusal to investigate Able Danger after being notified of its existence, and its recent efforts to feign ignorance of the project while blaming others for supposedly withholding information on it, brings shame on the commissioners, and is evocative of the worst tendencies in the federal government that the commission worked to expose.”
Al Felzenberg, who served as the commission’s chief spokesman, said earlier this week that staff members who were briefed about Able Danger at a first meeting, in October 2003, did not remember hearing anything about Mr. Atta or an American terrorist cell. On Wednesday, however, Mr. Felzenberg said the uniformed officer who briefed two staff members in July 2004 had indeed mentioned Mr. Atta.
Both Mr. Weldon’s office and commission officials said they knew the name, rank and service of the officer, but they declined to make that information public.
Mr. Weldon and a former defense intelligence official who was interviewed on Monday have said that the Able Danger team sought but failed in the summer of 2000 to persuade the military’s Special Operations Command, in Tampa, Fla., to pass on to the Federal Bureau of Investigation the information they had gathered about Mr. Atta and the three other men. The Pentagon and the Special Operations Command have declined to comment, saying they are still trying to learn more about what may have happened.
Maj. Paul Swiergosz, a Pentagon spokesman, said Wednesday that the military was working with the commission’s unofficial follow-up group – the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, which was formed by the panel’s members when it was disbanded – to try to clarify what had occurred.
Mr. Felzenberg said the commission’s staff remained convinced that the information provided by the military officer in the July 2004 briefing was inaccurate in a significant way.
“He wasn’t brushed off,” Mr. Felzenberg said of the officer. “I’m not aware of anybody being brushed off. The information that he provided us did not mesh with other conclusions that we were drawing” from the commission’s investigation.
Mr. Felzenberg said staff investigators had become wary of the officer because he argued that Able Danger had identified Mr. Atta, an Egyptian, as having been in the United States in late 1999 or early 2000. The investigators knew this was impossible, Mr. Felzenberg said, since travel records confirmed that he had not entered the United States until June 2000.
“There was no way that Atta could have been in the United States at that time, which is why the staff didn’t give this tremendous weight when they were writing the report,” Mr. Felzenberg said. “This information was not meshing with the other information that we had.”
But Russell Caso, Mr. Weldon’s chief of staff, said that “while the dates may not have meshed” with the commission’s information, the central element of the officer’s claim was that “Mohammed Atta was identified as being tied to Al Qaeda and a Brooklyn cell more than a year before the Sept. 11 attacks, and that should have warranted further investigation by the commission.”
“Furthermore,” Mr. Caso said, “if Mohammed Atta was identified by the Able Danger project, why didn’t the Department of Defense provide that information to the F.B.I.?”
Mr. Felzenberg confirmed an account by Mr. Weldon’s staff that the briefing, at the commission’s offices in Washington, had been conducted by Dietrich L. Snell, one of the panel’s lead investigators, and had been attended by a Pentagon employee acting as an observer for the Defense Department; over the commission’s protests, the Bush administration had insisted that an administration “minder” attend all the panel’s major interviews with executive branch employees. Mr. Snell referred questions to Mr. Felzenberg.
The Sept. 11 commission issued its final report on July 22, 2004. Mr. Felzenberg noted that the interview with the military officer had taken place in the final, hectic days before the commission sent the report to the printers, and said the meeting reflected a willingness by the commission to gather facts, even at the last possible minute.
“Lots of stuff was coming in over the transom,” Mr. Felzenberg said. “Lots of stuff was flying around. At the end of the day, when you’re writing the report, you have to take facts presented to you.” Former Commissioner Spokesperson had this to say about the Commission’s leaving Able Danger details out of their report: “Lots of stuff was coming in over the transom,” Mr. Felzenberg said. “Lots of stuff was flying around. At the end of the day, when you’re writing the report, you have to take facts presented to you.”
Copyright 2005 The New York Times. Used here for information purposes under fair-use provisions, please see Fair-Use Notice, below.
August 16, 2005
Officer Says Pentagon Barred Sharing Pre-9/11 Qaeda Data With F.B.I.
By PHILIP SHENON
WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 – A military intelligence team repeatedly contacted the F.B.I. in 2000 to warn about the existence of an American-based terrorist cell that included the ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a veteran Army intelligence officer who said he had now decided to risk his career by discussing the information publicly. The officer, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, said military lawyers later blocked the team from sharing any of its information with the F.B.I.
Colonel Shaffer said in an interview that the small, highly classified intelligence program known as Able Danger had identified by name the terrorist ringleader, Mohammed Atta, as well three of the other future hijackers by mid-2000, and had tried to arrange a meeting that summer with agents of the F.B.I.’s Washington field office to share the information.
But he said military lawyers forced members of the intelligence program to cancel three scheduled meetings with the F.B.I. at the last minute, which left the bureau without information that Colonel Shaffer said might have led to Mr. Atta and the other terrorists while the Sept. 11 plot was still being planned.
“I was at the point of near insubordination over the fact that this was something important, that this was something that should have been pursued,” Colonel Shaffer said of his efforts to get the evidence from the intelligence program to the F.B.I. in 2000 and early 2001.
He said he learned later that lawyers associated with the Defense Department’s Special Operations Command had canceled the F.B.I. meetings because they feared controversy if Able Danger was portrayed as a military operation that had violated the privacy of civilians who were legally in the United States. “It was because of the chain of command saying we’re not going to pass on information – if something goes wrong, we’ll get blamed,” he said.
The Defense Department did not dispute the account from Colonel Shaffer, a 42-year-old native of Kansas City, Mo., who is the first military officer associated with the so-called data-mining program to come forward and acknowledge his role.
At the same time, the department said in a statement that it was “working to gain more clarity on this issue” and that “it’s too early to comment on findings related to the program identified as Able Danger.” The F.B.I. referred calls about Colonel Shaffer to the Pentagon.
The account from Colonel Shaffer, a reservist who is also working part-time for the Pentagon, corroborates much of the information that the Sept. 11 commission has acknowledged that it received about Able Danger last July from a Navy captain who was also involved with the program but whose name has not been made public.
In a statement issued last week, the leaders of the Sept. 11 commission said the panel had concluded that the intelligence program “did not turn out to be historically significant.” The statement said that while the commission did learn about Able Danger in 2003 and immediately requested Pentagon files about the program, none of the documents turned over by the Defense Department referred to Mr. Atta or any of the other hijackers.
Colonel Shaffer said that his role in Able Danger was as the program’s liaison with the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, and that he was not an intelligence analyst. The interview with Colonel Shaffer on Monday night was arranged for The New York Times and Fox News by Representative Curt Weldon, the Pennsylvania Republican who is vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a champion of data-mining programs like Able Danger.
Colonel Shaffer’s lawyer, Mark Zaid, said in an interview that he was concerned that Colonel Shaffer was facing retaliation from the Defense Department – first for having talked to the Sept. 11 commission staff in October 2003 and now for talking with news organizations.
Mr. Zaid said that Colonel Shaffer’s security clearance had been suspended last year because of what the lawyer said were a series of “petty allegations” involving $67 in personal charges on a military cellphone. He noted that despite the disciplinary action, Colonel Shaffer had been promoted this year from the rank of major.
Colonel Shaffer said he had decided to allow his name to be used in news accounts in part because of his frustration with the statement issued last week by the commission leaders, Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton.
The commission said in its final report last year that American intelligence agencies had not identified Mr. Atta as a terrorist before Sept. 11, 2001, when he flew an American Airlines jet into one of towers of the World Trade Center in New York.
A commission spokesman did not return repeated phone calls for comment. A Democratic member of the commission, Richard Ben Veniste, the former Watergate prosecutor, said in an interview today that while he could not judge the credibility of the information from Colonel Shaffer and others, the Pentagon needed to “provide a clear and comprehensive explanation regarding what information it had in its possession regarding Mr. Atta.”
“And if these assertions are credible,” he continued, “the Pentagon would need to explain why it was that the 9/11 commissioners were not provided this information despite request for all information regarding to Able Danger.”
Colonel Shaffer said that he had provided information about Able Danger and its identification of Mr. Atta in a private meeting in October 2003 with members of the Sept. 11 commission staff when they visited Afghanistan, where he was then serving. Commission members have disputed that, saying they do not recall hearing Mr. Atta’s name during the briefing and that the terrorist’s name did not appear in documents about Able Danger that were later turned over by the Pentagon.
“I would implore the 9/11 commission to support a follow-on investigation to ascertain what the real truth is,” Colonel Shaffer said in the interview this week. “I do believe the 9/11 commission should have done that job: figuring out what went wrong with Able Danger.”
“This was a good news story because, before 9/11, you had an element of the military – our unit – which was actually out looking for Al Qaeda,” he continued. “I can’t believe the 9/11 commission would somehow believe that the historical value was not relevant.”
Colonel Shaffer said that because he was not an intelligence analyst, he was not involved in the details of the procedures used in Able Danger to glean information from terrorist databases. Nor was he aware, he said, which databases had supplied the information that might have led to the name of Mr. Atta or other terrorists so long before the Sept. 11 attacks.
But he said he did know that Able Danger had made use of publicly available information from government immigration agencies, from internet sites and from paid search engines such as Lexis Nexis.
“We didn’t that Atta’s name was significant” at the time, he said, adding that “we just knew there were these linkages between him and these other individuals who were in this loose configuration” of people who appeared to be tied to an American-based cell of Al Qaeda.
Colonel Shaffer said he assumed that by speaking out publicly this week about Able Danger, he might effectively be ending his military career and limiting his ability to participate in intelligence work in the government. “I’m proud of my operational record and I love what I do,” he said. “But there comes a time – and I believe the time for me is now — to stand for something, to stand for what is right.”
Copyright 2005 The New York Times. Used here for information purposes under fair-use provisions, please see Fair-Use Notice, below.
NY Times, August 23, 2005
Second Officer Says 9/11 Leader Was Named Before Attacks
By PHILIP SHENON
WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 – An active-duty Navy captain has become the second military officer to come forward publicly to say that a secret intelligence program tagged the ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks as a possible terrorist more than a year before the attacks.
The officer, Scott J. Phillpott, said in a statement on Monday that he could not discuss details of the military program, which was called Able Danger, but confirmed that its analysts had identified the Sept. 11 ringleader, Mohamed Atta, by name by early 2000. “My story is consistent,” said Captain Phillpott, who managed the program for the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command. “Atta was identified by Able Danger by January-February of 2000.”
His comments came on the same day that the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, Lawrence Di Rita, told reporters that the Defense Department had been unable to validate the assertions made by an Army intelligence veteran, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, and now backed up by Captain Phillpott, about the early identification of Mr. Atta.
Colonel Shaffer went public with his assertions last week, saying that analysts in the intelligence project were overruled by military lawyers when they tried to share the program’s findings with the F.B.I. in 2000 in hopes of tracking down terrorist suspects tied to Al Qaeda.
Mr. Di Rita said in an interview that while the department continued to investigate the assertions, there was no evidence so far that the intelligence unit came up with such specific information about Mr. Atta and any of the other hijackers.
He said that while Colonel Shaffer and Captain Phillpott were respected military officers whose accounts were taken seriously, “thus far we’ve not been able to uncover what these people said they saw – memory is a complicated thing.”
The statement from Captain Phillpott , a 1983 Naval Academy graduate who has served in the Navy for 22 years, was provided to The New York Times and Fox News through the office of Representative Curt Weldon, a Pennsylvania Republican who is vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a longtime proponent of so-called data-mining programs like Able Danger.
Asked if the Defense Department had questioned Captain Phillpott in its two-week-old investigation of Able Danger, another Pentagon spokesman, Maj. Paul Swiergosz, said he did not know.
Representative Weldon also arranged an interview on Monday with a former employee of a defense contractor who said he had helped create a chart in 2000 for the intelligence program that included Mr. Atta’s photograph and name.
The former contractor, James D. Smith, said that Mr. Atta’s name and photograph were obtained through a private researcher in California who was paid to gather the information from contacts in the Middle East. Mr. Smith said that he had retained a copy of the chart until last year and that it had been posted on his office wall at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. He said it had become stuck to the wall and was impossible to remove when he switched jobs.
In its final report last year, the Sept. 11 commission said that American intelligence agencies were unaware of Mr. Atta until the day of the attacks.
The leaders of the Sept. 11 commission acknowledged on Aug. 12 that their staff had met with a Navy officer last July, 10 days before releasing the panel’s final report, who asserted that a highly classified intelligence operation, Able Danger, had identified “Mohamed Atta to be a member of an Al Qaeda cell located in Brooklyn.”
But the statement, which did not identify the officer, said the staff determined that “the officer’s account was not sufficiently reliable to warrant revision of the report or further investigation” and that the intelligence operation “did not turn out to be historically significant.”
With his comments on Monday, Captain Phillpott acknowledged that he was the officer who had briefed the commission last year. “I will not discuss the issues outside of my chain of command and the Department of Defense,” he said. “But my story is consistent. Atta was identified by Able Danger by January-February of 2000. I have nothing else to say.”
NY Times, September 1, 2005
Senate Panel Plans Hearing Into Reports on Terrorist
By PHILIP SHENON
WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 – The Senate Judiciary Committee announced Wednesday that it was investigating reports from two military officers that a highly classified Pentagon intelligence program identified the Sept. 11 ringleader as a potential terrorist more than a year before the attacks.
The committee’s chairman, Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said in an interview that he was scheduling a public hearing on Sept. 14 “to get to the bottom of this” and that the military officers “appear to have credibility.”
The senator said his staff had confirmed reports from the two officers that employees of the intelligence program tried to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2000 to discuss the work of the program, known as Able Danger.
The officers, Capt. Scott J. Phillpott of the Navy and Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer of the Army, have said the intelligence program identified the terrorist ringleader, Mohamed Atta, by early 2000. Colonel Shaffer, a reservist, has said three meetings with F.B.I. agents in 2000 to discuss Able Danger were canceled on the order of military lawyers.
Senator Specter’s announcement came as the Pentagon said again on Wednesday that while it was not disputing the officers’ reports, it could find no documentation to back up what they were saying.
“Not only can we not find documentation, we can’t find documents to lead us to the documentation,” said Maj. Paul Swiergosz, a Pentagon spokesman.
Other Pentagon officials have suggested that the memories of Captain Phillpott and Colonel Shaffer are flawed and that Mr. Atta could not have been identified before the attacks, a view shared by members of the independent commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks.
But Colonel Shaffer and military officials involved in the intelligence program say it may not be surprising that documents were destroyed, since the project became controversial within the Pentagon because of potential privacy violations.
“I don’t know what kind of documentation they’d be looking for,” Senator Specter said of Defense Department investigators. “At this point, you have responsible officials at D.O.D. who have made some pretty serious statements and that ought to be investigated.”
The existence of the intelligence program is potentially embarrassing to the Pentagon since it would suggest that the Defense Department developed information about the Sept. 11 hijackers long before they attacked in 2001 but did not share the information with law enforcement or intelligence agencies that could have acted on it.
Senator Specter did not provide a witness list for the Sept. 14 hearing, although he suggested that Captain Phillpott and Colonel Shaffer would testify, along with J. D. Smith, a former Pentagon contractor who worked on the program and has backed up the officers’ accounts about the identification of Mr. Atta.
The senator said that if Mr. Atta and other Sept. 11 terrorists were identified before the attacks, “it would be a very serious breach not to have that information passed along.”
“We ought to get to the bottom of it,” Mr. Specter said.
NY TIMES, September 2, 2005
Pentagon Finds More Who Recall Atta Intel
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON (AP) — Pentagon officials said Thursday they have found three more people who recall an intelligence chart that identified Sept. 11 mastermind Mohamed Atta as a terrorist one year before the attacks on New York and Washington. But they have been unable to find the chart or other evidence that it existed.
Last month, two military officers, Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and Navy Capt. Scott Philpott, went public with claims that a secret unit code-named Able Danger used data mining — searching large amounts of data for patterns — to identify Atta in 2000. Shaffer has said three other Sept. 11 hijackers also were identified.
In recent days Pentagon officials have said they could not yet verify or disprove the assertions by Shaffer and Philpott. On Thursday, four intelligence officials provided the first extensive briefing for reporters on the outcome of their interviews with people associated with Able Danger and their review of documents.
They said they interviewed at least 80 people over a three-week period and found three, besides Philpott and Shaffer, who said they remember seeing a chart that either mentioned Atta by name as an al-Qaida operative or showed his photograph. Four of the five recalled a chart with a pre-9/11 photo of Atta; the other person recalled only a reference to his name.
The intelligence officials said they consider the five people to be credible but their recollections are still unverified.
”To date, we have not identified the chart,” said Pat Downs, a senior policy analyst in the office of the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. ”We have identified a similar chart but it does not contain the photo of Mohamed Atta or a reference to him or a reference to the other (9/11) hijackers.”
She said more interviews would be conducted, but the search of official documents is finished.
Downs and the other officials said they could not rule out that the chart recalled by Shaffer, Philpott and three others had been destroyed in compliance with regulations pertaining to intelligence information about people inside the United States. They also did not rule out that the five simply had faulty recollections.
Navy Cmdr. Christopher Chope, of the Center for Special Operations at U.S. Special Operations Command, said there were ”negative indications” that anyone ever ordered the destruction of Able Danger documents, other than the materials that were routinely required to be destroyed under existing regulations.
Shaffer, who is now a civilian employee of the Defense Intelligence Agency, also has publicly asserted that military lawyers stopped the Able Danger staff from sharing the information on Atta with the FBI out of concern about gathering and sharing information on people in the United States legally.
Chope said there is no evidence that military lawyers blocked the sharing of Able Danger information with the FBI.
Chope also said the nature of Able Danger has been misrepresented in some news stories. He said it was created as a result of a directive in early October 1999 by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to U.S. Special Operations Command to develop a campaign plan against transnational terrorism, ”specifically al-Qaida.”
He called it an internal working group with a core of 10 staffers at Special Operations Command. Philpott was the ”team leader,” he said. ”Able Danger was never a military unit,” and it never targeted individual terrorists, he said. It went out of existence when the planning effort was finished in January 2001, he said.
Able Danger’s purpose was to ”characterize the al-Qaida network,” Chope said, and determine the terror network’s vulnerabilities and linkages at a time when U.S. officials were unaware that al-Qaida members were operating inside the United States.
”The effort was never: Determine which individuals we ought to roll up,” he said. ”Did Osama bin Laden’s name come up? Of course it did.” But it was not primarily aimed at identifying individual terrorists, he added.
Of the five people who told Pentagon interviewers they recalled a pre-9/11 chart that either named Atta or showed his photograph, two were on the staff of U.S. Special Operations Command: Philpott and an unidentified civilian analyst. Besides Shaffer, the others were an unidentified private contractor and an analyst with the Army’s Land Information Warfare Activity, Downs said.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times/Associated Press. Used here for information purposes under fair-use provisions, please see Fair-Use Notice, below.
Other News Reports
San Francisco Chronicle, August 09, 2005
Congressman: Defense Knew 9/11 Hijackers
By KIMBERLY HEFLING — Associated Press — Tuesday, August 9, 2005
(08-09) 17:43 PDT WASHINGTON, (AP) — The Sept. 11 commission will investigate a claim that U.S. defense intelligence officials identified ringleader Mohammed Atta and three other hijackers as a likely part of an al-Qaida cell more than a year before the hijackings but didn’t forward the information to law enforcement.
Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa. and vice chairman of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees, said Tuesday the men were identified in 1999 by a classified military intelligence unit known as “Able Danger.” If true, that’s an earlier link to al-Qaida than any previously disclosed intelligence about Atta. Sept. 11 commission co-chairman Lee Hamilton said Tuesday that Weldon’s information, which the congressman said came from multiple intelligence sources, warrants a review. He said he hoped the panel could issue a statement on its findings by the end of the week.
“The 9/11 commission did not learn of any U.S. government knowledge prior to 9/11 of surveillance of Mohammed Atta or of his cell,” said Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana. “Had we learned of it obviously it would’ve been a major focus of our investigation.”
The Sept. 11 commission’s final report, issued last year, recounted numerous government mistakes that allowed the hijackers to succeed. Among them was a failure to share intelligence within and among agencies.
According to Weldon, Able Danger identified Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, Khalid al-Mihdar and Nawaf al-Hazmi as members of a cell the unit code-named “Brooklyn” because of some loose connections to New York City.
Weldon said that in September 2000 Able Danger recommended that its information on the hijackers be given to the FBI “so they could bring that cell in and take out the terrorists.” However, Weldon said Pentagon lawyers rejected the recommendation because they said Atta and the others were in the country legally so information on them could not be shared with law enforcement.
Weldon did not provide details on how the intelligence officials identified the future hijackers and determined they might be part of a cell.
Defense Department documents shown to an Associated Press reporter Tuesday said the Able Danger team was set up in 1999 to identify potential al-Qaida operatives for U.S. Special Operations Command. At some point, information provided to the team by the Army’s Information Dominance Center pointed to a possible al-Qaida cell in Brooklyn, the documents said.
However, because of concerns about pursuing information on “U.S. persons” — a legal term that includes U.S. citizens as well as foreigners admitted to the country for permanent residence — Special Operations Command did not provide the Army information to the FBI. It is unclear whether the Army provided the information to anyone else.
The command instead turned its focus to overseas threats.
The documents provided no information on whether the team identified anyone connected to the Sept. 11 attack.
If the team did identify Atta and the others, it’s unclear why the information wasn’t forwarded. The prohibition against sharing intelligence on “U.S. persons” should not have applied since they were in the country on visas — they did not have permanent resident status.
Weldon, considered something of a maverick on Capitol Hill, initially made his allegations about Atta and the others in a floor speech in June that garnered little attention. His talk came at the end of a legislative day during a period described under House rules as “special orders” — a time slot for lawmakers to get up and speak on issues of their choosing.
The issue resurfaced Monday in a story by the bimonthly Government Security News, which covers national security matters.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he was unaware of the intelligence until the latest reports surfaced.
But Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the 9/11 Commission looked into the matter during its investigation into government missteps leading to the attacks and chose not to include it in the final report.
Hamilton said 9/11 Commission staff members learned of Able Danger during a meeting with military personnel in October 2003 in Afghanistan, but the staff members do not recall learning of a connection between Able Danger and any of the four terrorists Weldon mentioned.
Associated Press reporter John J. Lumpkin contributed to this report.
Copyright 2005 The San Francisco Chronicle. Used here for information purposes under fair-use provisions, please see Fair-Use Notice, below.
St. Petersburg Times
Reports: 9/11 clue hid in Tampa
A lawmaker says a Special Operations Command unit identified terrorist Mohammed Atta before the attacks.
By PAUL DE LA GARZA, Times Staff Writer
Published August 10, 2005
TAMPA – Congress and the Sept. 11 Commission have launched multiple investigations into reports that the Special Operations Command in Tampa held back information that could have foiled the 9/11 plot, officials said Tuesday.
The fast-paced developments were in response to information provided by Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., vice chairman of the Armed Services Committee and the Homeland Security Committee. Weldon said a secret military unit known as “Able Danger” discovered a year before the attacks that ringleader Mohammed Atta and three other future hijackers were in the United States. Weldon said the unit – created at SOCom under a classified directive in 1999 to take out al-Qaida targets – identified Atta and the others as likely members of the organization.
In fall 2000, the unit recommended SOCom share the information with the FBI, Weldon said in an interview Tuesday. But lawyers at either the Pentagon or SOCom determined the men were in the country legally, Weldon said. He said he based his information on intelligence sources.
When members of Able Danger made their presentation at command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base, Weldon said, the legal team “put stickies on the faces of Mohammed Atta on the chart,” to reinforce that he was off-limits.
“They said, “You can’t talk to Atta because he’s here on a green card,”‘ Weldon said.
Had SOCom shared the information with the FBI, Weldon said, 9/11 might not have happened.
“The outcome would have been seriously affected.”
In a statement Tuesday, SOCom said Able Danger developed information about al-Qaida “as part of an effort to deter transnational terrorist organizations.”
“We do not have any information about whether Able Danger identified Atta or other 9/11 hijackers, or about a recommendation to provide information to the FBI,” SOCom said.
SOCom is responsible for the nation’s secret commando units, and has played a central role in the war on terror since 9/11.
A former spokesman for the Sept. 11 Commission said that members of its staff were told about the program but that the briefers did not mention Atta’s name. The commission report produced last year did not mention Able Danger’s findings.
On Tuesday, commission co-chairman Lee Hamilton said that Weldon’s information, which the congressman said came from multiple intelligence sources, warrants a review.
He said he hoped the panel could issue a statement on its findings by the end of the week.
“The 9/11 Commission did not learn of any U.S. government knowledge prior to 9/11 of surveillance of Mohammed Atta or of his cell,” said Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana. “Had we learned of it obviously it would have been a major focus of our investigation.”
At least two congressional committees have begun looking into the episode.
Rep. C.W. Bill Young, chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said he, too, had asked the Pentagon for information about the Able Danger program.
The Indian Shores Republican said that in hindsight, it was easy to say that one thing or another could have disrupted the hijackers.
“There should have been better sharing of information,” he said.
Young said that passage of the Patriot Act and appointment of John Negroponte as intelligence czar, which gives one person access to all information generated by the intelligence community, would help resolve future problems.
“The tools weren’t as good then as they are today,” Young said.
Sounding agitated by what he perceived as a missed opportunity, Weldon made a distinction between the military lawyers and Special Operations Forces, whom he praised. Gen. Pete Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, was SOCom commander at the time.
The small military unit developed the information using mostly open sources, not classified channels, Weldon said.
Weldon revealed the Able Danger findings in a little-noticed speech on the floor of the House in June. On Monday, Government Security News, a biweekly publication that covers homeland security, published a cover story on the subject, generating another article in the New York Times.
Until now, Atta had not been identified publicly as a threat to the United States before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
According to Weldon, the military unit identified a terrorist cell in Brooklyn, N.Y., in September 2000.
The individuals identified as members of the cell were Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhamzi.
In late 1999 or 2000, the CIA had identified Almihdhar and Alhamzi as terrorist members who might be involved in a terrorist operation.
The duo arrived in Los Angeles in early 2000, but the FBI was not warned about them until spring 2001. No efforts were made to track them until a month before the terrorist attacks.
In the article published by Government Security News, a former defense intelligence official who worked with Able Danger said he alerted SOCom about the unit’s findings. The publication said it interviewed the source in Weldon’s office.
“The documents included a photo of Mohammed Atta supplied by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and described Atta’s relationship with Osama bin Laden,” the article said.
“The officer was very disappointed when lawyers working for Special Ops decided that anyone holding a green card had to be granted essentially the same legal protections as any U.S. citizen.
“Thus, the information Able Danger had amassed about the only terrorist cell they had located inside the United States could not be shared with the FBI, the lawyers concluded.”
Former Sen. Bob Graham, one-time chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he was not familiar with the Able Danger program.
However, the Florida Democrat said he was not surprised by Weldon’s account.
“If it’s true,” Graham said, “it would be yet another example of a missed opportunity to learn about the plot and to blow it up before 9/11.”
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Copyright 2005 The St. Petersburg Times. Used here for information purposes under fair-use provisions, please see Fair-Use Notice, below.
(Pennsylvania) Times Herald
Weldon wants answers on Atta
By: KEITH PHUCAS, Times Herald Staff
NORRISTOWN – Ten days before publication of the 9/11 Commission report, commission staff discounted information from a military officer linking Sept. 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta to a terror cell believed to be operating in New York City more than a year before the terrorist attacks.
According to a statement released Friday by The 9/11 Public Discourse Project, the two commission staff members who interviewed the officer in July 2004 concluded his story about a Defense Department intelligence counterterrorism program, called Able Danger, that worked to identify and target al-Qaida and other terrorists, was not credible. As a result, the information was not included in the commission’s final report published July 22, 2004.
The 9/11 Public Discourse Project, formerly known as the 9/11 Commission, issued the statement late Friday to respond to charges made by Congressman Curt Weldon, R-7th Dist., this week that the commission failed to follow up after being tipped off three times about the defense operation.
The Times Herald broke the Able Danger story in its June 19 edition. The story eluded the national media until early last week.
A small group of Defense Intelligence Agency employees ran the Able Danger operation from fall 1999 to February 2001 – just seven months before the terrorist attacks – when the operation was unceremoniously axed, according to a former defense intelligence official familiar with the program. The former official asked not to be identified.
In their efforts to locate terrorists, the operation’s technology analysts used data mining and fusion techniques to search terabyte-sized data sets from open source material – such as travel manifests, bank transactions, hotel records, credit applications – and compared this material with classified information.
By charting the movements and transactions of suspected terrorists, the operation linked Atta to al-Qaida. Between fall 1999 and early 2000, the intelligence team concluded that Atta, and two others, were likely part of a terrorist cell in Brooklyn.
At that point, Able Danger wanted the FBI, assisted by Special Operations Command, to track the group. But to the team’s surprise, SOCOM’s legal counsel shot down the idea.
“I tried to broker meetings between Special Operations and the FBI, but SOCOM’s lawyers squashed it,” the former defense officials said.
According to the former official, the Special Operations attorneys told the team it couldn’t perform surveillance on the suspected terrorist. The foreign nationals had green cards, and thus, had the same protections as American citizens from such scrutiny.
Special Operations had advised the FBI during the ill-fated seige of the Branch Davidian compound, in Waco, Texas, in 1993, that resulted in more than 80 deaths after Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents raided the compound, Weldon and the official said.
Following the fiery debacle, all the federal participants in the siege, including SOCOM, were harshly criticized. Fear of suffering the fallout if Able Danger backfired, they said, explains the military’s reluctance to help the FBI.
“We felt that they were terrorists, and we should have done something about it,” the former intelligence officials said. “I believe we could have prevented 9/11.”
Wednesday, after becoming exasperated with former 9/11 Commission staff who claimed it didn’t know anything about Able Danger, Weldon fired off a harsh letter to former commission members demanding to know why the information had not been considered.
In Weldon’s letter, he said his chief of staff actually handed a package on the defense program to one of the commissioners in a Capitol Hill congressional office building April 13, 2004. Also, the congressman criticized the staff for not returning calls from a defense intelligence official with information on the operation.
Scrambling to answer Weldon’s claims, commission staff combed through its archives this week for information related to Able Danger.
In its Friday statement, The 9/11 Public Discourse Project said the commission was first told about Able Danger while commission members were visiting Afghanistan on Oct. 21, 2003. While there, Philip Zelikow, then executive director of the commission, and two senior staffers met with three intelligence officials working for the Defense Department. One official mentioned Able Danger and said it was shut down. According to documents the commission received from the Pentagon, Able Danger began in 1999.
In November 2003, commission staff requested Defense Department material about the operation and received documents in February 2004 that included diagrams of terrorist networks, according to the 9/11 project letter.
The commission, however, said it first heard Atta mentioned in discussions about Able Danger on July 12, 2004, during an interview with a Navy officer. The officer told senior commission staff member Deiter Snell and another staffer that he recalled briefly seeing Atta’s name and photo in a chart belonging to a Defense Department employee, and said the material was dated “February through April 2000.”
According to the commission, Atta first arrived in the United States on June 3, 2001, about three months before the airline he flew crashed into the World Trade Center.
The Navy officer, who said the chart showed Atta to be a member of a terrorist cell in Brooklyn, complained that the identities of other cell members had been removed from the document because Pentagon lawyers were concerned about the propriety of the military’s role with the FBI in a domestic intelligence operation.
Eventually commission staffers found the military officer’s description and explanation of Able Danger to be wanting and concluded the information was “not sufficiently reliable to warrant revision of the (9/11) report or further investigation.”
Weldon is demanding to know why the Defense Department did not pass information about Able Danger on to the FBI in 2000 and why the commission’s staff failed to pursue the matter. He has vowed to push for a full accounting of the controversy, according to a written response issued from his office Friday evening.
Since 1999 Weldon has called for fusing the government’s intelligence agencies collection system so they could share information and more effectively thwart terrorist plots. Six years ago, he proposed the creation of a National Operations and Analysis Hub (NOAH) for this effort.
In 2004, President Bush established the National Counterterrorism Center to integrate all intelligence the U.S. possesses on terrorism and counterterrorism.
In a new book, “Countdown to Terror: The top-secret information that could prevent the next terrorist attack on America … and how the CIA has ignored it,” Weldon is critical of the CIA for failing to share intelligence information with other agencies and discrediting information he has offered the CIA.
The congressman said he first became aware of the tremendous intelligence collaboration possibilities after visiting the Army’s Land Information Warfare Assistance Center, in Fort Belvoir, Va., where massive amounts of data was mined and fused to profile emerging threats.
Calls to communications director Al Felzenberg at the 9/11 Public Discourse Project by The Times Herald were not returned on Friday. A spokesman for John Lehman, a former 9/11 Commission member, said Lehman did not wish to comment on the matter.
Copyright © 2005 The Times Herald. Used here for information purposes under fair-use provisions, please see Fair-Use Notice, below.
The Guardian (UK)
US officer says Pentagon prevented al-Qaida reports reaching the FBI
Julian Borger in Washington
Thursday August 18, 2005
A US army intelligence officer went public yesterday with claims that a secret military unit had identified Mohammed Atta and three other al-Qaida members as a potential threat a year before they carried out the September 11 attacks in 2001.
Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer said the secret intelligence unit, codenamed Able Danger, had been prevented from passing on its information to the FBI by Pentagon lawyers concerned that the military should not be involved in surveillance of suspects inside the US.
The claim has focused new light on the Pentagon’s part in intelligence failings before the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington and called into question last year’s official report on the debacle.
Col Shaffer, a reservist now working part-time at the Pentagon, said he was risking his career by giving on-the-record interviews to the New York Times and television networks, but he said he had been frustrated by the dismissal of his account by the official inquiry into the September 11 attacks. He said information he provided to the investigative staff “never got to the commissioners”.
The commission’s final report last year did not mention Able Danger, despite being briefed on its work by Col Shaffer in October 2003 and by an unnamed navy captain in 2004. The two top commissioners, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, defended that decision last week, arguing its role “did not turn out to be historically significant”.
The commissioners issued a statement last week saying the claim that Mohammed Atta and other plotters had been identified before 2001 was not supported by official documents the commission had requested.
They said Atta had not been mentioned in the 2003 briefing on Able Danger in Afghanistan, and the allegation made by the naval officer in 2004, that Atta was attached to an al-Qaida cell in Brooklyn, was incompatible with official records of his movements.
Col Shaffer countered that the commission was never given all the relevant documentation by the Pentagon.
“I’m told confidently by the person who moved the material over, that the 9/11 commission received two briefcase-sized containers of documents. I can tell you for a fact that would not be one-twentieth of the information that Able Danger consisted of during the time we spent investigating,” the intelligence officer told Fox News.
The Able Danger unit was created in 1999 under the Special Operations Command to carry out computer analysis of huge amounts of data on possible terrorist suspects.
Col Shaffer, who served as a liaison officer between Able Danger and the Defence Intelligence Agency, said that by mid-2000 the unit came up with a chart linking Mohammed Atta, the Egyptian lead hijacker, and three others, Khalid al-Mihdhar, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Marwan al-Shehhi, complete with photographs of the plotters. “I was at the point of near insubordination over the fact that this was something important, that this was something that should have been pursued,” Col Shaffer told the New York Times.
Copyright 2005 The Guardian. Used here for information purposes under fair-use provisions, please see Fair-Use Notice, below.
Errors of Commission
The hijacking of the probe into the 9-11 hijackers
by James Ridgeway with Natalie Wittlin
August 23rd, 2005 11:49 AM
Whether or not U.S. military intelligence was prevented by Pentagon superiors from alerting the FBI to the presence of Mohammed Atta in 1998, there is little doubt the U.S. was well aware of the infamous hijacker by then. The Republican right wing is raising the Atta issue at a time when Bush is sinking in the polls, people are fed up with Iraq, and there are continuing questions about the administration’s handling of 9-11 and the war on terror. One way to take some of the heat off is to shift the blame to Bill Clinton.
In his book Countdown to Terror, Republican Congressman Curt Weldon, vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, lays the blame for our lousy intelligence on Clinton: “Given the intelligence community’s poor track record and the political corruption of the intelligence process during the Clinton administration, the intelligence community’s failure to detect and stop the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington seems inevitable. ”
By 1998, Atta was living in a Hamburg apartment (later found to be an Al Qaeda cell) and under surveillance by German intelligence. The Germans were passing along what they knew to the CIA. There are suggestions that Atta may have been known to U.S. intelligence as far back as 1993 and, according to the German press, the CIA itself had other people in the apartment under surveillance. This raises the question of whether this cell might not have been taken out well before 9-11.
In 2004, the German prosecutor who was in charge of the investigation was scheduled to testify about this Hamburg cell to the 9-11 Commission. But his testimony was unexpectedly canceled. The documents from the investigation are reported to be missing.
Last week, Mounir al-Motassadek, one of Atta’s associates, was convicted of belonging to a terrorist organization in a German court and sentenced to seven years in prison. He had been acquitted in another court on charges related to whether he knew anything about the 9-11 attacks. The Germans had him under surveillance and had been tapping his phones since August 1998. He was an associate of Atta’s in the Hamburg apartment. He witnessed Atta’s will and had power of attorney over the hijackers’ bank accounts, shifting money to them while they took flying lessons in the U.S. He trained with them in Afghanistan.
What Weldon and Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer are claiming is that the Army Intelligence and Special Operations Command in 1998-1999 launched a secret program, Able Danger, to map out the international Al Qaeda network. One Defense official has said the project was approved by General Henry H. Shelton, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Shelton said recently that he does not remember the project but that “we had lots of initiatives to find out where Al Qaeda was.”
By September 2000, so the story goes-and much of it depends on Shaffer’s shaky memory-Able Danger had discovered Atta and other hijackers working out of a “Brooklyn cell.” They wanted to tell the FBI about their findings in hopes the Bureau would take out the cell. But military lawyers blocked them from doing so on grounds it would reveal the existence of illegal military intelligence operations within the U.S., and that would cause controversy for Clinton-and perhaps damage Al Gore’s campaign against George W. Bush.
In July 2004, a naval officer testified to the 9-11 Commission that he saw an Able Danger document in 2000 that linked Atta to the Al Qaeda cell. Commission chair Thomas Kean and vice-chair Lee Hamilton later said that one piece of testimony had not been “sufficiently reliable” to merit further investigation.
