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Monday, August 15, 2005

Monday Morning Able Danger

I continue to be stunned into nearly silent incoherence by the revelations about Able Danger. Lee Felzenberg's statement that the information wasn't included in the report because it didn't match up with other information about Atta's whereabouts doesn't make any sense. The staffers heard twice about the detection but whether all the commissioners got the information remains unknown. Weldon has reportedly asked for that information:
Weldon wrote a letter Wednesday to Thomas Kean, chairman of the 9/11 commission, and Lee Hamilton, the vice chairman, asking for information to be sought that would look at why the information was not passed on by Pentagon lawyers to the FBI.

The letter also asks the commissioners to find out why the panel's staff members did not pass the information about Able Danger onto commission members and provide full documentation.
I think those who are looking at this as a political scandal are utterly missing the core of the issue. First, it necessarily involves both parties. Second, this revelation clearly shifts the balance of the evidence toward the idea that 9/11 could have been prevented. Third, it makes it somewhat obvious that the report of the Commission can't be regarded as reliable. Fourth, did some members of the commission not get all of the information? Contradictory statements from commissioners seem to imply that was what happened:
Al Felzenberg, spokesman for the commission's follow-up project called the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, said this week the panel was unaware of intelligence specifically naming Atta. On Wednesday, he retracted the statement and confirmed the commission had been made aware of the intelligence.

During the July 12, 2004, meeting with the military official, the officer said he recalled seeing Atta's name and photo on an analyst's chart made by the secret Able Danger unit, the statement released by Kean and Hamilton said.

The relevant data discussed by the officer showed Atta to be a member of an al-Qaida cell in New York City from February to April 2000, the statement said.

But the commission knew that according to travel and immigration records, Atta first obtained a U.S. visa on May 18, 2000, and first arrived in the United States on June 3, 2000, the statement said.

Kean, a former Republican New Jersey governor, and Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana, said records had been sought from the U.S. Special Operations Command and none mentioned Atta or any other Sept. 11 hijackers. They were requested after staff members from the commission were told about Able Danger during a meeting in Afghanistan.

Weldon said Friday that Atta's name was specifically mentioned during the Afghanistan meeting, but Kean and Hamilton denied that Friday in the statement.
Taken literally, the panel's statements seem to imply that they have never heard of illegal immigration. Perhaps this explains why Congress is doing so little to deal with that problem? You would have thought they would have dug a little further, wouldn't you?

Fifth, America's citizens are left with the following questions:
Have we reached the point at which America's government is so dominated by a small clique of political insiders that both parties are willing to collaborate in lying to the public? Does the political leadership of both parties place a higher value on protecting their own interests over the interests of the American people? Do we need better whistle-blower protection in order to allow people who know information like this to give it to responsible parties outside normal communication channels? Was the Able Danger program itself basically illegal, and is that why so little information on the program emerged?Was it set up as a demo project to obtain proof that the Pentagon's TIA program would be effective, and then accidentally found itself in the middle of a gigantic tragedy? It can't simply be that the information was classified and so not released to the public, or Congress would have funded the program.

As Betsy keeps pointing out, the datamining program that supposedly identified Atta and his three compatriots in Brooklyn was the precursor of TIA, which lost funding in Congress. I would bet that the leadership of neither party really wanted such questions to be placed before the American public before an election. It seems obvious that people who are concerned about civil liberties had an interest in suppressing this information but I would also bet that the leadership of both parties didn't want to touch this hot potato either.

But what of those who ran this project at the Pentagon? Whatever else Able Danger was, it was historically significant. For Kean and Hamilton to say it wasn't is ludicrous:
In an interview this week, a former senior military officer disputed that the unit members had ever presented to their superiors information that identified Mr. Atta or other suspected members of Al Qaeda. A second former officer said any information presented by the team to the leaders of the Special Operations Command would have been unlikely to be shared outside the command in the environment that prevailed before Sept. 11.

The former defense intelligence official, who was interviewed twice this week, has repeatedly said that Mr. Atta and four others were identified on a chart presented to the Special Operations Command. The former official said the chart identified about 60 probable members of Al Qaeda.

In interviews, former military officers have said the Able Danger unit was established in September 1999 by Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, then the head of the Special Operations Command, under a charter issued by Gen. Hugh Shelton, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. General Shelton, now retired, has said he does not recall the program; General Schoomaker, now the Army chief of staff, has declined to comment, as has Gen. Charles R. Holland, who took over the Special Operations Command in October 2000.
What does that sound like to you? To me it sounds like wagons circling.


Comments:
"Have we reached the point at which America's government is so dominated by a small clique of political insiders that both parties are willing to collaborate in lying to the public? Does the political leadership of both parties place a higher value on protecting their own interests over the interests of the American people? Do we need better whistle-blower protection in order to allow people who know information like this to give it to responsible parties outside normal communication channels?"

Yes. Yes. Yes.

We also need a third party as a wedge between these two parties, perhaps to prevent this kind of thing from re-occurring.
 
We definitely need some way to interject our interests into their deliberations!
 
"...Have we reached the point at which America's government is so dominated by a small clique of political insiders that both parties are willing to collaborate in lying to the public?..."

we are quite aways past that. I don't envy future generations trying to take back individual rights we gave up in the last 2 administrations.
 
Neither do I.

It hasn't just been the last two administrations, though. It's been going on longer than that.

And what has me worried is that most of this has been done in the name of false crises. Now we face a real one.

I am in a very sober mood these days.
 
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