Skip to comments.9/11 attackers on radar in '00? - (Clinton knew??..)
Posted on 08/09/2005 6:09:18 AM PDT by LibFreeUSA
WASHINGTON - More than a year before the Sept. 11 attacks, a small, highly classified military-intelligence unit identified Mohamed Atta and three other future hijackers as likely members of an al-Qaeda cell operating in the United States, according to Rep. Curt Weldon (R., Pa.) and a former defense intelligence official.
In the summer of 2000, the 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 FBI, Weldon and the former intelligence official said yesterday.
The recommendation was rejected, and the information was not shared, they said, apparently at least in part because Atta and the others were in the United States on valid entry visas.
Under American law, U.S. citizens and green-card holders may not be investigated in intelligence-collection operations by the military or intelligence agencies. That protection does not extend to visa holders, but Weldon and the former intelligence official said it may 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 executive director Philip Zelikow, were told about the program during an overseas trip in October 2003 that included stops in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But Felzenberg said the briefers did not mention Atta's name. The report produced by the commission last year does not mention the episode.
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. The matter resurfaced yesterday in a report by GSN: Government Security News, which is published every two weeks and covers issues related to homeland security. That report was based on accounts by Weldon and the former intelligence official that were made available to the New York Times yesterday in Weldon's office.
In a telephone interview from his home in Pennsylvania, Weldon said he was basing his assertions on similar ones made by at least three other former intelligence officers with direct knowledge of the project. He said some of the officers had first called the episode to his attention shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.
First hint on Atta
The account is believed to be the first assertion that 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 Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi had been identified as potential threats by the CIA before the summer of 2000, and information about them was not provided to the FBI until the spring of 2001.
Weldon has long been a champion of the kind of data-mining analysis that was the basis for the work done by the Able Danger team.
The former intelligence official spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying that he did not want to jeopardize political support and the possible financing for future data-mining operations by speaking publicly. He said the Able Danger unit 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.
'Taking out' targets
"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 himself had delivered the chart in the summer of 2000 to the Special Operations Command headquarters, in Tampa, Fla., and said it had been based on information drawn 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.
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 CIA Has Ignored It. Weldon's book prompted one veteran CIA member to strongly dispute the reliability of one Iranian source cited in the book, saying the Iranian "was a waste of my time and resources."
Weldon said that he had discussed the Able Danger episode with Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R., Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, and that at least two congressional committees were now looking into the episode.
In the interview yesterday, 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 of 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. Taylor said if the program existed, it was probably a highly classified "special access program" or other highly compartmented program that only a small number of military personnel would have been briefed on.
During the interview in Weldon's office, the former defense intelligence official showed a floor-size chart depicting al-Qaeda networks around the world that he said was a larger, more detailed version of one prepared by the Able Danger team in the summer of 2000.
But he said the original chart, like the new one, had included the names and photos of Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, as well as Mihdhar and Hazmi, all of whom were identified as members of an American-based "Brooklyn" cell, one of five around the world.
The official said the link to Brooklyn was meant as a term of art rather than literally, saying the unit had no firm evidence linking the men to Brooklyn 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."
Of course he "knew". Clintoon was too worried about stains on dresses and soggy cigars.
Boy am I SHOCKED. Shocked I tell you.
Any bets Gorelick knew?
What did Clinton know, and when did he know it?
That was why Jamie Gorelik was put on the 9/11 Commission, to keep evidence incriminating the Clintoon administration out of the report. Since she was responsible for the "wall" between FBI and CIA investigations, no doubt to keep nosy agencies off the trail of all of Clinton's foreign contributors, she also had a personal interest in deflecting that feckless committee. God bless Congressman Weldon for bringing this to light. He'd better watch his back...
Only Monica knows for sure.
Makes you wonder exactly what was stuffed down the pants of Sandy Berger.
Not from me.
Of course the left's spin will be that Bush also had access to these documents and did nothing to stop the attacks.
OK, I'm no Bubba-lover, but let's be fair about this. The article says that the recommendation went to the SOC to send this info over to the FBI, and somebody in the SOC said no. That doesn't mean that Beezlbubba necessarily knew anything, or that he was the one that shot this down; I'd be highly surprised if it ever got anywhere near him.
What it DOES mean, however, is that the people that Clinton put into positions of power, the ones that enforced the "wall" between intelligence-gathering arms of the government--including that biatch Gorelick on the 9/11 Commission--screwed the pooch far, far worse than we thought. THAT, he can be held responsible for.
Hi, Jet. Thanks for the ping. Did we know this before?
Do you suppose that this is some of what Sandy Berger was taking?
I cannot recall now. I think this is new.
Gorelick was the Roadblock.
"Makes you wonder exactly what was stuffed down the pants of Sandy Berger."
The Able Danger memo?
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