This month Weldon asked the commission how come it had not pursued Able Danger, and Hamilton replied, “The 9-11 Commission did not learn of any U.S. government knowledge prior to 9-11 of surveillance of Mohammed Atta or of his cell. Had we learned of it, obviously it would’ve been a major focus of our investigation.” Later both said Able Danger “did not turn out to be historically significant.”
Even if the Pentagon’s supposed discovery of Atta before 9-11 succeeds in shifting some of the political blame from Bush to Clinton, it also raises new questions about the role of the Pentagon and especially that of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 9-11 and the war on terror. And this comes at a time when the military is clamoring for a greater role in intelligence gathering.
At 9:53 on the morning of 9-11, the National Security Agency intercepted a call from an Osama bin Laden operative in Afghanistan to a person in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, as noted in the 9-11 Timeline compiled by Paul Thompson at cooperativeresearch.org. The caller said he had “heard good news” and another target was still to be hit (apparently by the plane that was brought down in the Pennsylvania countryside). This was the first firm indication the government had that bin Laden was behind the attack. Two hours later, at 12:05, CIA director George Tenet told Rumsfeld about the NSA intercept.
As reported by CBS News, based on leaked notes from a National Military Command Center teleconference, the Secretary of Defense was surprisingly reluctant to make much of the call: “Rumsfeld felt it was ‘vague,’ that it ‘might not mean something,’ and that there was ‘no good basis for hanging hat.’ In other words, the evidence was not clear-cut enough to justify military action against Bin Laden. But later that afternoon, the CIA reported the passenger manifests for the hijacked airliners showed three of the hijackers were suspected Al Qaeda operatives.”
According to the notes, Rumsfeld learned that “one guy is associate of bomber”-the Al Qaeda suicide bomber who attacked the U.S. warship in Yemen in 2000.
At 2:40, the notes report, Rumsfeld was beginning to take aim at the target close to his heart: He wants the “best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only UBL [Osama Bin Laden]. Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.” This was the first indication that Rumsfeld was disregarding specific intelligence clearly linking the attack to Al Qaeda and instead had begun to fantasize about getting Saddam Hussein.
Hours later, White House terrorism adviser Richard Clarke went to the White House for meetings that Clarke believed would concern U.S. vulnerabilities, possible future attacks, and what might be done to prevent them. As he writes in one of the most famous passages from his book, Clarke “instead walked into a series of discussions about Iraq.”
“At first,” Clarke writes, “I was incredulous that we were talking about something other than getting Al Qaeda. Then I realized with almost a sharp physical pain that Rumsfeld and [Deputy Defense Secretary Paul] Wolfowitz were going to try to take advantage of this national tragedy to promote their agenda about Iraq. Since the beginning of the administration, indeed well before, they had been pressing for a war with Iraq. My friends in the Pentagon had been telling me that the word was we would be invading Iraq sometime in 2002.”
Rumsfeld’s breezy dismissal of Al Qaeda’s involvement in the attacks in the face of specific intelligence is hard to fathom. And if there is buried somewhere in the Pentagon a military intelligence operation-its existence approved at the highest levels-that knew all about Atta and Al Qaeda, then Rumsfeld’s behavior is indefensible.
The 9-11 Commission was established to get to the bottom of the attacks that day. However, it often skipped over key issues:
*Bush and Cheney were interviewed together, in secret, with no record of the meeting.
*Florida senator Bob Graham’s joint congressional inquiry had unearthed the outlines of what may have been a Saudi spy operation linked to Al Qaeda and operating in the U.S. But the commission dismissed Saudi involvement and cleared the royal family.
*The commission never seriously inquired into the activities of Pakistan, whose secret intelligence agency had created the Taliban and subsequently backed Al Qaeda.
*The commission had no time for FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, who came up with one tale after another of fishy operations in the FBI translations section, including the mind-boggling information that FBI interpreters were being sent to Guantánamo to translate languages they could not speak.
*The congressional joint inquiry discovered that an FBI informant on the West Coast, unbeknownst to the Bureau, rented an apartment to two hijackers. When Graham tried to interview the landlord, the FBI refused. Later a top FBI official told Graham that the White House had blocked the informant’s testimony. The commission dismissed all this.
*The commission skipped over the scandalous mess at the FAA, suppressing a staff study saying that the agency had ignored numerous warnings issued in the months before the attack. After the election, the commission released parts of this study, leaving some of it classified.
*The commission never seriously inquired into intelligence failures at the Hamburg cell where Atta lived off and on and which was a key center for planning the attacks.
Every day it looks as if the government’s main probe of 9-11 has turned into a political fix.
Additional reporting: Halley Bondy
Copyright 2005 The Village Voice. Used here for information purposes under fair-use provisions, please see Fair-Use Notice, below.
Reuters, September 1, 2005
Three more assert Pentagon knew of 9/11 ringleader
By Will Dunham
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Three more people associated with a secret U.S. military intelligence team have asserted that the program identified September 11 ringleader Mohammed Atta as an Al Qaeda suspect inside the United States more than a year before the 2001 attacks, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
The Pentagon said a three-week review had turned up no documents to back up the assertion, but did not rule out that such documents relating to the classified operation had been destroyed.
Navy Capt. Scott Phillpott and Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer last month came forward with statements that a secret intelligence program code-named “Able Danger” had identified Atta, the lead hijacker in the attacks that killed 3,000 people, in early 2000. Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Curt Weldon (news, bio, voting record), vice chairman of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, also went public with the allegations.
Pat Downs, a senior policy analyst in the office of the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, told reporters that as part of the review, the Pentagon interviewed 80 people.
Downs said that three more people, as well as Phillpott and Shaffer, recalled the existence of an intelligence chart identifying Atta by name. Four of the five recalled a photo of Atta accompanying the chart, Downs said.
Pentagon officials declined to identify the three by name, but said they were an analyst with the military’s Special Operations Command, an analyst with the Land Information Warfare Assessment Center and a contractor who supported the center.
Downs said all five were considered “credible people.”
But officials said an exhaustive search of tens of thousands of documents and electronic files related to Able Danger failed to find the chart or other documents corroborating the identification of Atta. Phillpott has said Atta was identified by Able Danger by January or February of 2000.
“We have not discovered that chart,” Downs said.
Asked whether it ever existed, she said, “We don’t know. We don’t have it at the moment.” Downs said it was possible that the chart and any other document that might have referred to Atta were destroyed by the military.
“Able Danger,” now disbanded, was a small, classified military operation engaged in data-mining analysis of information including media reports and public records through the use of powerful computer systems.
“There are strict regulations about collection, dissemination and destruction procedures for this type of information. And we know that did happen in the case of Able Danger documentation,” Downs said.
But Navy Cmdr. Christopher Chope of the Special Operations Command said that “we have negative indications” that destruction of such a chart was advised by military lawyers.
When Shaffer, currently on paid leave as an employee of the Defense Intelligence Agency, went public, he said analysts involved in Able Danger were blocked by military lawyers when they sought to provide the team’s findings to the FBI in 2000 in an effort to find Al Qaeda suspects.
Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said the review turned up no evidence that the Pentagon prevented the disclosure of Atta’s name to other agencies of the U.S. government.
Shaffer also has said Able Danger identified some of Atta’s fellow hijackers, Marwan al-Shehhi, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, as part of an al Qaeda cell inside the United States.
Copyright © 2005 Reuters. Used here for information purposes under fair-use provisions, please see Fair-Use Notice, below.
Reactions: The Families & The Commission
Wednesday, August 10, 2005 – 08:59 AM
For Immediate Release
August 10, 2005
Statement of September 11th Advocates Regarding Surveillance of Mohammed Atta
As a group of 9/11 widows who fought for the creation of the 9/11 Independent Commission, we are horrified to learn of further possible evidence (as detailed by the New York Times article, “4 in 9/11 Plot Are Called Tied to Qaeda in ’00”) that the 9/11 Commission failed to fully investigate all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the 9/11 attacks.
By legislative mandate, Public Law 107-306, November 27, 2002, the 9/11 Independent Commission was charged with providing a full accounting of the 9/11 attacks to the American people. As has been indicated repeatedly since the release of the Commission’s Final Report and via the NY Times article published yesterday, the 9/11 Commission failed to provide said full accounting. As a result, each Commissioner and Staff Member should be held accountable. Nearly four years since the attacks of 9/11, we are tired of our nation’s leaders (elected and appointed officials from both political parties) not being held accountable for their actions or inactions – particularly when it comes to fighting the “ongoing war against terrorism.” We believe that the time has come for the American people to demand the necessary accountability from all of our leaders. The 9/11 Commissioners and Staff who had a legal obligation to investigate and report upon all of the facts relevent to the 9/11 attacks should, therefore, be the very first individuals to be held accountable and responsible for their collective failure to meet their legislative mandate.
Because the 9/11 Commission’s Report is incomplete, nearly four years after the 9/11 attacks, the American people clearly suffer from a false sense of security. How can we know that we are truly safer from terrorists if the 9/11 Commission has chosen to hide certain facts? Particularly when those withheld facts detail specific actions made by intelligence community officials at the following agencies: the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency, and the National Security Council. These are the very same agencies and individuals that are charged with keeping us safe from the terrorists today. Yet, a close inspection of the failures made by these individuals reveals that these same individuals had ample opportunity to unravel the 9/11 plot prior to the 9/11 attacks and failed to do so. In fact, a fair reading of these occurrences could lead one to believe that some of these individual actions or inactions actually contributed to the “catastrophic success” of the 9/11 attacks.
The revelation of this information demands answers that are forthcoming, clear, and concise. The 9/11 attacks could have and should have been prevented. To date, not one individual has been held accountable for this nation’s failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks. Thus, the 9/11 Commission Report is incomplete and illusory.
As 9/11 widows who fought tirelessly for the creation of the 9/11 Commission, we are wholly disappointed to learn that the Commission’s Final Report is a hollow failure. We spent innumerable hours of our time away from our families to ensure that the 9/11 Commission had the tools and resources necessary to provide a complete and thorough accounting of the 9/11 attacks to the American people. We truly wanted to learn lessons from the 9/11 attacks so that we could all live in a safer environment. We find this latest revelation of the Commission’s failure to adequately and aggressively pursue the complete truth surrounding 9/11 absolutely shameful.
September 11th Advocates
Lorie Van Auken
August 12, 2005
Kean-Hamilton Statement on ABLE DANGER
Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, former Chair and Vice Chair of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission),in response to media inquiries about the Commission’s investigation of the ABLE DANGER program, today released the following statement:
On October 21, 2003, Philip Zelikow, the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, two senior Commission staff members, and a representative of the executive branch, met at Bagram Base, Afghanistan, with three individuals doing intelligence work for the Department of Defense. One of the men, in recounting information about al Qaeda’s activities in Afghanistan before 9/11, referred to a DOD program known as ABLE DANGER. He said this program was now closed, but urged Commission staff to get the files on this program and review them, as he thought the Commission would find information about al Qaeda and Bin Ladin that had been developed before the 9/11 attack. He also complained that Congress, particularly the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), had effectively ended a human intelligence network he considered valuable.
As with their other meetings, Commission staff promptly prepared a memorandum for the record. That memorandum, prepared at the time, does not record any mention of Mohamed Atta or any of the other future hijackers, or any suggestion that their identities were known to anyone at DOD before 9/11. Nor do any of the three Commission staffers who participated in the interview, or the executive branch lawyer, recall hearing any such allegation.
While still in Afghanistan, Dr. Zelikow called back to the Commission headquarters in Washington and requested that staff immediately draft a document request seeking information from DOD on ABLE DANGER. The staff had also heard about ABLE DANGER in another context, related to broader military planning involving possible operations against al Qaeda before 9/11.
In November 2003, shortly after the staff delegation had returned to the United States, two document requests related to ABLE DANGER were finalized and sent to DOD. One, sent on November 6, asked, among other things, for any planning order or analogous documents about military operations related to al Qaeda and Afghanistan issued from the beginning of 1998 to September 20, 2001, and any reports, memoranda, or briefings by or for either the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the Commanding General of the U.S. Special Operations Command in connection with such planning, specifically including material related to ABLE DANGER. The other, sent on November 25, treated ABLE DANGER as a possible intelligence program and asked for all documents and files associated with “DIA’s program ‘ABLE DANGER'” from the beginning of 1998 through September 20, 2001.
In February 2004, DOD provided documents responding to these requests. Some were turned over to the Commission and remain in Commission files. Others were available for staff review in a DOD reading room. Commission staff reviewed the documents. Four former staff members have again, this week, reviewed those documents turned over to the Commission, which are held in the Commission’s archived files. Staff who reviewed the documents held in the DOD reading room made notes summarizing each of them. Those notes are also in the Commission archives and have also been reviewed this week.
The records discuss a set of plans, beginning in 1999, for ABLE DANGER, which involved expanding knowledge about the al Qaeda network. Some documents include diagrams of terrorist networks. None of the documents turned over to the Commission mention Mohamed Atta or any of the other future hijackers. Nor do any of the staff notes on documents reviewed in the DOD reading room indicate that Mohamed Atta or any of the other future hijackers were mentioned in any of those documents.
A senior staff member also made verbal inquiries to the HPSCI and CIA staff for any information regarding the ABLE DANGER operation. Neither organization produced any documents about the operation, or displayed any knowledge of it.
In 2004, Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA) and his staff contacted the Commission to call the Commission’s attention to the Congressman’s critique of the U.S. intelligence community. No mention was made in these conversations of a claim that Mohamed Atta or any of the other future hijackers had been identified by DOD employees before 9/11.
In early July 2004, the Commission’s point of contact at DOD called the Commission’s attention to the existence of a U.S. Navy officer employed at DOD who was seeking to be interviewed by Commission staff in connection with a data mining project on which he had worked. The DOD point of contact indicated that the prospective witness was claiming that the project had linked Atta to an al Qaeda cell located in New York in the 1999-2000 time frame. Shortly after receiving this information, the Commission staff’s front office assigned two staff members with knowledge of the 9/11 plot and the ABLE DANGER operation to interview the witness at one of the Commission’s Washington, D.C. offices.
On July 12, 2004, as the drafting and editing process for the Report was coming to an end (the Report was released on July 22, and editing continued to occur through July 17), a senior staff member, Dieter Snell, accompanied by another staff member, met with the officer at one of the Commission’s Washington, D.C. offices. A representative of the DOD also attended the interview.
According to the memorandum for the record on this meeting, prepared the next day by Mr. Snell, the officer said that ABLE DANGER included work on “link analysis,” mapping links among various people involved in terrorist networks. According to this record, the officer recalled seeing the name and photo of Mohamed Atta on an “analyst notebook chart” assembled by another officer (who he said had retired and was now working as a DOD contractor).
The officer being interviewed said he saw this material only briefly, that the relevant material dated from February through April 2000, and that it showed Mohamed Atta to be a member of an al Qaeda cell located in Brooklyn. The officer complained that this information and information about other alleged members of a Brooklyn cell had been soon afterward deleted from the document (“redacted”) because DOD lawyers were concerned about the propriety of DOD intelligence efforts that might be focused inside the United States. The officer referred to these as “posse comitatus” restrictions. Believing the law was being wrongly interpreted, he said he had complained about these restrictions up his chain of command in the U.S. Special Operations Command, to no avail.
The officer then described the remainder of his work on link analysis efforts, until he was eventually transferred to other work. The officer complained about how these methods were being used by the Defense Intelligence Agency, and mentioned other concerns about U.S. officials and foreign governments.
At the time of the officer’s interview, the Commission knew that, according to travel and immigration records, Atta first obtained a U.S. visa on May 18, 2000, and first arrived in the United States (at Newark) on June 3, 2000. Atta joined up with Marwan al-Shehhi. They spent little time in the New York area, traveling later in June to Oklahoma and then to Florida, where they were enrolled in flight school by early July.
The interviewee had no documentary evidence and said he had only seen the document briefly some years earlier. He could not describe what information had led to this supposed Atta identification. Nor could the interviewee recall, when questioned, any details about how he thought a link to Atta could have been made by this DOD program in 2000 or any time before 9/11. The Department of Defense documents had mentioned nothing about Atta, nor had anyone come forward between September 2001 and July 2004 with any similar information. Weighing this with the information about Atta’s actual activities, the negligible information available about Atta to other U.S. government agencies and the German government before 9/11, and the interviewer’s assessment of the interviewee’s knowledge and credibility, the Commission staff concluded that the officer’s account was not sufficiently reliable to warrant revision of the report or further investigation.
We have seen press accounts alleging that a DOD link analysis had tied Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi (who had arrived in the U.S. shortly before Atta on May 29) to two other future hijackers, Hazmi al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, in 1999-2000. No such claim was made to the Commission by any witness. Moreover, all evidence that was available to the Commission indicates that Hazmi and Mihdhar were never on the East coast until 2001 and that these two pairs of future hijackers had no direct contact with each other until June 2001.
The Commission did not mention ABLE DANGER in its report. The name and character of this classified operation had not, at that time, been publicly disclosed. The operation itself did not turn out to be historically significant, set against the larger context of U.S. policy and intelligence efforts that involved Bin Ladin and al Qaeda. The Report’s description of military planning against al Qaeda prior to 9/11 encompassed this and other military plans. The information we received about this program also contributed to the Commission’s depiction of intelligence efforts against al Qaeda before 9/11.
Second Familes’ Release:
We would like to thank Lt. Colonel Anthony Shaffer
For Immediate Release — August 17, 2005
We would like to thank Lt. Colonel Anthony Shaffer for coming forward with invaluable information that could ultimately be used to help make our nation safer.
The mandate of the 9/11 Commission was to unearth these facts so as to provide the necessary fixes that would prevent, thwart or mitigate the results of another attack. We strongly disagree with Thomas Kean’s and Lee Hamilton’s latest conclusion that Able Danger “did not turn out to be historically significant, set against the larger context of U.S. policy and intelligence efforts that involved (Osama) bin Laden and al Qaeda.” Clearly, knowledge of the hijackers whereabouts, one year prior to 9/11, would be of extreme relevance to the 9/11 story and would have bearings on recommendations put forth by the 9/11 Commission. It is, therefore, becoming increasingly apparent that the Commission failed in their obligation to the American Public and to those who lost their lives on 9/11.
Today, with no real fact finding body in place, it will only be when individuals have the courage to speak out about these truths that we can actually hope to make progress in this post 9/11 era.
It is our fervent wish that any other individuals who have information find the strength and courage, as exhibited by Lt. Colonel Shaffer, to come forward and that in doing so they suffer no consequences but instead are properly rewarded for their patriotism.
September 11th Advocates
Lorie Van Auken
Commentaries and Analysis Around the Web
Thursday, August 11, 2005 – 12:00 PM
How Bin Laden and Mohamed Atta Escaped Gen. Franks
Wed Aug 10th, 2005 — Copyright 2005, Mark G. Levey
Tommy Franks, retired U.S. Army four star General, and long-time Texas friend of President George W. Bush, was in command of two of the worst ever counter-terrorism failures of U.S. military intelligence.
Under Frank’s command, Army intelligence released Mohamed Atta along with the main 9/11 hijackers from surveillance in 2000. Then, in early 2002, Usama bin Laden slipped past U.S. forces under Franks and escaped into Pakistan. Beginning in July 2000, General Tommy Franks was commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), headquartered at McDill AF Base near Tampa, Florida. During that three-year tour of duty, he was in charge of US special forces in the Mid-East, and commanded the failed operation there in January 2002 to capture Usama bin Laden (UBL) at Tora Bora, Afghanistan.
