Here is a competent, moderate review of where we stand on the "Able Danger" issue. -- No telling where this might lead if the "cover-up" is broken. -- Lloyd Miller
"Able Danger" Revisited - The Cover-Up Continues
by Gary D. Halbert
November 22, 2005
IN THIS ISSUE:
1. Able Danger & The 9/11 Commission Cover-Up
2. Rep. Curt Weldon Requests Able Danger Hearings
3. Why The 9/11 Commission Ignored Able Danger
4. House Request For A Pentagon Investigation
5. Able Danger Warned Of Attack On USS COLE
6. CIA Also Had Mohamed Atta Under Surveillance
7. Conclusions: 9/11 - What We Still Don't Know
I first wrote about the "Able Danger" story in my August 16 E-Letter, with a follow-up in my August 23 E-Letter . While the Pentagon Inspector General's office is doing its best to keep this story bottled-up, Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA), vice chairman of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees, is turning up the heat in his effort to get the truth out on Able Danger. Good for him!
Since I last wrote about Able Danger, several new developments have occurred. First, on November 18, Rep. Weldon sent a formal letter, signed by 246 House members, to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld requesting that members of Able Danger be allowed to testify in open hearings in the United States Congress. As this is written, there has been no public response.
Second, earlier this month, Rep. Weldon provided new intelligence that Able Danger also had information on a possible terrorist attack in Yemen several days prior to the bombing of the USS Cole, which resulted in the deaths of 17 sailors and dozens of injuries. Weldon claims that Able Danger passed this information to the Pentagon, but it never reached the Cole.
Third, since I last wrote about Able Danger, we have learned that the CIA also knew about Mohamed Atta for more than a year before 9/11. According to several reports, the CIA had Atta under surveillance beginning in early 2000 when he was in Germany, and reportedly after May 18, 2000 when he returned to the US on a visa. The CIA knew about his ties to Al Qaeda.
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All of these are very serious developments!
I will talk about these recent Able Danger developments and others in the pages that follow. As I have written previously, the 9/11 Commission did a horrible job of investigating the tragedy of September 11, 2001, but that is another story for another issue. This week, let's focus on the recent developments on Able Danger. To do that, let me refresh everyones' memories on the basics of the Able Danger story.
Able Danger & The 9/11 Commission Cover-Up
On June 27 this year, Representative Curt Weldon delivered a shocking speech on the House floor in which he claimed that the 9/11 Commission was briefed on two occasions that a Special Operations unit known as "Able Danger" had identified the whereabouts of Mohamed Atta, the 9/11 terrorist ringleader, and at least three other terrorists who flew planes into the World Trade Center, a full year before the September 11, 2001 tragedy.
Rep. Weldon also alleged that military officers who headed-up Able Danger were convinced that Atta and the others were a part of Al Qaeda and were planning some sort of terrorist attack in the US. They felt so strongly that in late 2000, they recommended that their superiors turn the information on Atta and the others over to the FBI so that they could be taken into custody for questioning.
Yet somewhere up the chain of command, the recommendation to round-up Atta and the others was denied. Rep. Weldon believes that the recommendation was denied, in part, because of the strengthening of the intelligence "wall" that occurred during the Clinton administration, which prevented our various security agencies from sharing information.
In that same speech, Rep. Weldon issued a blistering criticism of the 9/11 Commission for failing to include any of this information in its final 9/11 Report, which was released on July 22, 2004. Initially, members of the 9/11 Commission denied that they had such information, and questioned Weldon's credibility, but in early August, they finally admitted they did receive such information from Able Danger, or at least members of their staff received such briefings.
Request For Able Danger Hearings In The House
As noted above, on November 18, Rep Weldon sent a formal letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld requesting permission for Able Danger members to testify in open hearings in the House of Representatives. The letter was signed by 246 members of the House of Representative, including 144 Republicans, 101 Democrats and one independent. The list of signatories includes senior members and leadership on both sides of the aisle. Upon sending the letter, Weldon said:
"The full story of ABLE DANGER deserves to be heard by the American people. Secretary Rumsfeld must understand that the will of Congress is behind allowing members of the ABLE DANGER effort to testify in an open hearing about the work they were doing prior to 9-11 to track the linkages and relationships of al-Qaeda worldwide."
Rep. Weldon sincerely believes that there was/is a serious cover-up going on in the Defense Intelligence Agency that might have extended all the way to the Clinton White House back in 2000. Rep. Weldon claims to have at least seven more Able Danger members who are willing to come forth publicly and confirm the story -- if such a criminal investigation is conducted. It will be interesting to see how Secretary Rumsfeld reacts to the request to hold open hearings on Able Danger.
