The blogosphere is abuzz with the story about Able Danger and their report identifying Atta and 3 other’s of the 9/11 gang.
The thing that really sticks out to me is the timeline with Sandy Berger’s burglary of Archive documents. But first, a little backstory if you have been hiding under a rock the past few days:
WASHINGTON ? The federal commission that probed the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks was told twice about “Able Danger,” a military intelligence unit that had identified Mohamed Atta and other hijackers a year before the attacks, a congressman close to the investigation said Wednesday.
Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., a champion of integrated intelligence-sharing among U.S. agencies, wrote to the former chairman and vice-chairman of the Sept. 11 commission late Wednesday, telling them that their staff had received two briefings on the military intelligence unit ? once in October 2003 and again in July 2004.
Weldon said he was upset by suggestions earlier Wednesday by 9/11 panel members that it had been not been given critical information on Able Danger’s capabilities and findings.
“The impetus for this letter is my extreme disappointment in the recent, and false, claim of the 9/11 commission staff that the commission was never given access to any information on Able Danger,” Weldon wrote to former Chairman Gov. Thomas Kean and Vice-Chairman Rep. Lee Hamilton. “The 9/11 commission staff received not one but two briefings on Able Danger from former team members, yet did not pursue the matter.
“The commission’s 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,” Weldon added.
On Wednesday, a source familiar with the Sept. 11 commission ? formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States ? told FOX News that aides who still had security clearances had gone back to the National Archives outside Washington, D.C., to review notes on Atta and any information the U.S. government had on him and his terror cell before the Sept. 11 attacks.
First the Commission say’s it never heard about Able Danger
The Sept. 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.?
But now they are admitting they were briefed on it twice. What were they trying to hide?
You will remember that the commission was criticized since before the final report was issued about the fact that Jamie Gorelic, the mother of the Intelligence Wall that kept the agencies from sharing information, was included on the panel.
We predicted Democrats would use the 9/11 Commission for partisan purposes, and that much of the press would oblige. But color us astonished that barely anyone appreciates the significance of the bombshell Attorney General John Ashcroft dropped on the hearings Tuesday. If Jamie Gorelick were a Republican, you can be sure our colleagues in the Fourth Estate would be leading the chorus of complaint that the Commission’s objectivity has been fatally compromised by a member who was also one of the key personalities behind the failed antiterror policy that the Commission has under scrutiny. Where’s the outrage?
At issue is the pre-Patriot Act “wall” that prevented communication between intelligence agents and criminal investigators–a wall, Mr. Ashcroft said, that meant “the old national intelligence system in place on September 11 was destined to fail.” The Attorney General explained:
“In the days before September 11, the wall specifically impeded the investigation into Zacarias Moussaoui, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi. After the FBI arrested Moussaoui, agents became suspicious of his interest in commercial aircraft and sought approval for a criminal warrant to search his computer. The warrant was rejected because FBI officials feared breaching the wall.”
Right Wing Nut House has an interesting theory:
Could one of the reasons Gorelick was placed on the Commission be that she would have been perfectly positioned to give a heads up to some of her friends in the Clinton Administration when troubling questions were coming up? Remember the context here. This was an election year. It was one of the major Democratic themes that 9/11 happened because the Bush Administration ignored warnings given by their predecessors. It would certainly be inconvenient if it came out that the Clinton White House had known of Mohammed Atta almost a year before the attacks.
And this is where Sandy Bergers burglary comes into play. What was the documents that he took and destroyed? Could it be that Able Danger was told to stop looking at people in the US by one Mr. Berger?
The Strata-Sphere weighs in on this possibility:
They were tagged as AQ in-country at a time everyone in the Clinton administration claims they were on high alert looking for AQ cells. There is more to this than meets the eye. Information like this, at a time of hieghtened attention like this, leaks around procedural barriers.
To truly put a squash on the FBI learning of this threat is impossible in DC and the federal government. What I want to know was whether there were any directives to the FBI to cease any actions in addition to the directive to Able Danger to stop looking at people in the US and turn their attention outside. That would imply a full court press from high above.
And yes, my guess is the government did tell Able Danger to shift their sites (which is what happened, why we do not know). They were demonstrating data mining using US public information, found an AQ cell and were rebuffed. That is the simple answer. But it is not that simple in the government.
Right Wing Nut House also notices the Berger connection here:
The first is the time that Berger was in the National Archives stealing documents compared to when staff members for the 9/11 Commission were interviewing Congressman Weldon?s source for Able Danger. Berger is accused of stealing the documents ?during two visits to the National Archives in September and October 2003.? The 9/11 staff people visited the Afghan-Pakistan border in October of 2003 to interview the Able Danger team member.
Coincidence? Or Connection?
It would depend on what Berger knew about the Committee?s plans. Would Berger have known that they were going to interview the Able Danger team member? If so, who would have tipped him off? It would have to have been a partisan who was privy to the comings and goings of the investigative staff, many of whom were current and former Justice Department attorneys.