Franks was also in command of a secret Army intelligence operation, codename Able Danger, that surveilled al-Qaeda cells known to be inside the United States prior to the 9/11 attack.
According to a front-page New York Times article by Douglas Jehl published yesterday http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/09/politics/09intel.html :
“More than a year before the Sept. 11 attacks, a small, highly classified military intelligence unit identified Mohammed Atta and three other future hijackers as likely members of a cell of Al Qaeda operating in the United States . . .
“In the summer of 2000, the military team, known as Able Danger, prepared a chart that included visa photographs of the four men and recommended to the military’s Special Operations Command” Gen. Franks had overall command of SOC and its Able Danger unit, that was reportedly involved in tracking al-Qaeda cells by gathering and analyzing electronic communications and other data from multiple sources.
Jehl reports, that a “former intelligence official spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying he did not want to jeopardize political support and the possible financing for future data-mining operations by speaking publicly. He said the team had been established by the Special Operations Command in 1999, under a classified directive issued by Gen. Hugh Shelton, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to assemble information about Al Qaeda networks around the world.”
That information was assembled into a giant chart that linked Mohammed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi with another al-Qaeda cell headed by Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, who had been identified by the CIA. The four were collectively termed the “Brooklyn Cell”, apparently in reference to the initial detection of Atta and al-Shehhi there in late 1999.
Ultimately, according to a US military intelligence officer sourced in the Times article, that officer “said that he delivered the chart in summer 2000 to the Special Operations Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla., and said that it had been based on information from unclassified sources and government records, including those of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.”
This is particularly notable because CIA officials have testified under oath to Congress and the 9/11 Commission that the agency did not pass on information it had about the arrival in the US on January 15 2000 of al-Hazmi and al-Midhar. The then commander of the CIA Counter-Terrorism Center (CTC), Cofer Black, testified that his unit had simply overlooked the entry of the Flight 77 hijackers. In fact, the head of CIA counter-terrorism ordered an FBI liaison officer to withhold a cable notifying the Bureau’s counterterrorism unit in New York of that entry by known terrorists, after they returned from a CIA-monitored al-Qaeda planning summit in Kuala Lumpur where both the 9/11 attack and the bombing of the USS Cole were discussed. See, Perjury by CIA Counterterrorism Center Director – the Blocked Memo, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/6/10/105125/910 ; also, see: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-te …
Nonetheless, the presence of all four principal 9/11 hijackers inside the US had become known to Army intelligence by the summer of 2000, when Gen. Franks took command.
Franks and Black have been at the opposite ends of this still unravelling tale of counter-terrorism failure and bureaucratic finger-pointing. The CIA’s Cofer Black was the initial source for media reports in 2002 that Franks had been responsible for bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora that hastened Gen. Franks replacement as CENTCOM commander. For that exposure of Franks, Defense Secretary Runsfeld convinced George Tenet to fire Black. See, Richard Sale, Embarrassed Rumsfeld fired CIA official, UPI, 07/28/04, http://www.washingtontimes.com/upi-breaking/20040728-03…
While the DoD and CIA had long been been aware of their presence, for reasons that have not been satisfactorily explained, the FBI was not notified that any of the al-Qaeda cells had entered the U.S. until the summer of 2001, at which time critical information continued to be withheld from Bureau investigators who were attempting to obtain warrants to investigate suspected terrorists.
The former Army intelligence officer is quoted by Jehl as stating, “We knew these were bad guys, and we wanted to do something about them.”
After the CIA CTC and the DoD Able Danger unit commanders failed to notify the FBI of the terrorist cells presence inside the U.S., these four al-Qaeda operatives went on to successfully commandeer passenger jets that crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11, killing some 3,000 people, an outrage that led to the Bush Administration’s war on terrorism and the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
For their part in this fiasco, in 2004 Tommy Franks along with George Tenet received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush.
Copyright 2005, Mark G. Levey. Used here for information purposes under fair-use provisions, please see Fair-Use Notice, below.
Original at wsws.org
Why is the media burying new revelations about 9/11?
Thursday, August 11, 2005 – 10:23 PM
By Joseph Kay and Barry Grey — 11 August 2005
The revelation that a military intelligence unit had identified four September 11 hijackers as Al Qaeda operatives working in the US a year before the 9/11 attacks has sparked a flurry of disclaimers and denials from official sources, while most media outlets have ignored the story altogether.
The fact that the government had long been tracking some of the hijackers, including the putative leader, Mohammad Atta, was revealed in a front page article in the New York Times on Tuesday. Citing Republican Congressman Curt Weldon and an unidentified former military intelligence officer, the article reported that a Pentagon unit known as Able Danger had by the middle of 2000 identified Atta and three of the other September 11 hijackers as members of an Al Qaeda cell operating in the US. The former intelligence officer said that Able Danger was prevented by the military’s Special Operations Command from passing on the information to the FBI.
The former intelligence officer also said that he was in a group that briefed members of the staff of the 9/11 commission on this information in October of 2003. The 9/11 commission made no mention of Able Danger in its final report, nor did it reveal that any government agency had identified Atta as an Al Qaeda operative prior to the hijack bombings of the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Weldon has said he talked to top-level administration officials about Able Danger, including then-Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, as early as September or October 2001.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, government officials and members of the September 11 commission scrambled to discount the significance of the revelations, while the media refrained from publicizing the story. The New York Times on Wednesday followed up its front-page report of the previous day with an article placed inconspicuously at the bottom of page 13.
The Washington Post published on an inside page a five-paragraph Associated Press dispatch which explained nothing about the significance of the revelations. The Wall Street Journal did not even take note of the Times exposé, nor did most other American newspapers.
The story received scant treatment on the evening television news on Tuesday, and no coverage on Wednesday.
What accounts for this silence? A US congressman and a former intelligence official have alleged that at least a section of the American military knew the identity and whereabouts of several of the September 11 hijackers over a year before the attacks, and that they were prevented from acting on this knowledge.
The congressman says he told administration officials within a month of the attacks about the work of Able Danger, and the former intelligence officer says the staff of the official investigatory commission into 9/11 was likewise informed. And yet news of these facts has surfaced only this week, nearly four years after the attacks on New York and Washington.
If the claims concerning Able Danger are true, they point to a massive cover-up within the government, a cover-up that can have no innocent explanation. They deliver a further and devastating blow to the official history of an event that has had a profound effect on American foreign and domestic policy. Yet the media is all but silent.
As is often the case, the coverage in the media is inversely proportional to the gravity of the news.
What has been said or reported in response to the Able Danger revelations consists largely of evasions and obfuscations. It seems that in the scramble to cover up their past omissions and lies, Bush administration officials and 9/11 commission members have failed to get their story straight. They are tripping over themselves with contradictory statements and inane disclaimers.
At a press briefing on Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared he had no knowledge of Able Danger. “I have no idea,” he said. “I’ve never heard of it until this morning. I understand our folks are trying to look into it.”
Weldon claims that the Able Danger team was set up in 1999 under the direction of the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Henry Shelton. Yet Shelton said on Tuesday that he did not recall authorizing the creation of the unit.
Hadley, who is now Bush’s national security adviser, has not made any public comments about the revelations.
A spokesman for the Pentagon took a different tact, implying that any investigation into the matter would help terrorist organizations. “There were a number of intelligence operations prior to the attacks of 9/11,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Conway. “It would be irresponsible for us to provide details in a way in which those who wish to do us harm would find beneficial.”
The chairman and co-chairman of the 9/11 commission, while not denying that the October 2003 meeting with Able Danger took place, assert that the commission staff do not recall being given the name of Mohammad Atta. According to the New York Times article on Wednesday, Thomas Kean, the commission’s chairman and a former Republican governor from New Jersey, said 9/11 commission staff members were “confident” Atta’s name was not mentioned in the briefing or subsequent documents from the Pentagon.
Lee Hamilton, co-chairman of the commission and a former Democratic congressman from Indiana, made a similar statement. According to the Associated Press: “Hamilton said 9/11 commission staff members learned of Able Danger during a meeting with military personnel in October 2003 in Afghanistan, but that the staff members do not recall learning of a connection between Able Danger and any of the four terrorists Weldon mentioned.”
Hamilton is quoted by the Associated Press as saying, “The 9/11 commission did not learn of any US government knowledge prior to 9/11 of surveillance of Mohammed Atta or of his cell. Had we learned of it, obviously it would’ve been a major focus of our investigation.”
Even if one were to take the statements of these commissioners at face value, they do not explain the failure of the commission to even mention the work of Able Danger. Nowhere in its massive report on the September 11 attacks, nowhere in the volumes of documents and transcripts that it published, did the commission consider it relevant to mention the existence of a Pentagon group gathering information on Al Qaeda members operating on US soil. How is this to be explained?
In fact, it is inconceivable that no information was given to the commission concerning precisely who it was that Able Danger was tracking. What else would those associated with Able Danger who briefed the 9/11 commission staff in October 2003 have talked about?
The commission was tasked with investigating the September 11 attacks, and unless a conscious decision was made to cover up the information reported by the military intelligence officials, it would undoubtedly have pursued in great detail any report given by them. Yet Kean and Hamilton would have us believe that no one on the commission thought it necessary to investigate exactly what the military intelligence group had uncovered.
The statements by the commission members are directly contradicted by the military intelligence official who has been speaking to the press. According to a Reuters report, “The former military intelligence official insists he personally told Sept. 11 commission staff members about Atta in Afghanistan, and offered to supply them with documents upon his return to the Untied States, only to be rebuffed.”
The intelligence official has specifically mentioned the panel’s staff director Philip Zelikow as someone he personally spoke to about Atta. Prior to being chosen as head of the 9/11 commission staff, Zelikow was a close associate of then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. He has since been promoted to become a senior advisor to Secretary of State Rice.
Zelikow has refused thus far to comment on the revelations.
The statements by Dean and Hamilton have the appearance of a preemptive alibi for Zelikow, suggesting that the information he was given did not include details relevant to the commission’s investigation.
There can be no innocent explanation for the failure of the 9/11 commission to note in any way the activities of the Able Danger group and its identification of an Al Qaeda cell led by Atta and including three other future hijack-bombers. Why was this information concealed?
Because it points imperiously to the existence of a conspiracy within one or another intelligence or security agency, not to mention the Bush White House, to shield the future hijackers and allow some form of terrorist attack on US soil to occur. All of the efforts of the 9/11 commission—as well as the entire official media and both the Democratic and Republican parties—have been concentrated on excluding even the possibility that something more sinister than bureaucratic
incompetence or institutional roadblocks were responsible for an intelligence failure of staggering dimensions.
But the evidence pointing to some form of government complicity continues to mount, despite official whitewashes, cover-ups, half-truths and lies.
One thing is certain: without the tragedy of 9/11, the government could not possibly have shifted public opinion to tolerate invasions in the oil-rich regions of Central Asia and the Persian Gulf and an open-ended policy of militarism codified in the doctrine of preventive war. Nor could it have carried out the massive attack on democratic rights that has been justified by appeals to national security and the “war on terrorism.”
For the Bush administration and the American ruling elite, 9/11 served, and continues to serve, an indispensable political function in facilitating the pursuit of imperialist policy abroad and social reaction at home.
Copyright (c) 2005 World Socialist Web Site — www.wsws.org — Used here for information purposes under fair-use provisions, please see Fair-Use Notice, below.
Legal Aspects of Data Mining and Able Danger
Jon Holdaway, Wednesday August 10, 2005 at 3:42am EST
[Note: This was written in response to an argument that there was a legal basis for suspending Able Danger surveillance of Atta.-ED.]
1. Information Sharing and US Persons.
The critical part of your first quote block below is:
Under American law, United States citizens and green-card holders may not be singled out in intelligence-collection operations by the military or intelligence agencies. That protection does not extend to visa holders, but Mr. Weldon and the former intelligence official said it might have reinforced a sense of discomfort common before Sept. 11 about sharing intelligence information with a law enforcement agency.
This is just flat-out wrong. First, the “law” cited is Executive Order 12333, which defines the Intelligence Community and its authority to conduct operations. The most important provision of EO 12333 is its rules for when the IC can collect information on “US Persons.” This is a specific definition and applies to a) US citizens, b) Permanent Resident Aliens (green-card holders), c) un-incorporated organizations composed by a majority of a) or b), or d) US corporations not owned by a foreign government.
The general rule for EO 12333 is basically, “thou shalt not collect information (that is, spy on) US Persons, except . . .” The “except” portion is critical. There are 13 exceptions under which an intelligence agency can collect information on US Persons. These include for personnel security investigations, for administrative purposes, when the subject gives consent to collect. The two most important categories are for Foreign Intelligence purposes (that is, collecting information on US Persons who are agents of a foreign power) and for Counterintelligence purposes. The Counterintelligence exception also includes collection for counternarcotics and international counterterrorism purposes. It also allows for collection of not just individuals reasonably believed to be engaged in international terrorism activities, but also collection of information on people associated with individuals reasonably believed to engaged in international terrorism activities (for the purpose of determining the relationship â?? if no significant relationship, then the info is destroyed).
All of this falls under the rubric of “intelligence oversight”, which is a well-ingrained program within the military intelligence community ensuring that collection (especially HUMINT) activities did not retain information on US Persons without authority.
So when someone says that the military couldn’t share information because of rules against collection of US Person information, that is not an accurate statement. Even if Mohammed Atta was a Permanent Resident Alien, the Intelligence Community was free to spy on him, collect the information, database it, and use it in intelligence reporting community-wide. The excuse doesn’t make sense logically, either: How could have Able Danger conducted intelligence collection, using Army intelligence resources at LIWA have built the briefing to begin with? Once the information has been properly collected, it can be shared (theoretically). The reason the information was not forwarded probably had more to do with the infamous “wall” created by Justice Department’s misreading of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, fixed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Appeals and the Patriot Act.
When one talks of datamining, they need to be clear on what exactly they mean. All datamining is is a set of tools used to dip into databases which can sort through the data and provide the answer to the query. Think of Westlaw or Lexis/Nexis on speed. The controversy in TIA was created over the types of databases they were going to search. DARPA was talking about applying the analytical toolkits to civilian business databases such as credit cards, hotel bookings, rental cars, etc. Even then, there were rules in place (using EO 12333 as the foundation) to ensure that the databases were not being queried without a legitimate purpose.
However, TIA was killed in a spate of misinformation. Before its death, these toolkits were already being used and improved by the Information Dominance Center at Fort Belvoir, VA. The significant difference between TIA’s goals and the IDC’s actual practice is that IDC is only analyzing databases of Intel Community information already collected.
Here’s how IDC (at this discussion level) works: if Army intelligence has a reasonable belief that I am either engaging in or supporting international terrorist activities (or had a relationship with those engaged in the same) based on information that I had attended a mosque with a known terrorist and/or had made pro-terrorist statements, the first thing Army intel is going to do is to “tip” its own databases and see what has already been collected on me. Low and behold, they find a report written about a Gitmo detainee, explaining the pocket litter when he was captured. In his pocket litter was my business card. Now analysts can build linkages and determine relationships between me and others in the database to see if there may be other linkages out there that look innocuous at first, but when compared with other pieces of information show patterns and indications of terrorist activity. And the best thing is that the database check is multi-INT, tapping into SIGINT, HUMINT, and other sources of information. What happens with this information? Do the links mean anything? Maybe, maybe not. It’s usually not enough to create “actionable intelligence”. But what it does is become used to determine whether further investigation is required or whether the linkages are just coincidental. It is also used to build the bigger intel picture of the hydra that is international jihadist terrorism.
If I could actually explain how the datamining toolkits work, you would be amazed at their speed and accuracy in pointing out links and indicators (think Minority Report without the precogs). Of course, with great power comes great responsibility, but after the TIA debacle, the owners of IDC have ensured that its operations receive the highest levels of oversight and scrutiny. In the IDC operations I was involved in, each US Person database query had to have legal counsel approval.
The defense contractors involved in developing the datamining software are interested in taking it civilian, so you may see variations of the technology on the market soon. For instance, it would very helpful in complex litigation, such as tobacco or asbestos litigation, where discovery leads to thousands of documents and reports.
There’s a longer discussion about whether information already databased by the intel community is already “collected” for purposes of intelligence oversight and therefore can be queried using analytical toolkits without worrying about collection exceptions. This will be for another day.
Copyright 2005 Jon Holdaway. Used here for information purposes under fair-use provisions, please see Fair-Use Notice, below.
Cong. Weldon’s Preemptive Strike Against the CIA
Friday, August 12, 2005 – 07:43 PM
Copyright 2005, Mark G. Levey
Fri Aug 12th, 2005 at 10:16:35 PDT
Republican Cong. Curt Weldon’s disclosure that U.S. Army Intelligence watched four al-Qaeda hijackers inside the U.S. before 9/11 is a GOP attempt to deflect a long-expected report by the CIA’s Inspector General’s office. Like the FBI IG report into the Bureau’s pre-9/11 “intelligence failure” released in June, the CIA’s internal audit is expected to contain shocking new details of errors and negligence by senior Bush Administration officials that led to the “catastrophic success” of the al-Qaeda attacks.
Weldon’s widely-publicized campaign of disinformation has spun the story so that blame is laid at the feet of the Clinton Administration for the 9/11 attacks after the CIA and DoD failed to notify the FBI about the presence inside the U.S. of terrorists known to have entered the country in late 1999 and early 2000. The CIA IG report is reportedly complete, and is currently being reviewed by former DCI George Tenet and other Agency officials who are the subject of highly damaging accusations that the CIA withheld information and misled U.S. law enforcement about the 9/11 hijackers.
Cong. Weldon’s remarks have fueled controversy over responsibility for the failure by US government agencies to prevent the 9/11 hijackings.
Weldon first spoke publicly about the issue on 27 June in a little-noticed speech on the House floor, and to a local paper in his Pennsylvania constituency.
According to a front-page New York Times report published on August 10, a US Army intelligence unit prepared a chart that included visa photographs of the four men and recommended to Special Operations Command that the FBI be informed. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/11/politics/11intel.html; also, see, How Bin Laden and Mohamed Atta Escaped Gen. Franks http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/8/10/145513/501
Weldon claims that course of action was rejected in large part because the four al-Qaeda operatives were in the US on valid entry visas.
He asserts Pentagon lawyers rejected the recommendation because they said Atta and the others were in the country legally.
That claim is simply inconsistent with the law as it existed at the time. That was not and is not government policy. For one thing, the Pentagon’s lawyers whom Weldon claims made the decision to withhold information from FBI knew full well that the four suspects were not “U.S. persons” (citizens or lawful permanent residents, aka “green card” holders.)
The matrix the Army Able Danger unit had compiled was based on data from entry records provided by INS, which clearly showed the four al-Qaeda operatives had all entered the U.S. as non-immigrants with visas.
Warrant requirements under the Foreign Intelligence Survellance Act (FISA) and information-sharing restrictions simply did not apply to the 9/11 hijackers. This is basic national security and immigration law. Anyone who’s familiar with FISA warrant and information sharing guidelines in place at that time knows Weldon’s version is a most implausible cover story.