Why The 9/11 Commission Ignored Able Danger
On August 16, when I first wrote about Able Danger, the big question was, who on the 9/11 Commission would have withheld this sensitive information from the other Commissioners, such that none of it was included in the final 9/11 Report? I posed a theory that suggested it might well have been 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick who suppressed the information that Able Danger gave to the Commission. Remember that Gorelick was the Assistant Attorney General in 1995 who issued the so-called "wall memo" that further restricted our intelligence agencies from communicating with each other. Here's what I wrote on August 16:
"It is far too great a stretch to believe that at least four 9/11 staffers met with Able Danger's senior officer -- on two occasions -- and then made a decision not to tell a single panel member. We all know what a "CYA" town Washington is, and these staffers were not morons. I do not believe that they, on their own, made a decision not to tell at least one or more of the Commissioners.
The theory I've heard most often is that the staffers and the Commissioners had a particular view of how they wanted the final report to conclude -- essentially that there was nothing that could have been done to prevent 9/11. Clearly, the Able Danger information would blow that conclusion completely out of the water. So someone made the decision to disregard the information. If true, we may never know who that someone was.
I have a little different twist to that theory. It may well be true that the staffers chose not to share the Able Danger information with Commission chairmen Kean and Hamilton. But I would be willing to bet that the staffers who worked under Jamie Gorelick certainly told her about it, especially since it was her "wall" that prevented Able Danger from going to the FBI. My bet is that Gorelick saw the information and told the staffers to ignore it."
Well guess what. According to Rep. Weldon, it was Jamie Gorelick's senior assistant on the 9/11 Commission, Dieter Snell who interviewed Capt. Scott Philpott of Able Danger. BINGO! If Rep. Weldon is correct, then I contend that my theory is also correct. Weldon stated:
"The person who debriefed Scott Philpott, was a guy named Dieter Snell. Dieter Snell worked for Jamie Gorelick. We have to know whether or not there was a deliberate attempt by Dieter Snell not to have the 9/11 commission members know the full details of what Able Danger was doing. I can't answer that question. An investigation needs to take place."
This is precisely why the criminal investigation and the open hearings should be allowed to happen. Given that 9/11 was the worst disaster in US history on our own soil, we deserve to know the truth and whether or not 9/11 could have been prevented.
Request For A Pentagon Investigation
While Rep. Weldon continues his fight to reveal the truth about Able Danger, he has recently been joined by Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA). While Weldon continues to press for a formal criminal investigation in the House, Rep. Hunter sent a written request to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on October 20 for a Pentagon investigation into Able Danger.
Rumsfeld reportedly instructed the Pentagon's Inspector General to conduct an investigation regarding how the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), for which Able Danger worked, handled the intelligence it received from the secret group. According to Reuters News Service, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and his attorney began meeting with Pentagon Inspector General officials earlier this month. It is not known where this investigation goes from here.
While it is interesting that Pentagon officials are apparently meeting with Lt. Col. Shaffer and other members of Able Danger, it is the Pentagon, itself, which should be under investigation, in my opinion. Why? In the summer of 2000, Able Danger prepared a chart that included visa photographs of Mohamed Atta and the three other would-be hijackers, and recommended to their superiors that the information be shared with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The "Visa" Controversy With The Terrorists
Somewhere up the chain of command, Able Danger's recommendation to inform the FBI was rejected and the information was not shared. While it is still unclear exactly who rejected the recommendation to give the intelligence to the FBI, the reason given was that Atta and the others were in the United States on valid entry visas. Able Danger was told that their visas afforded them the same privacy rights as American citizens.
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. Yet this privacy protection does NOT extend to visa holders, so Atta and the three others could have been rounded up and, at the least, been questioned, if not arrested.
In fact, during a Senate Judiciary Committee public hearing in September 2005, a Defense Department representative admitted that Mohamed Atta was not considered a US person. The DOD representative also acknowledged that regulations would have "probably allowed" the Able Danger information to be shared with law enforcement agencies. Probably?? Asked why this was not done, he responded, "I can't tell you."
Even with all of the new information that has come out over the last few months, we (the public) still do not know who at the Pentagon gave the order to deny Able Danger permission to take their information on Atta and the others to the FBI.
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Able Danger Warned Of Terror Attack In Yemen (USS COLE)
In another new development, Rep. Weldon let it be known earlier this month that Able Danger had specific information regarding an upcoming terror attack on US forces in Yemen in the fall of 2000. This is the first time we have heard of this.
In early September of 2000, Able Danger reportedly got wind of intelligence which indicated that Al Qaeda would stage a terrorist attack against US interests in the harbor area of Aden, Yemen soon thereafter. According to Lt. Col. Shaffer, Able Danger sent their intelligence about an impending terrorist attack in Yemen up the chain of command. According to Shaffer, it was very specific intelligence about some kind of attack in the harbor of Aden, Yemen. The USS Cole was in port at the time.
The USS Cole was attacked on October 12 by a small boat of terrorists (suicide bombers) carrying a significant load of explosives. 17 American sailors were killed and dozens more were injured.
According to Rep. Weldon: "Able Danger provided [intelligence] to defense officials about terrorist activity in the Port of Aden[Yemen] prior to the terrorist attack on the USS Cole back in October 2000... 17 sailors were killed in the USS Cole."