The biggest question here is did Berger know about Able Danger in 2000?
If you’re Sandy Berger and this information passed your desk and your post-Waco hangover led you to dismiss it, it would be worth it for you to cover it up any way you can. And if you’re Jamie Gorelick and your wall had this horrendous effect, if you wanted to work in Washington again and didn’t want history to associate your name with lethal foolishness, you would do what you could to minimize the role your policy played.
With the help of Dr. Sanity’s timeline I have made my own timeline, mainly to keep my head on straight with all the dates:
- Early 2000 Khalid al-Mihdhar & Nawaf al-Hazmi arrives in LA
- May 29, 2000 Marwan al-Shehhi arrives in Newark from Brussels
- June 3, 2000 Mohammed Atta arrives in Newark from Prague
- Summer 2000 (within 2 months of Atta’s arrival) Defense official delivered chart identifying Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, Mr. Mihdhar and Mr. Hazmi as members of a American based “Brooklyn” Al-Qaeda cell, 1 of 5 such cells in the world, to Special Operations Command HQ in Tampa, Fl.
- Sept 11, 2001 – Al-Qaeda attacks US
- Sept/Oct 2001 – Rep. Weldon tells Deputy NSA Stephen Hadley about the Able Danger report
- 2002 – 9/11 Commission set up
- March, 2003 – 9/11 Commission begins first hearings
- Fall, 2003 – Briefing given to four 9/11 staff members by defense intelligence officials during an overseas trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia (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), Official states he specifically told Zelikow about Atta.
- Sept 2nd & Oct 2nd, 2003 – Sandy Berger observed by Archives staff removing documents
- March, 2004 -Madeleine Albright testifies before 9/11 Commission, and defends the Clinton administration’s handling of Al-Qaeda and terrorism
- April, 2004 – Condi Rice testifies before 9/11 Commission; states that there was serious problem in sharing intelligence information prior to 9/11
- May, 2004 – Berger testifies before the 9/11 Commission; completely overshadowed by the fact that Richard Clark and George Tenet also testified on the same day (testimony is here)
- July 12, 2004 – Second meeting with Able Danger team members
- July 21, 2004 – Berger resigns from Kerry team after revelation of burglary
- July 22, 2004 – 9/11 commission releases final report
- April, 2005 – Berger pleads guilty to removing classified documents
- July, 2005 – Berger’s sentencing is delayed to September, 2005.
- August, 2005 -News breaks about the existence of Able Danger and its ID of 9/11 hijackers in 1999 and attempts to pass this information to law enforcement
This whole thing smells fishy. We have the person who built this Intelligence Wall on the Commission, this Commission then admits to leaving out important information about Able Danger and what they knew before 9/11. Add in the fact that Sandy Berger is stealing government documents from the National Archives around the time Able Danger members are interviewed and we have the makings of a cover up.
The Captain has a few choice words towards the Commission itself:
Instead of saying to themselves, “Hey, wait a minute — this changes the picture substantially,” and postponing the report until they could look further into Able Danger, they simply shrugged their shoulders and published what they had.
Why? Able Danger proved that at least some of the intelligence work done by the US provided the information that could have helped prevent or at least reduce the attacks on 9/11. They had identified the ringleader of the conspiracy as a terrorist agent, even if they didn’t know what mission he had at the time.
What does that mean for the Commission’s findings? It meant that the cornerstone of their conclusions no longer fit the facts. Able Danger showed that the US had enough intelligence to take action — if the government had allowed law enforcement and intelligence operations to cooperate with each other. It also showed that data mining could effectively identify terrorist agents.
So what did the Commission do? It ignored those facts which did not fit within its predetermined conclusions. It never bothered to mention Able Danger even one time in its final report, even though that absolutely refuted the notion that the government had no awareness that Atta constituted a terrorist threat. It endorsed the idea of data mining (which would die in Congress as the Total Information Awareness program) without ever explaining why. And while the Clinton policy of enforcing a quarantine between law enforcement and intelligence operations came under general criticism, their report never included the fact that the “wall” for which Commission member Jamie S. Gorelick had so much responsibility specifically contributed to Atta’s ability to come and go as he pleased, building the teams that would kill almost 3,000 Americans.
So in the end we have this Commission that was formed to give a complete unbiased story of 9/11 and the Government failures that led to it. But now the Commission admits it left information out because the information didn’t fit it’s preconceived notion of who was at fault in the Government failure. Still to be answered, what is Berger and Gorelick’ role in this whole thing? This is the big news in this whole affair to me. Berger may be the key.
Check out Let Freedom Ring, JustOneMinute, The CounterTerrorism Blog, Captain’s Quarters, SoCalPundit, Joust The Facts, The American Mind, Opinipundit, Macsmind, Kerfuffles, & Michelle Malkin for more.