In fact, CIA, DOD and other intelligence agencies could do all the electronic monitoring they wanted on the al-Qaeda suspects, AND SHARE IT WITH THE FBI, because the subjects of wiretaps were all non-resident aliens, exempt from FISA warrant requirements.
Certainly, DoD lawyers didn’t get that one wrong. Not for the reason being offered by Weldon and other GOP operatives.
Weldon’s account does not explain why Post-It stickies might be applied to photos of Atta before the matrix could be shown outside the DoD. The story being spread by Weldon and the GOP is a flimsy, almost laughable CYA cover now being resurrected to blame Clinton.
It is time that the public learns why things got complicated, and stickies might have been applied. In 2000, the surveillance of the incoming al-Qaeda cells was just part of an enormous, ongoing multi-agency monitoring operation of international terrorism, WMD proliferation, arms and drug dealing, political influence peddling, and money laundering. The Army’s Able Danger Intelligence unit apparently had indiscriminate access to a lot of this data, which also included data gained from warrantless NSA taps of the communications of US persons and non-US persons, alike.
Intelligence analysts are supposed to separate this out, and obtain FISA warrants where US persons are involved to authorize continuation of these intercepts. But, the agencies by and large didn’t bother to seek warrants — which is a violation of the law. That made this data the fruit of illegal searches, and the FBI didn’t want to touch it, for fear that it would ruin its criminal investigations that overlapped the CIA and DIA’s domestic operations.
Meanwhile, over at the J. Edgar Hoover Building, FBI national security managers were attempting to cover a maelstrom of terrorist groups, Saudi financiers, Israeli espionage agents, corrupt politicians, and corruption within the US intelligence agencies. This is what Sibel Edmonds has tried so hard to blow the whistle about. This job was immensely complicated by the fact that the al-Qaeda ranks were riddled with double-agents serving multiple intelligence agencies, all of which were simultaneously spying on each other inside the U.S. The whole thing got too hot, and the bureaucracy overloaded. Bad decisions were made to allow operations to continue for fear of stepping on the toes of the CIA and foreign agencies working both with and against U.S. interests.
After the 2000 election, national security managers put the brakes on investigative lines that were touching on subjects that might get people fired. For its own reasons, the Bush Administration shut down much of the remaining counter-terrorism apparatus. By early 2001, it was widely known within law enforcement and intelligence circles that some strange things were going on at DoD, the FISA court, and within FBI counter-terrorism. The number of FISA warrant requests actually declined during the 18 months leading up to the 9/11 attacks, and few new applications were filed during the summer before the attacks. Recall, this is at a time that Tenet’s hair was said to be “on fire”. For more on the chaos of US counterterrorism in 2001, please see: THE CRIMES OF 9/11 (Part 4):
Bush White House, CIA, FBI Bungled Risky Warrantless Surveillance Operation – 3,000 Died, http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0310/S00257.htm
9/11 could have been avoided. The al-Qaeda cells could have been rolled up, if the order had been given by President Bush. Without that order, nobody was going to be arrested.
Finally, everyone knew there was a serious problem and nobody wanted to create more of paper trail than they had to. Warrants create paper trails, which might get people fired, subpoenaed before hostile committees, and indicted by grand juries. As a result, given the choice, people stopped requesting warrants. Had the agencies complied with the law regarding FISA warrants, Mohamed Atta and his buddies would have had to be arrested, given what was being learned from illegal wiretaps and consensual monitoring. This is an area, not surprisingly, the 9/11 Commission didn’t even begin to touch on.
The CIA Inspector General’s Report does not exonerate Tenet and other Agency officials for withholding information from the FBI on the basis that Cong. Weldon claims. The law clearly allowed CIA, DoD and FBI to share information about Mohamed Atta and the Al-Qaeda suspects. They did. The so-called FISA Wall did not cause the failure of US counterterrorism that led to their “catastrophic success” on 9/11.
Weldon’s accusations are what’s known as a “limited hangout” in intelligence jargon. It is an attempt to poison the well of public discourse for the far more damaging revelations about Bush Administration incompetence and obstruction of U.S. counter-terrorism that are about to be made public.
Instead, the CIA report will detail a much more complex picture of bad decisions by Agency policymakers who tried to comply with Bush White House orders that interfered with management of a mounting crisis.
COPYRIGHT 2005, Mark G. Levey. Used here for information purposes under fair-use provisions, please see Fair-Use Notice, below.
August 12, 2005
9/11 Revisionism, Revisited
The mystery of ‘Able Danger’
by Justin Raimondo
In January of this year, Rep. Curt Weldon made a speech to the House of Representatives – a speech which no one took notice of, and which hardly anyone heard, except maybe inveterate C-SPAN watchers – in which he made a number of extraordinary assertions:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise because information has come to my attention over the past several months that is very disturbing. I have learned that, in fact, one of our Federal agencies had, in fact, identified the major New York cell of Mohamed Atta prior to 9/11; and I have learned, Mr. Speaker, that in September of 2000, that Federal agency actually was prepared to bring the FBI in and prepared to work with the FBI to take down the cell that Mohamed Atta was involved in in New York City, along with two of the other terrorists.
“I have also learned, Mr. Speaker, that when that recommendation was discussed within that Federal agency, the lawyers in the administration at that time said, you cannot pursue contact with the FBI against that cell. Mohamed Atta is in the U.S. on a green card, and we are fearful of the fallout from the Waco incident. So we did not allow that Federal agency to proceed.
“Mr. Speaker, what this now means is that prior to September 11, we had employees of the Federal Government in one of our agencies who actually identified the Mohamed Atta cell and made a specific recommendation to act on that cell, but were denied the ability to go forward. Obviously, if we had taken out that cell, 9/11 would not have occurred and, certainly, taking out those three principal players in that cell would have severely crippled, if not totally stopped, the operation that killed 3,000 people in America.”
Something about this doesn’t quite ring true: none [.pdf] of the hijackers had a green card. Most came in on tourist visas: some had made easily detectable false statements on their visa applications, and might have been legally deported.
And what does Waco have to do with anything? The connection seems tenuous, at best. However, let us pass over that, for the moment, and concentrate on Rep. Weldon’s further remarks: he avers that two weeks after the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, his “friends” at the Army’s Information Dominance Center – “in cooperation with special ops” – brought him a chart that had been created by a secret military unit known as “Able Danger”: using “data-mining” techniques, this top secret military intelligence unit had identified Mohammed Atta and three of the hijackers as being part of an Al Qaeda cell in the U.S. This chart, with a visa photo of Mohammed Atta at its center, was created a year before 9/11. Weldon says he took the chart to Stephen Hadley, at the National Security Council, who said he had never seen any such chart, and that he would bring it to “the man” – i.e., the President.
Now it isn’t all that surprising that neither Hadley, nor the President, had any inkling of Operation “Able Danger.” What’s truly startling, however, is that when Weldon talked to those who made the chart, he discovered that not only had they identified the New York cell of Mohammed Atta and two of the other terrorists, but also that a recommendation had been made to take out the cell – and it had been vetoed. By whom – and why? As Weldon put it in his speech:
“That is a question that needs to be answered, Mr. Speaker. I have to ask, Mr. Speaker, with all the good work that the 9/11 Commission did, why is there nothing in their report about able danger? Why is there no mention of the work that able danger did against al Qaeda? Why is there no mention, Mr. Speaker, of a recommendation in September of 2000 to take out Mohammed Atta’s cell which would have detained three of the terrorists who struck us?”
A good question, one that was thoroughly ignored for months, until something called the “Government Security News” picked up the story, and this was followed by a piece in the New York Times by Douglas Jehl, and one this [Thursday] morning, that basically confirmed the outlines of Weldon’s story.
A “former defense intelligence official” involved in “Able Danger” was cited to buttress Weldon’s assertion, and he claims in the first Times story that, yes, he brought the chart produced by his team to Special Operations Command (SOC) because “We knew these were bad guys, and we wanted to do something about them.” At SOC headquarters, in Tampa, Florida, however, they draw a complete blank:
“Col. Samuel Taylor, a spokesman for the military’s Special Operations Command, said no one at the command now had any knowledge of the Able Danger program, its mission or its findings. If the program existed, Colonel Taylor said, it was probably a highly classified “special access program” on which only a few military personnel would have been briefed.”
According to Al Felzenberg, former spokesman for the Sept. 11 commission, investigators on his staff had been told about the “Able Danger” program, but, he claimed, there was no mention of Atta, which is why the 9/11 Commission report never mentions the subject, even obliquely. However, the former defense intelligence official cited in Jehl’s first story begs to differ. He says that Philip Zelikow, executive director of the 9/11 Commission, and three other members of the Commission staff, had been briefed, and that
“He had explicitly mentioned Mr. Atta as a member of a Qaeda cell in the United States. He said the staff encouraged him to call the commission when he returned to Washington at the end of the year. When he did so, the ex-official said, the calls were not returned.”
Jehl reported on Wednesday that, according to Felzenberg, who had talked to former staff members of the Commission,
“They all say that they were not told anything about a Brooklyn cell. They were told about the Pentagon operation. They were not told about the Brooklyn cell. They said that if the briefers had mentioned anything that startling, it would have gotten their attention.”
The next day, however, the former Commission staffers were singing a different tune. In their follow-up story, Jehl and Philip Shenon report the Commission staff was indeed briefed in a meeting held on July 12, 2004, at which Atta’s name figured prominently, and that this has been acknowledged by the same officials who were denying everything 24 hours earlier. The briefing had been discounted, these officials now claim, because the information offered didn’t “mesh” with what they thought they already knew, and, besides, the 9/11 Commission report was all ready to go to the printer. The addition of a piece of information that would have substantially altered the content was apparently not considered important enough to tell the printer to wait.
The main thrust of the 9/11 Commission’s findings was that there was a “lack of actionable intelligence”: the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center represented a gigantic “intelligence failure,” which blocked attempts to take out Bin Laden in Afghanistan. But the point is that what was needed was actionable intelligence in America, not Afghanistan. In the aftermath, many lamented the fact that, if only some version of the PATRIOT Act had been in place prior to 9/11, the attacks might have been prevented. As I wrote when the Commission first began its work, this
“Sounds superficially plausible, except when one considers that there was plenty of actionable intelligence about the 9/11 plotters: there were warnings galore, as we are beginning to discover, not only from foreign intelligence agencies but from our own agents and analysts.
“Yes, but these warnings were ‘nonspecific’: that’s the standard official excuse. Except it isn’t true: the ringleader of the 9/11 plot, Mohammed Atta, was under surveillance by authorities the year before the attacks, in Hamburg, Germany. Atta and his associates were well-known to law enforcement and intelligence agencies, U.S. and foreign, long before the 9/11 terror attacks.
“What did they know and when did they know it? That is a key question for the 9/11 Commission to ask, and answer.”
It is interesting to note that the Commission staffer who received – and discounted – the “Able Danger” information, Dietrich L. Snell, is the prosecutor who convicted Abdul Hakim Murad in the “Bojinka” terrorist conspiracy case, a 1995 plot to crash airplanes into several U.S. landmark buildings, including the Pentagon and the World Trade Center – a scheme that later morphed into the 9/11 conspiracy. Murad offered to cooperate with investigators in return for a sentence reduction, but prosecutors, led by Snell, turned him down.
The list of “mistakes,” glitches, and tales of staggering incompetence that preceded the worst “intelligence failure” since a certain wooden horse was brought behind the walls of Troy, is getting rather suspiciously long. Here’s another:
“The National Security Agency intercepted two messages on the eve of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon warning that something was going to happen the next day, but the messages were not translated until Sept. 12, senior U.S. intelligence officials said yesterday.
“The Arabic-language messages said, ‘The match is about to begin’ and ‘Tomorrow is zero hour.’ They were discussed Tuesday before the House-Senate intelligence committee during closed-door questioning of Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the NSA, the agency responsible for intercepting and analyzing electronic messages.”
This Washington Post story, you’ll recall – and certainly Slate media columnist Jack Shafer will recall it – was the occasion for a stern rebuke from the White House, and especially from Vice President Dick Cheney, whose anger was sufficient to spark an FBI investigation into who leaked the truth.
As we approach the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the official story of what happened that day, and how it happened, is beginning to unravel in a spectacular manner. The official version is that the nineteen conspirators, acting alone and without the foreknowledge or even the suspicion of any outside agency, pulled off a complex series of operations involving at least four separate airplanes, all carried out within minutes of each other, pirouetting in the sky in perfect synchronicity before barreling down on their targets nearly simultaneously. This fiery moment was the climax of years – as many as five years – of plotting, preparations, and a largely subterranean existence lived by the conspirators, until they emerged, on that fateful day, like avenging angels of darkness coming down from the sky.
However, the various anomalies that go unexplained by this fanciful theory have begun to accumulate until the pressure to revise what we know of the history of the 9/11 conspiracy has become irresistible. The “Able Danger” revelations merely confirm what we’ve been saying in this space for years: that revisionism in this area of historical research is essential if we’re going to begin to understand 9/11, and all that followed from it. As Condi Rice’s appearance before the 9/11 Commission showed, the administration knew a lot more than it ever told anyone.
In December, 2001, Carl Cameron did a four-part series on Fox News that detailed extensive Israeli spying in the U.S., a report that proved prescient in light of recent developments, and he started out his riveting account with a bang:
“Since September 11, more than 60 Israelis have been arrested or detained, either under the new patriot anti-terrorism law, or for immigration violations. A handful of active Israeli military were among those detained, according to investigators, who say some of the detainees also failed polygraph questions when asked about alleged surveillance activities against and in the United States.
“There is no indication that the Israelis were involved in the 9-11 attacks, but investigators suspect that they Israelis may have gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance, and not shared it. A highly placed investigator said there are ‘tie-ins.’ But when asked for details, he flatly refused to describe them, saying, ‘evidence linking these Israelis to 9-11 is classified. I cannot tell you about evidence that has been gathered. It’s classified information.'”
While the story was largely ignored in the U.S., Germany’s Die Zeit followed it up, in 2002, with an account entitled “Next Door to Mohammed Atta,” in which the respected German weekly detailed close surveillance of Atta and his crew in southern Florida by Israeli intelligence in the months leading up to 9/11.
In April, 2004, I wrote about another Die Zeit piece by the same author, Oliver Schrom, entitled “Deadly Mistakes,” a fascinating chronology of the errors, bureaucratic bungling, and seemingly deliberate obstructions that prevented U.S. authorities from taking what they knew about the hijackers, putting it together, and apprehending Atta and his gang before they could pull off their deadly deed. From Schrom we learned that the fabled Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) for August 6, 2001, whose title – “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” – Rice famously blurted out at her appearance before the 9/11 Commission, was originally much longer than the version finally declassified and released by the White House. In the course of this account, Schrom also revealed the following:
“Langley, August 23, 2001. The Israeli Mossad intelligence agency handed its American counterpart a list of names of terrorists who were staying in the US and were presumably planning to launch an attack in the foreseeable future. According to documents obtained by Die Zeit, Mossad agents in the US were in all probability surveilling at least four of the 19 hijackers, among them [Khalid ] al-Midhar. The CIA now does what it should have done 18 months earlier. It informs the State Dept., the FBI and the INS. The names al-Midhar and [Nawaf] al-Hazmi are promptly put on an investigation list, as probable members of Al Qaeda. Al-Midhar is expressly noted as a probable accomplice in the USS Cole attack. The first acknowledgement arrives quickly. The INS writes that according to its information, both men are currently in the US.
“Now both men are pursued vigorously….”
These individuals – Atta, Khalid al-Midhar, Nawaf al-Hazmi, and Marwan al-Shehhi – are the very same “Brooklyn cell” identified by the “Able Danger” data-miners. The Mossad “observed” them for nearly half a year, and then, at the very last moment, turned over their names to the Americans. Too late, as it turns out: but is that really the end of the story?
In both instances, you’ll note, we have the same sort of excuse – not quite airtight – for why we didn’t move to apprehend the 9/11 plotters. In the case of the “Able Danger” operation, although the authorities had the legal means at their disposal, they were supposedly restrained by the recent memory of … Waco. This seems not at all credible: is there really any comparison between the figures of David Koresh and Osama bin Laden, either in terms of impact or importance? One was a marginal messiah of a homegrown mini-cult, the other an international terrorist leader of a well-financed and far-flung military organization.
In the case of the Israelis’ belated intelligence-sharing, the rationale for inaction was supposedly due to legal constraints that erected a “firewall” preventing the sharing of intelligence procured by different agencies, notably the FBI and the CIA. As critics of this excuse-making note, however, law enforcement agencies failed to make proper use of the legal tools available to them:
“On May 24, 2002, in response to an FOIA lawsuit filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the FBI released a confidential memorandum sent by a Justice Department official to an FBI lawyer in April 2000. The memo voiced concern about mistakes made by the FBI’s International Terrorism Operations Section, and in particular, by that Section’s (UBL) Osama Bin Laden Unit: ‘You have a pattern of occurrences indicating an inability on the part of the FBI to manage its FISAs [foreign intelligence surveillance operations].’ One well-publicized episode revealed that an FBI agent had prevented Minneapolis agents from obtaining a warrant to search Zacarias Moussaoui’s computer just a month before 9/11. This, apparently, was not an isolated incident. …
“We now know that two of the 9/11 hijackers were on FBI watch lists of suspected terrorists, yet they were able to enter the country and remain undetected. In March 2002 the media reported that the INS had wrongly issued visa waivers for four Pakistanis who arrived in the US on a Russian merchant ship and quickly disappeared.”
We’re supposed to believe that, if only we’d passed the PATRIOT Act before 9/11, and subjected ourselves to a regime of total surveillance, giving up such remnants of our civil liberties as still existed, we might have escaped the wiles of Bin Laden and his fellow Islamist supermen, who single-handedly pulled off a spectacular terrorist act that changed the course of history. Now, according to this all-too-familiar refrain, we’ll just have to get used to having our email read, our phones tapped, and our every movement kept under close surveillance by our beneficent and all-knowing government. The only alternative is living at the mercy of terrorists.
As we are beginning to learn, however, that is lie, and a rather self-serving one to boot. It wasn’t the lack of information, or an inability to detect the death cultists in our midst, that prevented us from stopping the plot dead in its tracks. Rather, it was a persistent obstructionism coming from some quarters. As Coleen Rowley, the FBI agent who blew the whistle on the efforts of the FBI’s Washington office to quash the investigation into Al Qaeda, put it:
“I know I shouldn’t be flippant about this, but jokes were actually made that the key FBIHQ personnel had to be spies or moles, like Robert Hansen, who were actually working for Osama Bin Laden to have so undercut Minneapolis’ effort.”
As the number of unfortunate “coincidences” and “mistakes” begins to pile up, Rowley’s quip is no longer a joke. Is it possible that Bin Laden had allies, enablers, some of them inside the U.S. government? In a September 13, 2001 New York Times column that purported to give an exclusive window on what went on inside the presidential bunker as the Twin Towers burned, William Safire wrote:
“A threatening message received by the Secret Service was relayed to the agents with the president that “Air Force One is next.” According to the high official, American code words were used showing a knowledge of procedures that made the threat credible.
“(I have a second, on-the-record source about that: Karl Rove, the president’s senior adviser, tells me: “When the president said `I don’t want some tinhorn terrorists keeping me out of Washington,’ the Secret Service informed him that the threat contained language that was evidence that the terrorists had knowledge of his procedures and whereabouts. In light of the specific and credible threat, it was decided to get airborne with a fighter escort.”)