Why have we heard nothing about this Able Danger/USS Cole firestorm in the media? Is it because it might make Bill Clinton look bad?? Honestly, I have no answer, but do you think the liberal media would have been silent if the information implicated President Bush? No way!
CIA Also Had Mohamed Atta Under Surveillance
More new and disturbing revelations. Since I last wrote about Able Danger, Lt. Col. Shaffer has stated that the CIA was also concerned about Mohamed Atta and his links to terrorists. According to Shaffer and several reports, the CIA had Atta under surveillance in early 2000 when he was living in Germany and continued that surveillance when he returned to the US in May 2000.
Lt. Col. Shaffer is on record as saying that Able Danger contacted the CIA in 2000 and made the intelligence agency aware of their covert activities, and the fact that Able Danger had identified Mohamed Atta and the three others as members of Al Qaeda. Shaffer says that he offered to share information with the CIA and work together, but the CIA snubbed Able Danger. According to one report, the CIA was worried that Able Danger -- working under the auspices of the Defense Intelligence Agency -- might finger Atta and the terrorists before the CIA could, and the CIA would not get the credit.
Is this totally insane or what!? The CIA and Able Danger both knew that Atta and the others were Al Qaeda terrorists living in the US, in Brooklyn, in 2000. Both suspected the terrorists could be planning some sort of attack. And yet the CIA allegedly refused to work with Able Danger since they might have to share the credit if they were captured and their plot foiled.
Worst of all, why have we only now learned that the CIA also had Atta and the others under surveillance a year before 9/11?
Conclusions - What We Know & Don't Know
The worst disaster on US soil in American history -- 9/11 -- is now mired in controversy and cover-ups. Could it have been prevented? The answer seems to be yes, but it's not a certainty. Is there a cover-up? In my opinion, absolutely. Thanks to [controversial] Representative Weldon, we may (or may not) find out. Let's hope we do. This Able Danger story breaks down into what we know and what we don't know.
WHAT WE KNOW:
1. Able Danger and the CIA identified Mohamed Atta and three other 9/11 terrorists in New York over a year before the September 11, 2001 attacks. Both Able Danger and the CIA confirmed that Atta and the others were Al Qaeda members, and likely planning some sort of attack.
2. Able Danger was so concerned about a major terrorist attack by these men in early 2001 that they asked their superiors in the Defense Intelligence Agency for permission to inform the FBI and have these men rounded up. That request in early 2001 was denied.
3. Able Danger also had intelligence indicating that a terrorist attack would occur in Yemen, reportedly a month or days before the bombing attack on the USS Cole which killed 17 sailors and wounded dozens more.
4. Rep. Weldon sent Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a formal request on November 18 -- signed by a majority in the House -- for a full, criminal and open hearing investigation into the Able Danger controversy.
5. And lastly, we now know more about why Jamie Gorelick was on the 9/11 Commission -- most likely to cover her tracks, limit Able Danger's revelations and minimize the damage to Bill Clinton's legacy.
WHAT WE STILL DON'T KNOW:
1. Who (and at what level) denied Able Danger's request to share information on Mohamed Atta and the others with the FBI? Was it officials in the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon or perhaps the Clinton White House?
2. Why, until very recently, was it only Rep. Weldon and a few others that fought so tirelessly to keep this investigation from being buried?
3. Why was it Jamie Gorelick's aid who interviewed the Able Danger representatives? Did Ms. Gorelick withhold most of that information from the 9/11 Commission? Most importantly, why and how was Gorelick on the 9/11 Commission in the first place?
4. How will Donald Rumsfeld and the Bush administration respond to Rep. Weldon's formal request -- signed by 246 members of the House of Representatives -- to allow Able Danger members to participate in open hearings in Congress?
5. And finally, where has the media been in all of this? While the media tried its best to pin the blame for 9/11 on President Bush, it is now patently clear that the blame lies partly with the Clinton administration, partly with the massive government bureaucracy in general that has swollen for decades, and partly with the "CYA" pervasiveness that so dominates everything that happens in Washington (and in both political parties).
At the end of the day, it is entirely possible that the attacks of 9/11 could have been prevented. Given that Able Danger and the CIA had their sights on Mohamed Atta and the other three terrorists over a year before September 11, 2001, there is the chance that had things been different, they could have rounded up Atta & Company, and 9/11 might never have happened.
Yet, in my opinion, the odds of that happening were pretty low, even in the best of worlds. Then there is also the issue of lax border and airport security, both of which were ticking time bombs for a major terrorist attack in the US.
Many conservatives would like nothing better than to lay all the blame for 9/11 at the feet of the Clinton administration. But the truth is, the blame really lies at the foot of our monstrous government bureaucracy, its lack of efficiency, lack of internal communication and more importantly, the lack of accountability at so many levels. And let us not forget the rampant "CYA" mentality in Washington and at other levels of government.
Hopefully, Rep. Weldon will be successful in holding open hearings on Able Danger. Hopefully, we will know the truth about Able Danger and 9/11 in the weeks and months ahead. Hopefully, blame can be laid wherever and with whomever it should.
But, sadly, I wouldn't count on it.