By now, most interested parties know about the 2000 conclusion of ‘Able Danger,’ a covert US intelligence team—now disbanded--which postulated at that time that Mohammed Atta and three of the other perpetrators of the September 11, 2001 attacks on America were terrorists. According to the initial New York Times article on the subject, however, administration officials refused to act on the team’s findings because all four of the surveillance targets had legitimate immigration documents.
Additionally, Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA) and one of the intelligence team members claim that this information was provided to the 9/11 Commission; however, according to various reports, no mention of this information appeared in the commission’s final 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 United States, only to be rebuffed. [SNIP]
The former military official said his unit recommended that information identifying Atta and fellow hijackers Marwan al-Shehhi, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi as part of an al Qaeda cell they called "Brooklyn'' be forwarded to the FBI.
The disbanded commission officials are reviewing all pertinent documents to see whether ‘Able Danger’s’ findings were overlooked or not. However, after looking at subsequent NYT reports, the question arises as to whether the DOD is being set up for the blame.
The initial article is hesitant to assert which set of government officials might have made the decision not to act upon the information.
[G]overnment lawyers advised the military's Special Operations Command, which oversaw "Able Danger,'' not to forward the information apparently because the four were in the United States legally on visas and should not be subject to a military operation.In the second article, however, the focus turns to the Pentagon.
"We don't know whether the lawyers were with the DOD or the White House. All we know is that (the Able Danger members) were stopped,'' said Weldon.
WASHINGTON, Aug. 9 - Members of the independent commission that investigated the Sept. 11 terror attacks called on Congress to determine whether the Pentagon withheld intelligence information showing that a secret American military unit had identified Mohammed Atta and three other hijackers as potential threats more than a year before the attacks. [SNIP]
Mr. Weldon went public with his information after having talked with members of the unit in his research for a new book on terrorism. He said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that he had spoken with three team members, all still working in the government, including two in the military, and that they were consistent in asserting that Mr. Atta's affiliation with a Qaeda terrorism cell in the United States was known in the Defense Department by mid-2000 and was not acted on.
And in a third NYT article, Rep. Weldon is said to have specifically asserted that Pentagon officials were the ones responsible for not acting on the presence of Atta and company.
[W]eldon 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. [SNIP]Remember, however, that this is an AP report filtered through the New York Times. I'd like to see an actual quote from the Congressman.
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.
Did the Pentagon make this decision? Possibly. It would be consistent with pre-9/11 US policy, both military and civilian; it's the 9/10 DOD we're talking about here. If they are to blame, they will shoulder it.
Note that none of the three articles mentions which Administration oversaw these events, strangely enough; the same administration which set up an informational wall between US intelligence agencies.
And when the shouts of how the US could have prevented 9/11 are heard, one wonders whether the same people doing the shouting will be as vocal as to how the Patriot Act is allegedly curbing civil liberties.
Side note (seemingly): again the question arises. Will we ever learn what type of information Sandy Berger lifted from the National Archives? Remember, it's not the (in)action, it's the cover-up.
UPDATE: Here's Representative Weldon's on-subject statement before the House on June 27, 2005. It explains how he found out about 'Able Danger.' As with most secrets, it was by accident.
The 1999 correspondence between the congressman and then Under Secretary of Defense John Hamre is, shall we say, illuminating. Mr. Weldon proposed creating an "intelligence network for shared threat information" and, at the behest of Under Secretary Hamre, briefed CIA and FBI (unnamed) officials on the proposal. Bottom line: they didn't think it was needed.
So prior to 9/11, this military system that the CIA said we did not need and could not do actually gave us the information that identified Mohammed Atta's cell in New York. And with Mohammed Atta they identified two of the other terrorists with them.UPDATE:Captain's Quarters
But I learned something new, Mr. Speaker, over the past several weeks and months. I have talked to some of the military intelligence officers who produced this document, who worked on this effort. And I found something out very startling, Mr. Speaker. Not only did our military identify the Mohammed Atta cell; our military made a recommendation in September of 2000 to bring the FBI in to take out that cell, the cell of Mohammed Atta. So now, Mr. Speaker, for the first time I can tell our colleagues that one of our agencies not only identified the New York cell of Mohammed Atta and two of the terrorists, but actually made a recommendation to bring the FBI in to take out that cell. And they made that recommendation because Madeleine Albright had declared that al Qaeda, an international terrorist organization, and the military units involved here felt they had jurisdiction to go to the FBI.
Why, then, did they not proceed? 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?
Lot's of people, however, think Mr. Weldon is a kook, including the American Prospect
(Thanks to reader Justin)