The terrorists could have had knowledge of top secret U.S. security procedures only if they had moles – spies – inside the government. How else would Bin Laden’s boys get direct access to our code words?
No one doubts that the nineteen hijackers, and the Al Qaeda organization, financed, organized, and carried out the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But there is growing doubt that they did it without at least the passive collaboration of a silent partner, one who wielded considerable influence on our government – and had ready access to its secrets. In retrospect, it appears as if Atta and his fellow mass murderers had a guardian angel – or rather, a guardian devil – watching over them. At every turn, just when it seemed they would be apprehended, fate – or whomever – intervened, obstructing the normal means of interception and keeping the conspiracy on track. It’s almost as if they traveled in a security bubble, protected by – what? By whom?
I can hear the skeptics now: It’s a “conspiracy theory”! Yikes! But what explanation for how and why 9/11 happened isn’t a “conspiracy theory,” after all? Atta & Co. certainly didn’t advertise their plans. The question is, will we accept the Official Conspiracy Theory, or an alternative one that comports with all the known facts?
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
My short book, The Terror Enigma: 9/11 and the Israeli Connection, compiles pretty much all we know up to this point about the “silent partner” angle on the 9/11 narrative – one, I might add, that was completely ignored by the 9/11 Commission, along with the information about the “Able Danger” intelligence-gathering operation. Check it out.
– Justin Raimondo
Copyright 2005 Justin Raimondo. Used here for information purposes under fair-use provisions, please see Fair-Use Notice, below.
Army Intel Unit Exposes Massive FBI 9.11 Cover-Up
August 12,2005-Venice, FL.
by Daniel Hopsicker
The importance of this week’s revelation that an Army intelligence unit was tracking Mohamed Atta’s movements in the U.S. during 1999 and 2000 is so mind-boggling that it seems nobody quite gets it yet…
You’ve been hearing it for three years in articles in the MadCowMorningNews, and in “Welcome to TerrorLand.”
Now you can hear it from an elite Army intelligence unit, one with at least several patriots with very large cojones. Their testimony is clear, explicit, and uncompromisingly contradicts the FBI’s official story. Only one conclusion can be drawn from it…
The FBI has been telling a massive lie to the 9.11 Commission and the American people, a lie whose result has been to halt in its tracks, as a Commission spokesman freely admitted on Thursday, the investigation into the murder of almost 3000 people.
People go to jail for that sort of thing, don’t they?
God willing, we may be about to find out.
The Dog Ate the 9.11 Commission’s Homework
9.11 Commission spokesman Al Felzenberg on Thursday excused the Commission’s decision to withhold from their Report any mention of the Army Able Danger intelligence unit in Tampa which was tracking Mohamed Atta and other members of his terrorist cadre during 1999 and 2000.
Felzenberg cited the fact that the information provided to them by military officers in the unit did not agree with the FBI’s timeline concerning Atta’s arrival in the U.S.
Information provided by a military officer from Able Danger did not make it into the final report, “because it was not consistent with what the commission knew about Atta’s whereabouts before the attacks,” Commission spokesman Al Felzenberg said.
Staff investigators became wary of the officer, Felzenberg stated, after he stated that the military unit had identified Atta as having been in the United States by late 1999 or early 2000. ‘The investigators knew this was impossible, since travel records confirmed that he had not entered the United States until June 2000.”
“There was no way that Atta could have been in the United States at that time, which is why the staff didn’t give this tremendous weight when they were writing the report.”
Forget Jamie Gorelick. Forget trumped-up allegations that former Clinton Administration officials were weak on terror…
Al Felzenberg is lying. So is the FBI.
The Big Question Nobody’s Asked
911 Commission did no independent investigation of their own. Instead they relied entirely on the much criticized and beleaguered FBI… an Agency whose competence has been questioned by prominent individuals across all party lines… An Agency which has never managed to offer a coherent account of such investigative niceties as an accurate chronology of when Atta arrived in the United States, and what he did (and with whom) when he got here.
Here’s the big question nobody seems to be ready to ask: Upon what basis did the 9.11 Commission conclude that the FBI’s timeline was correct and that an elite Army Intel unit was mistaken in saying they were tracking Mohamed Atta roaming freely across America during 1999 and 2000?
We’d love to hear Felzenberg hem and haw his way around that.
So too, we suspect, would relatives of the innocent murdered victims.
What’s at Stake: The Fate of what’s left of what used to be called The Free World.
The controversy over news that an Army intelligence unit was tracking the movements in the U.S. of Mohamed Atta’s terrorist cadre during 1999 and 2000 offers the last best hope for Americans to take a close look at the FBI’s timeline of Mohamed Atta’s time in the U.S.
What they will see is a tissue of lies comprising a deliberate cover-up.
Calling unwelcome attention to the massive inaccuracies in the FBI’s timeline was probably not Republican Curt Weldon’s purpose when he brought the story to light… But if his efforts to implicate Clinton Administration officials results in highlighting the FBI’s incomplete and corrupt investigation, we think he get some kind of medal, maybe called the Inadvertent ‘Dumb-Ass’ Hero Award.
We suspect his Republican friends would much prefer to let sleeping dogs lie. Because it isn’t just one elite Army Intel unit that’s saying it… In the aftermath of the 9.11 attack numerous eyewitnesses came forward to attest to Atta’s presence in the U.S. before June of 2000.
Their number even includes a U.S. Government official with a signed and dated loan application from Mohamed Atta his-ownself.
In interviews with major news organizations Johnelle Bryant, an official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, revealed that Atta and three other September 11th terrorists visited her Florida office seeking a government loan.
ABC’s Brian Ross reported: “Johnelle Bryant is the USDA loan officer in Homestead, Florida, who Atta approached in May of 2000, long before al-Qaeda and bin Laden were household words.”
Mr. Atta swung by in May, 2000, and Ms. Bryant remembers quite a bit about it.
“At first,” she says, “he refused to speak with me,” on the grounds that she was, in his words, “but a female.”
“I told him that if he was interested in getting a farm-service agency loan in my servicing area, then he would need to deal with me.”
Ms. Bryant says the applicant was asking for $650,000 to start a crop-dusting business. His plan was to buy a six-seater twin-prop and then remove the seats. “He wanted to build a chemical tank that would fit inside the aircraft and take up every available square inch of the aircraft except for where the pilot would be sitting.”
Here’s the kicker, or rather, the smoking gun: Before Atta left her office he filled out a loan application.
Loan applications are dated, aren’t they? That’s why Johnelle Bryant knows exactly when Atta was in her office. so, without even referencing any of the other numerous indicators of Atta’s presence in the U.S., one thing that can be said with absolute certainty:
The FBI’s timeline, their chronology of events, the essential tool of any homicide investigation, is wrong. And not wrong by accident, either.
Wrong on purpose. Wrong by design.
By the way: don’t try dropping by Bryant’s Homestead office to confirm the details with her, as we did…She’s no longer there.
She’s (presumably) been airlifted to the Island of Lost Witnesses.
Another Question We Bet You Thought Has Already Been Answered
Where did Atta and Marwan first go to flight school in the US.?
If you answered “Huffman Aviation” you’d be wrong That’s because the flight school Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi first attended in the U.S. has never been named.
It is unknown. It is The Mystery Flight School.
The name of the first school Atta attended would seem to be one of the first facts uncovered in the 9/11 investigation. But it hasn’t been… After first visiting a flight school in Norman Oklahoma, the FBI said Huffman Aviation was the first flight school Atta attend
ed. But the owner of Huffman Aviation, Rudi Dekkers, denied it, declaiming responsibility for the terrorists having been allowed into the U.S.
On the morning after the disaster anchor Jane Clayton of the CBS Morning News asked Dekkers: “How was it that they (Atta and Marwan) could gain access and admittance to your school?
“Well, they didn’t came through our paperwork,” Dekkers replied.
In interviews as well as sworn testimony before Congress, Dekkers passed any blame onto the first flight school the terrorists first attended.
It was this school, Dekkers said, which held responsibility for Atta’s INS paperwork and visas, not his.
“Like if they were calling from Europe and we know two months ahead and we know they are showing up. As I say, they came from another flight school out of Florida. Probably that flight school did all the INS paperwork with them in their country.”
“Another flight school out of Florida.”
He was equally vague later that day on ABC’s Good Morning America. Only now he changed the location of the unnamed first school. Correspondent Jim Mora asked Dekkers: “Now, how did they get to you? Did they apply to the school? Did they just show up?”
“No, they just walked up into the front door,” Dekkers replied. “Apparently they were flying at another school—I’ve heard Tampa; I can’t confirm that.”
This is a really obscure flight school. It has no name. Its located somewhere out of Florida, but near Tampa.
Dekkers’ reference to Atta’s first flight school—attended before he came to Huffman Aviation—went completely un-remarked upon in the national media. And Dekkers didn’t just mention the mystery flight school once or twice…
He did it numerous times. “The two men were clearly from the Middle East,” he told the New York Times on September 13. “They complained that they had begun instruction elsewhere but didn’t like the school.”
Did the New York Times ask Dekkers where “elsewhere” had been? They did not.
The Washington Post reported a similar story on Sept. 19,2001 quoting Dekkers saying Atta and Al-Shehhi showed up complaining about the experience at “another school.” “Another school.” Located where?
Did the Post ask for the name of this flight school located elsewhere? They did not. Or if they did, they’re not telling us.
Making this omission seem even more sinister is the Post’s own headline. A headline like “Hijack Suspects Tried Many Flight Schools” promises, at a bare minimum, a story containing a list of the flight schools “tried.”
When two of the largest and most respected newspapers in America are both guilty of an omission this glaring, what other conclusion is there than that a massive cover-up is in progress?
“I said up North somewhere. Why do you want to know?”
Even in his sworn testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on March 19, 2002, Dekkers is vague about the earlier flight school attended by Atta and Al-Shehhi. This time he places it ‘up North.’ “They had stated they were unhappy with a flying school they attended up North,” Dekkers told the Committee.
Maybe they just weren’t all that interested. Maybe not. Maybe the reason officials insist with a straight face that Atta did not arrive before June of 2000 is that telling the truth will open up a big ‘can of worms.’
During April and May of 1999, for example, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Ft. Myers, FL. has accused Wally Hilliard and Rudi Dekkers of using three separate Lear jets to take 26 unsupervised and unauthorized passenger flights from Naples, Florida to numerous locations around the country. Reportedly, they were flying rich Saudi Princes around.
But whatever it was Hilliard and Dekkers were up to in 1999 proved more than a little dangerous to one man, Robert Michael Johnson. A six-passenger Cessna 210 belonging to Hilliard crashed in the Gulf two miles off the Naples Pier in early February, resulting in the death of the pilot. The cause of the deadly crash remains unclear.
Not by accident, either… “A federal investigation into a fatal plane crash offshore from Naples may be hampered because the aircraft’s owner has suspended salvage operations,” reported the Feb 9, 1999 Fort Myers News-Press. “AeroJet Service Center called off the salvage operation, apparently because it was costing more than the aircraft was worth.”
This news may not have helped the dead pilot’s mom gain closure. But hey… you have to break a few eggs, right?
One last example will have to suffice. We can feel a queasiness coming on, a need to excuse ourselves and go throw up.
Regular readers of the MadCowMorningNews are already well aware of Atta’s presence in Venice in April and May of 2001, where he lived right across from Rudi Dekker’s Huffman Aviation at the Venice Airport.
“Somebody didn’t get the memo, okay? It was an honest mistake.”
But that’s too easy. Poetic justice would be to let the FBI hoist itself with its own petard:
Mohamed Atta’s sojourn in Charlotte County is not even in the official story, which is really strange, because the FBI itself wrote a memo to the INS which was introduced in court during the deportation hearing of a Tunisian flight student at the Charlotte County Airport who was suspected of espionage.
If they had known anybody would be paying attention, they’d have probably remanded her to a military tribunal.
Professional Aviation at the Charlotte County Airport catered to a student body consisting mainly of foreign nationals from the small Mediterranean country of Tunisia, considered a moderate Arab state. There were so many Tunisians at the school that it made the news well before the 9/11 attack…
“From the steady hand on the throttle to the aviator sunglasses, Mariem Ezzahi looked every bit like the experienced pilot she hopes to be back in her native country of Tunisia,” reported the Charlotte Sun-Herald. “Mariem’s goal is to become a commercial pilot like her late father, who flew jets for Tunis Air, the country’s national airline.”
Alas, Mariem got stiffed by the owners of the school, who, come to think of it, just might get their paychecks from the same place as Rudi Dekkers and Wally Hilliard. Dozens of Tunisian students were left stranded by the bankrupting of the flight school at the Charlotte County Airport. Wally Hilliard, who knew Mohamed Atta personally while he was “attending” his flight school, pulled the same scam in Orlando.
Many student pilots lost their life savings. The story received a flurry of local media attention. Students picketed the company’s offices and staged a sit-in. Television news crews from Charlotte County and Fort Myers broadcast their plight.
Then three of the Tunisian students attending Professional Aviation were taken into custody during the week after the attack…
One of them was 21 year-old Maryem Bedoui.
When Professional Aviation went under, Bedoui moved to Venice and took lessons from the “Quiet” Magic Dutch Boy, Arne Kruithof, located two doors down from the loudmouth Magic Dutch Boy’s school, Huffman Aviation.
During a deportation hearing in Bradenton, Florida Bedoui told the Judge that she had been friends with one of Atta’s roommates, but she denied knowing Atta, and denied involvement or knowledge of the 9/11 plot.
But the FBI wrote a letter to the immigration judge presenting evidence for why Bedoui should be deported. The letter said Bedoui attended flight schools in Punta Gorda at the Charlotte County Airport and in Venice at the same time hijackers Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi were there.
And this is where the FBI get caught telling a Big Lie. Because according to the FBI’s chronology Atta and Al-Shehhi were only at Huffman Aviation from July to December 2000.
And Maryem Bedoui didn’t enter the U.S. until 2001.
The revelation that this nations chief investigative agency has knowingly fabricated their chronology of Atta’s time in the U.S. might be cause for nothing but a shrug. After all, Democratic Republics have had trouble with their own Praetorian Guards since Roman times.
But looking at the “Big Picture” may provide little solace to anyone who saw a loved one hanging half-in and half-out of a window 100 stories above the earth on the morning of September 11, 2001.
If some find it difficult to stomach taking the long view, who can blame them?
Maybe what the FBI is really trying to say is: “It just can’t be helped.”
Copyright 2005 Daniel Hopsicker. Used here for information purposes under fair-use provisions, please see Fair-Use Notice, below.
K. Breitweiser Blog: Enabling Danger (part 1)
Saturday, August 20, 2005
by: Kristen Breitweiser – HuffingtonPost.com – August 20, 2005
The press has recently been reporting on the issue of surveillance pertaining to four “key” 9/11 hijackers.
Specifically, Congressman Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) has gone public with accusations that the Pentagon had four of the 9/11 hijackers under its surveillance in December of 2000. Initial press accounts detailed that four of the 9/11 hijackers — al Mihdhar, al Hazmi, al Shehi, and Atta — were identified by a data mining operation (Project Able Danger) run out of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The revelation of this new information is astounding for two reasons. First, if true, this would mean that four of the key hijackers in the 9/11 plot were in the cross-hairs of our Pentagon one year prior to the attacks during the summer of 2000. Second, it raises credibility issues surrounding the 9/11 Commission since the Commission’s Final Report does not mention—let alone report upon—the Able Danger operation.
Let’s address the concept that DIA had four 9/11 hijackers identified as al Qaeda operatives in 2000. First, why was this information withheld from the FBI when it was allegedly collected by DIA back in the summer of 2000? Second, if this information was not passed to the FBI, was any of this information passed on to the CIA? Third, what difference would it have made if DIA had informed the FBI about these four al Qaeda targets? Fourth, if it indeed exists, where is the Able Danger chart that allegedly contains Atta’s name, and most importantly, have we capitalized on any other information or names contained in that chart?
Withholding from the FBI:
News reports state that the information regarding the 9/11 hijackers was not passed onto the FBI because Pentagon attorneys believed that the targets of the data-mining operation (the four 9/11 hijackers) were green card holders thereby banning the passage of this information to the FBI since laws were in place during the summer of 2000 that banned domestic surveillance of Americans by the FBI. Of course, the DOD attorneys were patently wrong in their interpretation since the four 9/11 hijackers that were identified were merely U.S. visa holders (some of which had already expired and/or were illegal). These men were not U.S. citizens—therefore, the information could have been readily passed to the FBI with no worry of breaking any rules or laws. Nevertheless, the Able Danger information did not get shared with the FBI. (The identities and whereabouts of the DOD attorneys who provided such wrong legal counsel remains unknown—which raises the obvious question as to whether these individuals are still working at DOD and making the same erroneous and deadly decisions.)
It should be mentioned that two of the men mentioned in the Able Danger operation—al Mihdhar and al Hazmi—were already known by the CIA as al Qaeda operatives by late December 1999. Much like DIA and their failure to share information with the FBI, the CIA also failed to share their information about these two men being inside the United States and planning terrorist activities.
In December 1999, CIA was actively investigating and tracking al Mihdhar and al Hazmi as they traveled to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. While in Kuala Lumpur in early January 2000, al Mihdhar and al Hazmi attended a meeting with other known al Qaeda operatives. The meeting was a planning session for the U.S.S. Cole bombing that occurred in October 2000 and for the 9/11 attacks. Our CIA conducted surveillance on this meeting.
After the meeting in Malaysia, Al Mihdhar and al Hazmi arrived in the United States in January 2000. The CIA knew about the two men coming to America, but chose not to tell the FBI about their presence inside the United States on a number of occasions for the 18 months preceding 9/11. Why? Most likely, because the CIA did not want the FBI stepping on their toes while they were conducting an ongoing surveillance operation on these known al Qaeda operatives. At any rate, the record shows that for 18 months prior to 9/11, the CIA conducted surveillance on these two targets while they were in the United States and failed to tell the FBI about it. The question remains whether DIA and CIA were collaborating on their surveillance operations of these al Qaeda operatives or acting independently.
Why does it matter that the FBI was not given the information?
The four men allegedly under surveillance by Project Able Danger, were four key players in the 9/11 plot. They spent from the spring of 2000 through the summer of 2001 coming into regular contact with the other 9/11 hijackers—namely and most importantly, Hani Hanjour and Ziad Jarrah. Additionally, all four of the identified hijackers had contacts at the same flight school that Zaccarias Moussaoui was arrested at by the FBI in August 2001. The hijackers received numerous wire transfers from known al Qaeda operatives—such as Ramzi Binalshibh. They had ongoing contacts with other known al Qaeda operatives including Osama Bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. They trained in U.S. flight schools. They participated in numerous cross-country practice flights during the summer of 2001. They bought flight control manuals and global positioning equipment, knives and pepper spray. They traveled in and out of this country (sometimes to meet with other al Qaeda operatives) on a number of occasions from the spring of 2000 until the summer of 2001. Had the FBI been told about their presence in the United States, most certainly, the 9/11 attacks would have been prevented. How can I say this with such conviction?
Mohammed Atta was the pilot for Flight 11, the plane that hit WTC 1. Marwan al Shehhi was the pilot of Flight 175, the plane that hit WTC 2. Hani Hanjour was the pilot of Flight 77, the plane that hit the Pentagon. And, Ziad Jarrah was the pilot of Flight 93, the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. Let’s look at the details.
