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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Able Danger

Update: Tom Carter left a great comment on the "wall":
The "wall" everyone is talking about starting being built in the 70s, through congressional action growing out of perceived intelligence and counterintelligence abuses of that time. After that, it just got thicker and stronger. I personally bumped up against it a number of times, and I can assure you that breaching it was done only at great potential cost to one's career, on both the military and law enforcement sides. The blame lies with politicians of both parties, really, although during the Clinton Administration, when intelligence budgets were being cut, the wall was firmly reinforced. Tearing it down is a necessity after 9/11, and that's part of what the Patriot Act does. It's a shame that some who so severely criticize the Bush Administration on security issues turn right around and fight the Patriot Act.
This is a great comment. First, this really isn't a partisan issue, or it shouldn't be. Secondly, we are really talking about offsetting risks. In a more secure world, giving our government more powers to spy on us would create more risk. But post 9/11 the dangers seem to run more in the other direction. But if we don't know what really happened how can the voters properly assess the risks?

And Captain's Quarters points out the unfairness of it all. It is hard to dispute this:
It looks like the Commission decided early to pin blame on the intelligence community rather than the bureaucracy which stripped it of its ability to act in the interests of our security. Who benefited from that? Commissioner Jamie S. Gorelick. Who else stood to lose if the real story came out? The answer to that may well be the NSA director who conducted a clumsy raid on the National Archives in the middle of the investigation.
Update: Betsy's Page has a great roundup.
Update
: Captain's Quarters on this story:
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.
You see, this omission has already had effects. I have always been viscerally opposed to things like the TIA program, but I am capable of revising my opinions when confronted with opposing facts. Most of the rest of the US population fits into that category as well. This isn't right. End Update

Read NY Times about the 9/11 Commission omitting information from its report:
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."
The best short summary I have seen about this came from Jimmie at The Sundries Shack:
What we do know is that the FBI never had the chance to “connect the dots” on Atta and the other 9/11 hijackers because Gorelick’s wall prevented Able Danger from getting its information to the FBI. We also know that the 9/11 Commission’s investigation was incomplete, apparently purposefully incomplete, and that at least one commissioner has been less than honest about what the Commission knew and when it knew it.

I’m siding with Captain Ed on this matter and saying that this is beyond the scope of the grandstanding Commission now. This is a matter for Congress and people like Gorelick, Berger, members of the 9/11 Commission, and the lawyers who prevented the transfer of information ought to be standing tall there, telling the American people what happened and why. It’s vitally important that we get this sorted out, where we can all see it, so we can fix the problems that existed then (and still may very well exist now) to prevent the likelihood of another 9/11.
After thinking about it, I agree with Jimmie that this story should be fully evaluated. For one thing, it was a military intelligence project that picked up the signal. And didn't we just shove through a bill at the beginning of this year that attempted to consolidate our intelligence units? I thought then that the best thing to do was have at least four competing units that were required to share information. Competition does wonders.

See also Dr. Sanity here and also here (parts 1 and 2) and The Anchoress.

If the people of this country don't understand what went wrong, I doubt the highly politicized environment in Washington will permit fixing it. Sigmund, Carl and Alfred's post about not having even begun the propaganda war cuts rather close to home. We still have a rather large number of those who refuse to admit that we even have a fixed and determined enemy with clear goals. As Howard at Oraculations points out, there's a full court press to convince us all that there are, a la Michael Moore, just a few noble freedom fighters opposing us.

Many on the leftward side of politics exist in a state of moral confusion about the agenda of the terrorists (which is to kill and destroy the west, nothing else, and they can never compromise). The terrorists and their supporters outside the country can't deal with facts, so we are certainly not going to get clarification from them. Pelosi, Dean, Hinchey and their crew of cubic zirconium Democrats would rather believe that Cheney attacked New York, so they are going to be constant, determined political opponents to any attempt to honestly study our failures and our weaknesses.

Facts - and a whole lot of them - are necessary to clarify matters. So we the people had better press hard for an honest and open study of what happened. It will help to determine what we need to do in the future to ensure (as far as possible) it doesn't happen again. Nobody with half a brain can look at our open borders and not realize that we have not politically confronted the reality of 9/11. Nobody. It's time to do it while we still can.


Comments:
The problem is we have a group of people (on each side of the political spectrum) that are only interested in taking advantage politically of any thing. Any Thing.