Flight 77—al Mihdhar, al Hazmi, and Hanjour
It should be noted that Hani Hanjour, the pilot of Flight 77, lived with al Hazmi for the 9 months preceding the 9/11 attacks. Recall, that al Hazmi was targeted and identified by CIA and allegedly also DIA by the summer of 2000. Thus, when Hazmi and Hanjour met in December of 2000, surveillance would have been active on Hazmi for approximately 4 months. Both Hazmi and Hanjour attended flight school together in the Phoenix area of Arizona (the same Phoenix that was the subject of the “Phoenix Memo” penned by FBI agent Kenneth Williams in the summer of 2001. Williams’ memo discussed strange patterns of middle-eastern men taking flying lessons in U.S. flight schools but the memo was ignored by FBI Headquarters). In the spring of 2001, both Hazmi and Hanjour moved to the East Coast settling in Virginia and then New Jersey. While on the East Coast, Hazmi and Hanjour came into regular contact with the remaining hijackers—the muscle hijackers–that would help them commandeer Flight 77. From December 2000 until the 9/11 attacks, Al Hazmi and Hanjour were inseparable. Thus, had al Hazmi been under surveillance and identified, it goes without saying that Hanjour would have been likewise identified as an al Qaeda operative.
Once identified, the FBI would have learned that Hanjour did not attend school after entering this country on a student visa in December 2000, thereby violating his immigration status and making him deportable under 8 USC 1227 (a)(1)(B). Necessarily, if deported, Hanjour would have been unable to pilot Flight 77 into the Pentagon. As an aside, al Hazmi would have also been deported since he overstayed the terms of his admission, a violation of immigration laws rendering him deportable under 8 USC 1227 (a)(1)(B).
Flight 93—Ziad Jarrah
Ziad Jarrah, the pilot of Flight 93, was a roommate with Mohammed Atta and Marwan al Shehhi while they lived in Hamburg, Germany. Once in the United States, Jarrah attended flight school in Venice, Florida from the summer of 2000 until the summer of 2001. Likewise, during the summer of 2000, Atta and al Shehhi arrived in Florida to take their flight lessons in Venice, Florida. All three had ongoing and continued contacts with one another for the year preceding the 9/11 attacks, and during the summer of 2001 they came into regular contact with the other muscle hijackers that would help them commandeer each of the flights they piloted on the day of 9/11.
It seems likely that if our CIA and DIA had identified both Atta and al Shehhi, they would have likewise identified Jarrah as an al Qaeda operative. Notably, Jarrah left and returned to the United States six times between the summer of 2000 and the 9/11 attacks. Jarrah also made hundreds of phone calls to his girlfriend who remained overseas in Germany during this time period and he also communicated frequently by email. Thus, there were ample opportunities to gather the kinds of information that both DIA and CIA could capitalize upon while Jarrah was living inside the United States.
Jarrah attended flight school in June 2000 without properly adjusting his immigration status, thereby violating his immigration status and rendering him inadmissible under 8 USC 1182 (a)(7)(B) each of the subsequent six times he re-entered the United States between June 2000 and August 5, 2001. Thus, Jarrah could have been either denied entry or deported had our FBI been aware of his identification as an al Qaeda operative. Whether arrested and deported or barred entry into the country, Jarrah clearly would have been unable to pilot Flight 93 on the morning of 9/11.
Flight 11—Mohammed Atta
Mohammed Atta was the pilot of Flight 11—the plane that flew into the first Tower of the World Trade Center. Atta is widely considered the ringleader of the 9/11 plot. He had ongoing contacts with Ramsi Binalshibh. He received regular wire transfers from known al Qaeda sources like Binalshibh. He traveled abroad at least twice and met with other known al Qaeda operatives throughout the time period of the summer of 2000 until the summer of 2001. He took flight lessons in Venice, Florida along with Marwan al Shehhi (another hijacker allegedly identified by Able Danger). Atta visited and made inquiries to the same flight school that Zaccarias Moussaoui was arrested at by the FBI in August 2001. Had lead-hijacker Atta been under surveillance by the FBI, there is absolutely no plausible way the 9/11 attacks could have been carried out.
Atta failed to present a proper M-1 visa when he entered the United States in January 2001. He had previously overstayed his tourist visa and therefore was inadmissible under 8 USC 1182(a)(7)(B). If he had been arrested and deported, Atta would not have been able to pilot Flight 11 into WTC 1 on the morning of 9/11.
Flight 175—Marwan al Shehhi
The final person allegedly identified by DIA was Marwan al Shehhi. As it turns out, DIA was not the only agency in the U.S. intelligence community that was aware of “Marwan” because in 1999, the German government had provided CIA with the name “Marwan” along with his telephone number. German intelligence had received his name and number as a result of their own surveillance of the Hamburg cell—the same cell that Atta and Jarrah were members.
From the summer of 2000 until the summer of 2001, Al Shehhi took his flight lessons in Florida alongside of Atta. They were inseparable. They opened joint bank accounts and received wire transfers from Binalshibh–a known al Qaeda operative. Together, they came into regular contact with the other hijackers particularly throughout the summer of 2001 when they all were located on the East Coast and making final plans for the 9/11 attacks.
The legality of al Shehhi’s presence in the United States remains questionable. The discrepancy surrounds whether al Shehhi was considered a “student pilot” or a full-blown pilot. If he was considered a “student pilot”, his admission as a business visitor was erroneous, and he therefore, could have been barred entry to the country when he re-entered from a trip abroad in January 2001. If barred entry, clearly al Shehhi would have been unable to pilot flight 175 that flew into WTC 2 on the morning of 9/11.
Did Able Danger exist? And, if so, where is the chart that supposedly identifies Atta?
If the Able Danger chart exists, I think our government and its intelligence agencies had best locate it. It would seem that the chart might hold the names of other terrorists bent on murdering Americans. Why would such a chart go missing? Why wouldn’t our intelligence agencies want to utilize the wealth of information contained in that chart? In other words, shouldn’t we want to follow up on the other names listed on the chart? I know I would feel a lot better if I knew as a fact that every name on the chart was investigated, wouldn’t you? Or, if we do have the chart, I wonder if any of the other names on the Able Danger chart match any of the individuals’ identities in Gitmo? Why hasn’t anyone in our government given an accounting of where this chart is and whether the information held within the chart has been properly capitalized upon? Where is the urgency to locate this valuable document that contains another approximately 200 terrorists’ names? (As an aside, I find our entire government’s handling of this issue extremely uncomfortable. If the chart did not exist, then a clear, emphatic statement should have been issued by each entity: the Pentagon, the 9/11 Commission, and the Administration. Think about it. If you genuinely know that something never existed, then you can flatly deny its existence. Unless, it turns up, and then you’re on the record denying its existence. It seems to me, that the deafening silence and hedging comments made by all those involved—comments along the lines of “well, if it turns out the chart exists, then…”— are very suspicious and quite disturbing. Its like nobody wants to get caught lying to the American public, but yet, nobody wants to confirm the Able Danger chart’s existence because the implications of the existence of such a chart is so damning. So now we have all of our government leaders and experts clamming up and acting like a bunch of potential criminal teenage boys in Aruba.)
Additionally, some questions have been raised about the ability of DIA to label or “identify” Atta as an al Qaeda operative as early as 2000. To me, it would seem logical that DIA was able to do so, after all, in 2000 Atta was living in Hamburg, Germany and having regular contacts with other known al Qaeda operatives namely Ramzi Binalshibh, Said Bahaji, Zakariya Essabar, Muhammed Zammar, Mounir Motassadeq, Abdelghani Mzoudi, and Mamoun Darkazanli. We know that the German government had Atta’s cell—the Hamburg cell—under surveillance and we also know that our CIA was conducting parallel surveillance during the same time period. Information surrounding the Hamburg cell and the surveillance is documented throughout the German trials of Mzoudi and Mottasedeq—two of the al Qaeda operatives that were prosecuted for their ties to the 9/11 attacks but eventually released after the United States refused to cooperate with the German courts by sharing intelligence evidence linking the men to the 9/11 plot. (Both men are walking the streets of Germany today as free men because our government refused to share evidence linking them to the 9/11 plot—something that frustrates many of the 9/11 families since we have yet to hold one terrorist accountable for the 9/11 attacks.) The surveillance of the Hamburg cell is also mentioned in overseas news reports from both London and Germany. One account even goes so far as to say that the CIA attempted to “flip” one of Atta’s comrades (Darkazanli) into being an informant for the CIA. Clearly, by December 2000, the CIA knew at least that Atta was a person of interest, so why should it seem so hard for the agency and others in our government to understand how DIA was able to do so, too?
Surveillance of the Hijackers—the proof.
The speed by which our government was able to accumulate such a vast amount of information immediately following the 9/11 attacks (in less than 24 hours) is the most persuasive proof that our government had the hijackers under its surveillance. FBI agents descended upon the very flight schools (out of the thousands of flight schools in our country) that the hijackers attended within two hours of the attacks. They were seen removing files from the flight schools buildings. Furthermore, photos of the hijackers and details about their activities in the final days before the attacks were also immediately presented to the American people. I mean you are talking about an intelligence apparatus that according to official accounts was completely in the dark about the plotting and planning of the 9/11 attacks. They — our intelligence agencies — knew nothing about the operatives living in this country—the operatives that were fully imbedded and openly training in our flight schools, partaking in practice flights across this country, receiving wire transfers from al Qaeda sources, and repeatedly traveling in and out of this country to visit other terrorists and terrorist facilities. Yet, for a group of agencies caught completely flat-footed on the day of 9/11, they certainly were able to get their act together at a time when most—if not all– of this nation’s citizens were brought to their knees.
Additionally, when one carefully reads the 9/11 chronology and information provided in the public record, it becomes increasingly clear that the CIA’s repeated failure to share information with the FBI about two of the 9/11 hijackers—al Mihdhar and al Hazmi– was purposeful. There exists at least seven instances between January 2000 and September 11th, 2001, that the CIA withheld vital information from the FBI about these two hijackers who were inside this country training for the attacks. Once, twice, maybe even three times could be considered merely careless oversights. But at least seven documented times? To me, that suggests something else. (To read about these instances, I suggest you read 9/11 materials relating to the “watchlisting issue” involving al Mihdhar and al Hazmi which is a story so detailed, that it deserves its own lengthy blog.)
The 9/11 Commission
At a bare minimum, the 9/11 Commission is not being honest with the American people. First, the Commission feigned total ignorance about Able Danger. Then, they admitted that they remembered hearing something about it. Next, they acknowledged that they were briefed about the program but found a discrepancy in the dates provided by the Able Danger informant, and therefore decided that the information was irrelevant to their investigation. Convenient excuses. But, wrong. Because, I happen to be one of the 9/11 widows that received personal commitments from each of the 9/11 Commissioners that they would track down every lead, and turn over every rock so as to provide the most thorough and definitive account of the 9/11 attacks to the American people. Last week’s revelations about Able Danger prove that the Commission has not been above-board with their investigation. Nor has their investigation been anywhere near exhaustive.
Now, legally speaking, the 9/11 Commissioners were mandated to provide a full accounting of the 9/11 attacks to the American people. If the Able Danger operation and its accompanying information turn out to be true, then necessarily each Commissioner has broken the law in that they failed to fulfill their legislative mandate in providing a full and just accounting of the 9/11 attacks to the American people. However, if we also come to learn that Atta’s or any of the other hijackers names were mentioned in the Able Danger chart, I think this nation will have bigger problems to deal with than accusing the 9/11 Commission of not following their mandate in providing a full accounting to the American people. As with most things in life, only time will tell.
Stay tuned for Part II. Kristen Breitweiser, a co-founder of the 9/11 Family Steering Committee which was responsible for forcing the Government to launch a broad investigation into the attacks of 9/11. She lost her husband Kenneth on September 11, 2001.
Copyright 2005 Kristen Breitweiser. Used here for information purposes under fair-use provisions, please see Fair-Use Notice, below.
The spinning of the smoking guns
More pre-9/11 US intelligence connections to al-Qaeda exposed and spun
By Larry Chin
Online Journal Associate Editor
August 24, 2005—In recent weeks, two “revelations” of pre-9/11 US military-intelligence relationships with al-Qaeda “terrorists” and Osama bin Laden are being used as cannon fodder in an intensifying power struggle between rival political factions vying to seize the “war on terrorism” agenda for their own, and deepen the cover-up of 9/11.
The furor over new stories involving alleged 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and US-bin Laden go-between Tarik Hamdi pits spinmasters against other spinmasters—Kean 9/11 Commission supporters versus hawkish Bush-linked 9/11 Commission attackers, neocons versus neoliberals, and intelligence and law enforcement agencies are at each other’s throats again over “intelligence failures.”
While the spin has dwelled exclusively around “anti-terrorism” and various red herrings, and the supposed frustration over the tracking and arrest of al-Qaeda members, the true evidence trail continues to be purposely ignored. This trail leads directly to high-level US government officials and US intelligence agencies themselves (and US intelligence branches such as Pakistan’s ISI), for their nurturing, guiding and placement of “Islamic terrorist” intelligence assets (including Atta, Hamdi, bin Laden and al-Qaeda), and US complicity in 9/11.
Osama’s US Contact
Newly unsealed court papers charge that Tarik A. Hamdi, an Iraqi-born American citizen and a former resident of Herndon, Virginia (a suburb of Washington, DC, and a hotbed of intelligence-connected groups), and a direct and key American contact for Osama bin Laden, is now a member of the Iraqi Foreign Ministry in Ankara, Turkey.
According to the affadavit from Customs Agent David Kane, and facts confirmed by US authorities (including the FBI), Hamdi supplied a satellite telephone battery to bin Laden, who was in Afghanistan in 1998.
Hamdi, former CIA counter-terrorism chief Vince Cannistraro, and Pakistani journalist (and ISI “favorite”) Rahimullah Yusufszai were among the few go-betweens with bin Laden who set up interviews with bin Laden for American journalists, such as John Miller (now a Commanding Officer in the Los Angeles Police Department’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau). During this period, Cannistraro, Miller and Yusufszai worked for ABC News. Hamdi also had a working relationship with recently deceased ABC anchorman Peter Jennings, who tapped Hamdi as a Middle East expert more than once.
As noted by Chaim Kupferberg, “Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism chief, provided covert aid to the Afghani mujahadeen in the late 80s, as well as supervised CIA operations with the contras. He was also a point man in the notoriously circumspect investigation at Lockerbie.”
Hamdi has also been indicted on fraud and immigration charges. Federal agents have also held Hamdi under scrutiny since 2002 for his involvement with the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) think tank in northern Virginia, and ties to other alleged members of al-Qaeda. The IIIT itself has been suspected of ties to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Interestingly, the IIIT is one of many Saudi/Islamic fronts under investigation (see “Role of Charities and NGOs In the Financing of Terrorist Activities”), but also deeply connected to the Republican Party apparatus and Bush/Rove, via Grover Norquist.
The relationship Hamdi enjoyed with ABC, Miller, and Cannistraro leads to deeper issues that go to the heart of the 9/11 operation, as detailed by Kupferberg in “The Propaganda Preparation for 9/11″.
Kupferberg points out that ” . . . if the bin Laden threat was, pre-9/11, a close-knit propaganda campaign, one would expect to find the same names showing up repeatedly in combination with one another.” Among the short list of “same names” who managed the flow of available information on bin Laden, we find Miller and Cannistraro.
Specifically regarding ABC and bin Laden, Kupferberg said:
” . . . it is my contention that al-Qaida and bin Laden are elaborate ‘legends’ set up to promote a plausibly sophisticated and ferocious enemy to stand against American interests. I am not, however, implying that bin Laden himself is a total fabrication. Rather, it is my contention that confederates, believing themselves to act on behalf of bin Laden, are being set up in a ‘false flag operation’ to perform operations as their controllers see fit.
“If [9/11] were an ‘inside job,’ the first thing to do was to look at who conveyed specific information on bin Laden before—and I stress, before—9/11, for they were most likely involved wittingly or not with those who masterminded it.
“Yusufszai . . . moonlighted as an ABC News producer, charged with guiding ABC News correspondent John Miller through the Afghani marshes to bin Laden’s cave—one of the very few American journalists to be accorded such an honour (and also, as it happens, a good friend of bin Laden arch-foe John O’Neill . . . )
“Yusufszai’s ABC colleague, John Miller, mused about running into his buddy John O’Neill in Yemen while reporting on the U.S.S. Cole bombing the year before.
“Miller, one of the very few Americans who can give a first-hand account of bin Laden, bumps into his friend, bin Laden’s chief investigator, while both are investigating a bombing in Yemen that will later be tagged onto bin Laden—and only a year before O’Neill dies at the hands of . . . allegedly . . . bin Laden.
” . . . Vincent Cannistraro, the ABC News analyst who also escorted John Miller to his bin Laden interview, as well as provided running commentary in the days immediately following 9/11. Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism chief, provided covert aid to the Afghani mujahadeen in the late 80s, as well as supervised CIA operations with the contras. He was also a point man in the notoriously circumspect investigation at Lockerbie. In the above noted [Washington Post reporter Vernon] Loeb and [Washington Post’s Walter] Pincus article—in which bin Laden is quoted from the ABC News Miller and Yusufszai interview—Cannistraro weighs in with his assessment of the embassy bombings: ‘I believe Osama bin Laden is the sponsor of this operation, and I think all of the indications are pointing that way.'”
As the man who “had contacts with the contacts” and helped Cannistraro lead Miller to bin Laden, Hamdi is at the center of the network that created the al-Qaeda “terror” legend. And that may be the tip of the iceberg. Over the past decade, Hamdi has served Anglo-American intelligence interests. He has gone from being a key bin Laden go-between, to becoming an official in the new Iraqi government, right under the nose of the authorities of several nations, including the CIA, the FBI, US law enforcement, the State Department, and the US occupation in Baghdad.
At the time of this writing, no information is available to explain how Hamdi secured his Iraqi government post. Cannistraro remains in contact with Hamdi, and believes that Hamdi is being unfairly harassed by federal authorities who, he believes, have failed to make their case.
Able Danger/Mohammed Atta: How Many Ways Can You Spell and Spin, “Foreknowledge?”
Over the past month, Washington political circles and major media organs (Washington Post, the New York Times, etc.) have been galvanized over what appears to be a new claim that yet another US intelligence unit “knew.”
Army intelligence officer Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, and Congressman Curt Weldon (R-Pa), have gone public with the charge that a Special Operations Command data mining program run by a secret US intelligence unit, code named Able Danger, had identified alleged 9/11 lead hijacker Mohammed Atta and three other al-Qaeda operatives operating in the United States, as early as 1999.
The Able Danger team, with whom Shaffer worked as a liason, claims it sought but failed to persuade the Defense Department and the Tampa, Florida-based Special Operations Command to share this information, that the unit believes could have stopped 9/11, with the FBI. They further charge that this information was rejected by the 9/11 Commission, even after repeated overtures from both Weldon and Shaffer, which included meetings with commission members and document exchanges.
The 9/11 Commission has defended itself, claiming that the charges of Shaffer and Weldon are unreliable. In a statement, Commission Chairman Thomas Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton stated that the Able Danger program was not “historically significant, set against the larger context of US policy and intelligence efforts.” Shaffer considers this charge absurd: Able Danger was created specifically to target al-Qaeda.
As this controversy continues to unfold, it would seem that Shaffer/Able Danger thoroughly vindicates what legions of critics of the official version of 9/11 have been documenting and exposing for the past four years. In “9/11 Commission told of Atta cover-up”, Patrick Martin of the World Socialist Website wrote that the Shaffer statements “shatter the official story of the September 11 attacks, as devised by the Bush administration, endorsed by the entire Washington political establishment, and parroted obediently by the media.
“It is now clear that those who have rejected [the official account of 9/11] have been proven right,” writes Martin. “The future hijackers were detected by US government agencies, including the CIA and military intelligence, yet nothing was done either to arrest them or disrupt their activities . . . There is only one politically serious explanation of this now-indisputable fact: powerful forces within the US military/intelligence complex wanted a terrorist incident on US soil in order to create the needed shift in public opinion required to embark on a long-planned campaign of military intervention in Central Asia and the Middle East.”
From a deeper perspective, however, the new Atta/Able Danger information is not a “revelation.” In fact, it is old news, and an original 9/11 red herring, warmed over. In short, it shows that a US intelligence unit “knew, and were prevented from acting on what they knew” and perhaps “stopping 9/11.” While the newly disclosed source—Able Danger and the DIA—is relevant and interesting for many reasons, as is the timing and political game unfolding, nothing has been added to the actual Atta evidence. More importantly, the al-Qaeda’s network’s connection to US military-intelligence, the evidence that 9/11 was a false flag operation, is not addressed at all. Atta and company are assumed foreign terrorists responsible for attacking America, fully consistent with the core of the official and original 9/11 lie.
Able Danger/Atta adds little to what independent researchers and analysts (Center for Research on Globalization/Global Outlook, From The Wilderness, Online Journal, and Center for Cooperative Research to name just a handful) already know:
We know that the “Islamic terrorism” is a creation and tool of Anglo-American geostrategy, created by the US government in the 1970s, fully utilized during the Clinton administration, and nurtured from the Reagan-Bush administrations to the present Bush administrations.
We know who Osama bin Laden is (or was). In Crossing The Rubicon, Mike Ruppert noted:
“The Washington Post explicitly suggested that the real relationship between the United States government [USG] and Osama bin Laden may be quite the opposite of what it seems. ‘As early as March 1996, the government of Sudan offered to extradite bin Laden to the United States. US officials turned down the offer, perhaps preferring to use him ‘as a combatant in an underground war.'” In other words, as a US government agent. In a footnote, Ruppert analyzes the above passage, and cuts to the core of 9/11, and the deception that the world has faced for the past four years:
“If this means that OBL is to be ‘used as a combatant’ on the USG side, it strongly suggests that he is a willing participant in such an effort and that his CIA affiliation from the Mujahadeen war of the 1980s has persisted. If the same locution means that OBL is to be ‘used’ as a combatant on the anti-USG terrorist side of the supposed war on terror, it strongly suggests that the USG is engaged in the business of supplying itself with enemies. That practice is called ‘false flag’ operation, and 9/11 is the greatest exemplar in history.”
We know that al-Qaeda is connected to the ISI, which, in turn is a virtual branch of the CIA, and involved in US covert operations.
We know that numerous intelligence agencies had monitored, penetrated, and guided al-Qaeda assets. Notwithstanding the denials of Washington’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies, al-Qaeda and its operatives were under scrutiny years before 9/11, and completely penetrated.
According to Ruppert, who exhaustively broke down this penetration over several chapters of his book, Crossing the Rubicon, “based on what is known about successful intelligence penetrations for years prior to the attacks of 9/11, Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda could not have sneezed without the CIA or the NSA knowing about it.”
We know that it is standard intelligence procedure to create intelligence legends and multiple layers of plausible deniability around their operatives.
We know who, and what, Atta was. Investigative journalist Daniel Hopsicker exposed the backgrounds and movements of the Atta cell and the “hijackers” prior to 9/11. Members of the Atta cell received military training, and had connections to intelligence and intelligence-connected Floridians with direct Bush family ties.
We know that various US intelligence and law enforcement agencies, agents, and officers had information—and were systematically blocked from reporting the information and acting on it by gatekeepers of the 9/11 false flag operation.
We know that Atta received funding from the ISI for 9/11, and that then-ISI Chief Mahmoud Ahmad wired $100,000 directly to Atta, and met with Washington lawmakers on the morning of 9/11 (including the current director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Porter Goss).
We know that there were and are 9/11 gatekeepers in the government, the FBI, the CIA, and all over the world.
We know that 9/11 was not an “intelligence failure,” but an “intelligence success” that included the use of guided al-Qaeda assets, and “hijacker” intelligence legends.
We know that the Kean 9/11 Commission has been a massive cover-up, from its inception to the very end.
What is somewhat “revelatory” is how US intelligence and law enforcement agents, and politicians, seem to be stumbling over themselves to blow the whistle now, four years after the fact, and they are being (selectively) permitted to do so. As Martin points out: “That a serving intelligence of Shaffer’s rank should come forward publicly is a sign of intense and deepening crisis within the US intelligence apparatus . . . Within military/intelligence circles, the knives are out.”
Similarly, we see the new parameters of media treatment of the “war on terrorism” and Bush. Damning evidence that would have been blocked from public dissemination immediately following 9/11 (through various forms of censorship and intimidation) is now permissible mainstream news fodder.
What this suggests is that the Bush regime has lost its grip over the “management” of the 9/11 legend. Indeed, this administration is losing the war it created, in all of the most important ways.
Worse, as Martin writes, “the 9/11 Commission report is now discredited as a bipartisan cover-up, in which Democrats and Republicans joined forces to protect the key institutions of the state.” This is forcing competing elite factions of various agendas into a new struggle put the “war on terrorism” and the 9/11 story “back on track,” lest Anglo-American geostrategy lose its central pretext.
Patrick Martin astutely points out, “The representatives of the extreme right—Fox, the Murdoch press, Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing talk radio hosts, and an array of bloggers—have made more noise about Able Danger, but only on the service of a political diversion. They have sought to use Shaffer’s account to indict the Clinton administration and shift responsibility for the 9/11 security failure from Bush to his Democratic predecessor.” While Republicans involved with the Kean Commission, such as Phil Zelikow, have gotten a free pass from the right wing, Democrats have been smeared, from Jamie Gorelick, to former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, who was accused of stealing 9/11-related documents (he was later cleared over this still-questionable activity).
Congressman Curt Weldon, who has been spearheading the Able Danger case in Washington, is pushing a right-wing agenda. Weldon, the number one critic of the 9/11 Commission, has a reputation as a loose cannon. His book Countdown to Terror not only pushes for more aggressive anti-terrorism, but also goes after Iran (Iran-as-terrorist, Iran-targeting-nuclear-facilities, etc.). Weldon has been criticized by Dana Priest of the Washington Post, and the New York Times. The bottom line: Weldon’s bias and goals must be questioned.
A more disgusting example can be seen in Iran-Contra thug-turned-media pundit Oliver North’s leap on to the Able Danger bandwagon. North, one of the most shameless political criminals in modern history, is predictably carrying water for his old narco-trafficking war criminal-infested Iran-Contra network, and still playing and profiting from post 9/11 war and covert operations. Lest anyone forget who North is:
CIA IG Report, Volume II
Contra-Intelligence on Oliver North (by Federal Drug Agent Celerino Castillo)
Iran-Contra connections to 9/11
Bush-Bin Laden connections
Oliver North in Fallujah
“Torture Inc.:Oliver North Joins the Party”
Need anyone be reminded that the two Bush administrations have been cesspools of Iran-Contra, from the Bushes themselves to Dick Cheney, Elliot Abrams, John Negroponte, John Bolton, Richard Armitage, etc.?
It does without saying that North’s word is utterly worthless, as is his attempt to distract from the fact that corruption, political crime, and “terrorism” are bipartisan products that the Bush regime happens to be (momentarily) stewarding.
Shifting Deck Chairs on Bush’s Titanic
The “criminalization of the state” is when war criminals legitimately occupy positions of authority, which enable them to decide “who are the criminals,” when in fact they are the criminals.
As pointed out by Michel Chossudovsky in War and Globalisation: The Truth Behind September 11, the media’s incessant spotlight on “lapses” and “foreknowledge” distracts public attention away from what is important.
“Of course they knew,” wrote Chossudovsky. “The foreknowledge issue is a red herring. The ‘Islamic Militant Network’ is a creation of the CIA. In standard CIA jargon, al-Qaeda is categorized as an ‘intelligence asset.’ Support to terrorist organizations is an integral part of U.S. foreign policy. Al-Qaeda continues to this date . . . to participate in CIA covert operations in different parts of the world.” (Add this August 2005 disclosure from Turkish intelligence to the documented evidence pointing to the likelihood that al-Qaeda is a CIA-run operation.)
From the 9/11 Commission’s cover-up, to the selective new releases of “terror” fact and spin, this criminalization and deception continues unabated. The Hamdi case is interesting because it places a direct US-al-Qaeda contact in a continuous role, serving US intelligence interests. The new Atta information itself is not new, although the apparent whistle-blowing contest, and the struggle for control of this information, is.
The political agenda behind this crusade is not the truth, but the co-opting, re-strengthening and intensification of Bush’s “war on terrorism” based on the 9/11 pretext. The most aggressive shills pushing both the Hamdi and Atta/Able Danger stories want more “anti-terrorism,” and more justifications to expand the war throughout the world. To again quote Chossudovsky: “Revealing more lies is not the same thing as establishing the truth.”
Despite what appears to be another round of deck chairs being rearranged on Bush’s Titanic, criminals remain at the controls. Only if and when the full truth about 9/11 and the “war on terrorism” is exposed, and understood on a massive scale, can these criminals be stripped of their power.
The views expressed herein are the writers’ own and do not necessarily reflect those of Online Journal.
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PROJECT “ABLE DANGER”
By Dennis L. Cuddy, Ph.D.
August 23, 2005
Recently, there has been revealing news about the U.S. Army’s Project “Able Danger,” which was established in September 1999 by Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, then head of the Special Operations Command. Schoomaker had previously advised Texas Governor Ann Richards and the FBI regarding what military equipment could be used in the attack upon the Branch Davidians at Waco (a mock-up of the Davidians’ compound was at Fort Hood, Texas, where Schoomaker was an assistant to Gen. Wesley Clark, a Rhodes Scholar named by fellow Rhodes Scholar President Bill Clinton to be military head of NATO). Schoomaker has also advocated joint military training exercises with the Communist Chinese, and on August 1, 2003 President George W. Bush named him Army Chief of Staff.
Able Danger used advanced technology and data analysis to identify and target Al-Qaeda members around the world. Long before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Able Danger identified 9-11 ringleader Mohammed Atta in September 2000 as part of an Al-Qaeda cell in Brooklyn, and eventually 60 members of Al-Qaeda were identified.
Concerning Atta’s background, in November 1998 he and several other terrorists moved into a 4-bedroom apartment in Hamburg, Germany. On February 17 of the next year, German intelligence began tapping suspected Al-Qaeda terrorist Mohammed Haydar Zammar’s phone, and they heard Zammar was at a meeting with Atta. By December 1999, the CIA began to recruit German businessman Mamoun Darkazanli for information because he knew Atta and others of the Hamburg Al-Qaeda terrorist cell.
The next month (January 2000), according to the German intelligence magazine FOCUS (September 24, 2001), the CIA began surveillance of Atta which lasted to May 2000. Christian Elflein and others wrote in the FOCUS article that “U.S. agents followed him (Atta) mainly in the area around Frankfurt am Main and noted that Atta bought large quantities of chemicals for the possible production of explosives….On May 18, 2000 the U.S. Embassy in Berlin gave (Atta) a visa….Strange that the visa application and granting it happened in the period when the (CIA) was still observing the suspicious buying of chemicals by the person (Atta) concerned….Someone from the (German) intelligence service (told) FOCUS: ‘We can no longer exclude the possibility that the Americans wanted to keep an eye on Atta after his entry in the USA.’…German security experts are still stunned about the speed with which the FBI could present the conspirative ties of Atta and his presumed Hamburg accomplices. ‘As (if all it needed was) a push on a button,’ an insider says, ‘As if the Americans for a long time already had loads of info on their computers about the culprits.'”
At this point, it is worth mentioning that Yossef Bodansky (director of the U.S. House of Representatives Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare) in TARGET AMERICA: TERRORISM IN THE U.S. TODAY (1993) referred to a large Islamist network spanning the U.S. including “all the components of a mature terrorist support system (with) safe houses in major cities, weapons, ammunition, money, systems to provide medical and legal aid, false identity papers, and intelligence for the operative.” The point in including this here is to ask how Bodansky would know about all this unless the terrorist network were already being monitored by the federal government?
Returning to Mohammed Atta, he used his aforementioned visa to come to the U.S. on June 3, 2000. He stayed at the Wayne Inn on Route 23 in New Jersey, and in July went to Venice, Florida to take flying lessons at Huffman Aviation flight school. Then in May 2001, he rented an apartment in Hollywood, Florida.
Several months later, Atta received $100,000 wired to him at the request of Gen. Mahmoud Ahmad, head of the ISI, Pakistani intelligence (also see my NewsWithViews.com article “Richard Armitage and the ISI”). Shortly thereafter, September 3-5, 2001, members of Atta’s Hamburg terrorist cell left Germany for Pakistan. At about this same time (the week before the 9-11 attacks), Gen. Ahmad came to the U.S. to talk to top Pentagon, CIA and NSC (National Security Council) officials (in May 2001 Gen. Ahmad already had an unusually long meeting in Pakistan with CIA Director George Tenet and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage).
Then, on September 10, 2001 some top Pentagon officials suddenly cancelled their travel plans for the morning of 9-11 apparently because of security concerns. Late that same night (September 10), San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown also received a phone call warning him and all Americans to watch out for air travel (Mayor Brown was supposed to fly to New York City the morning of 9-11). In case you think these top Pentagon officials and Mayor Brown simply received a general warning, alert or emergency ruling from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), I filed 2 Freedom of Information requests and received replies from the Department of Homeland Security stating that while there were 12 warnings, alerts or emergency rulings between May and September 15, 2001, none occurred from September 2 through September 11.
At the end of the Preface of long-time Middle East CIA agent Robert Baer’s 2002 book, SEE NO EVIL, one finds the following: “The other day a reporter friend told me that one of the highest-ranking CIA officials had said to him, off the record, that when the dust finally clears, Americans will see that September 11 was a triumph for the intelligence community, not a failure.”
In October 2003, Able Danger officer Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer testified to the 9-11 Commission about their monitoring Mohammed Atta and other 9-11 terrorists long before the attacks of 9-11, but the Commission did not include this information in its report. Regarding this, NATIONAL REVIEW’s Jim Geraghty exclaimed: “As for the 9-11 commission, after all that patting themselves on the back, all that gushing praise from left, right and center, after their work was called ‘miraculous’ by NEWSDAY, and the nomination for a National Book Award, and calling their own work ‘extraordinary’…man, these guys stink. Really, if this checks out, and the staffers had information like this and they disregarded it, never believing that we in the public deserved to know that the plot’s ringleader was identified, located and recommended to be arrested a year before the attacks…boy, these guys ought to be in stocks in the public square and have rotten fruit thrown at them. What a sham.” In addition, members of the organization SEPTEMBER 11 ADVOCATES released a statement saying in part: “As 9-11 widows who fought tirelessly for the creation of the 9-11 commission, we are wholly disappointed to learn that the commission’s Final Report is a hollow failure.”
Concerning the July 7, 2005 London terrorist bombings, the terrorist ringleader also trained with Al-Qaeda in Pakistan. The photo of the 4 bombers widely shown in the press and media appears to be doctored, as the man in the white cap supposedly in front of the railed fence actually has one of the rails in front of his left arm. In a July 29, 2005 interview on Fox News Channel’s “Day Side” program, former U.S. Justice Department prosecutor and terror expert John Loftus said that 7-7 mastermind, Haroon Rashid Aswat, came to America in 1999. Loftus then revealed: “The Justice Department wanted to indict him in Seattle because him and his buddy were trying to set up a terrorist training school in Oregon….We’ve just learned that the headquarters of the U.S. Justice Department ordered the Seattle prosecutors not to touch Aswat…, apparently Aswat was working for British intelligence….The Brits know that the CIA wants to get a hold of Haroon. So what happens? He takes off again, goes right to London. He isn’t arrested when he lands, he isn’t arrested when he leaves….He’s on the watch list. The only reason he could get away with that was if he was working for British intelligence. He was a wanted man.” Aswat allegedly left London on July 6, 2005, the day before the bombings, to go to Pakistan where he was arrested but released within 24 hours.
Dennis Laurence Cuddy, historian and political analyst, received a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (major in American History, minor in political science). Dr. Cuddy has taught at the university level, has been a political and economic risk analyst for an international consulting firm, and has been a Senior Associate with the U.S. Department of Education.
Cuddy has also testified before members of Congress on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice. Dr. Cuddy has authored or edited twenty books and booklets, and has written hundreds of articles appearing in newspapers around the nation, including The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and USA Today. He has been a guest on numerous radio talk shows in various parts of the country, such as ABC Radio in New York City, and he has also been a guest on the national television programs USA Today and CBS’s Nightwatch.
© 2005 Dennis Cuddy. Used here for information purposes under fair-use provisions, please see Fair-Use Notice, below.
Weldon Says Records Were Ordered Destroyed!! (Able Danger)
Thursday, September 01, 2005 – 02:17 PM
Dom Giordano Show – 1210AM Radio “Big Talker” – Philadelphia | 29 AUG 05 | Vanity
Posted on 08/29/2005 6:23:38 PM PDT by Lancey Howard
Congressman Curt Weldon (R – Pennsylvania) gave another exclusive interview to Dom Giordano this evening (Monday) and broke the news that he will be giving a speech on September 8th (next Monday) during which he will present yet another ‘Able Danger’ witness. This new witness will attest (and will swear under oath when called) that he was “ordered to destroy records” relating to the ‘Able Danger’ program.
This order to destroy the records occurred prior to 9-11-01. Weldon intimated that it happened during the Clinton Administration. The witness, who Weldon did not name, says that he was ordered to destroy records and was threatened with jail if he failed to comply. Weldon said that he has the names of the people involved, including the person who gave the order, and HE WILL NAME THEM in his speech.
Congressman Weldon also said that his staff has met with Senator Arlen Specter’s (R – Pennsylvania) staff regarding the upcoming Judiciary Committee hearings. Weldon wants to be sure that everybody is on the same page. Weldon also said that he will do whatever he has to do to make sure that ALL the facts come out and that the process “is not manipulated”.
Curt Weldon is like a pit bull on a steak. He expressed disgust with the “incompetence” of the 9-11 Commission and said that the victims of the 9-11 terror attacks deserve answers. Weldon is determined to see that they get them.
Weldon did express confidence in Tim Roehmer and John Lehman and speculated that perhaps the poor job done by the Commission was the result of an incompetent staff. Weldon sounded amazed and disappointed that so much important information was either glossed over or swept under the rug by the Commission.
Weldon will give his September 8th speech either to the National Press Club or to a “9-11 families” group which has asked him to speak. He apparently hasn’t nailed down the exact venue yet.