I don't for a second believe the right is any more noble in this particular issue, it's just that I'm afraid the tack taken by the left doesn't have any hope or intent of actually resolving anything. But then again I work in an industry that is one of the preferred targets so maybe I'm a little biased by the whole thing.
 
Great link roundup.

Do you smell Watergate, or is it just me?
 
The Nine Eleven panel commission has expired. They have no more authortty than I do as former member of a grand jury. It is time for these ego maniacs to shut up and leave the stage.
 
I was listening to the radio yesterday, and a radio host said you can't win if part of the team is playing against itself (something like that).
 
How thoughts its politicians they fairies never to something of the
programs of that the advice? They appreciate the work to the reduced
price. They will be bombed with during much hour, as the
form of the tin cut somebody his economic gram. In my country it
has proverb; the man robs, that one opens the relative house. The hour
knows them, Abdul
 
Good update links. I still smell Watergate.

The Gorelik dog and pony show will fall apart. It has to.
 
The "wall" everyone is talking about starting being built in the 70s, through congressional action growing out of perceived intelligence and counterintelligence abuses of that time. After that, it just got thicker and stronger. I personally bumped up against it a number of times, and I can assure you that breaching it was done only at great potential cost to one's career, on both the military and law enforcement sides. The blame lies with politicians of both parties, really, although during the Clinton Administration, when intelligence budgets were being cut, the wall was firmly reinforced. Tearing it down is a necessity after 9/11, and that's part of what the Patriot Act does. It's a shame that some who so severely criticize the Bush Administration on security issues turn right around and fight the Patriot Act.
 
Tommy,
I agree, but the huge majority of the people of this country don't like political flacks and don't really listen to them.

Anon,
But they are the ones who heard the evidence. So I guess now we need to hear it - but not the classified stuff. What a mess.

Abdul,
You are right. Being selfish and shortsighted does always turn out to hurt yourself. But that doesn't matter to the corrupt politicians all over the world. Each one of them somehow believes that he or she is immune from the rules of the way the world works.

Still, it is not that these people are corrupt - they just haven't been able to force themselves to look at the facts honestly. It is very hard for a country like the US to accept that we need more controls.

People here guard their liberties very carefully. We need a lot of evidence before giving the government more power. That's because history has proven that politicians will become foolish or corrupt! We don't trust them.

Gindy,
I'd say that sums it up. But if we aren't even going to hear the facts, it's not surprising that we won't be able to reach a consensus about what to do.

SC&A,
I can't blame Gorelick for a pre-9/11 policy. The truth is that if 9/11 hadn't happened I would be horrified at some of the security measures now in place. I'd probably be running around and ranting. It is only because it did and I have read the news and blogs from Iraq really carefully that I begin to see what hate and unreason is really behind this.

Anyway, I don't think Watergate is in the works (yet). This is foolishness on a grand scale.
 
Tom - yes, that's the point I was trying to make. There were historical abuses that caused the doctrine of the wall. Well, now there are historical reasons for tearing the wall down!

But the country has to know what we can do before agreeing on what is reasonable and we also need safeguards.
 
Abdul - not only are you right, but we have the same proverb. It's 'What goes around, comes around'.

It means that you believe you can get away with doing something wrong to someone else, but it turns out that when you strike another person that same blow will come back and strike you or those you love.

So also in the end living in peace and acting justly and kindly also comes back to us. We make our world and must live in it. This is a law politicians can't change.
 
"I have always been viscerally opposed to things like the TIA program, but I am capable of revising my opinions when confronted with opposing facts."

I couldn't agree with you more.
 
Re; competition among agencies. You couldn't be more wrong. When those competing agencies are running into each other on "secret" busts there is always trouble. Ask any local cop. We need rigorous intel that takes no prisoners. There has to be sharing of data to prevent various agencies stumbling over each other. Still, D.C. being what it is, you just know that agency A will claim they are on a case to prevent agencies B,C, and D from getting any credit.

It seems nobody cares about the country being job One.
 
Howard - well, if competing agencies must report to a central authority and share data, wouldn't that change the equation somewhat?

What I'm worried about is a particular "picture" forming in an agency and dominating the interpretation of new evidence almost like a widely accepted scientific theory sometimes does.

Not that I couldn't be completely wrong about this.
 
You have a awesome blog!

I've got a quit smoking drug site. It's about quit smoking drug related info.

Come see when you can..
 
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