Able Danger Round-up


August 2005: An annotated, comprehensive archive of articles on admissions that Mohamed Atta and three of the other alleged 9/11 hijacking ringleaders were under surveillance by military intelligence a year before September 2001. More proof that the 9/11 Commission was a whitewash; and why there is far more to the story than The New York Times has reported…

Sep 3, 2005:

Mohamed Atta and three other alleged ringleaders of the 9/11 hijacking team were under surveillance by an elite US military intelligence program in the summer of 2000, a New York Times story of Aug. 9, 2005 revealed.

View of hearing where Able Danger chart and data that included photos and data and Mohammed Atta were shown
The recommendation to round up Atta and what they termed his “Brooklyn Cell” (!) was rejected in the fall of 2000 by commanders at MacDill Air Force Base, supposedly on the advice of Defense Department lawyers. As of Sept. 2, the Pentagon says three additional people with knowledge of Able Danger have corroborated the story.

Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) broke the story to the Times after officers with knowledge of the Able Danger program contacted him. Two officers have since gone on record to say they once had Mohamed Atta in their sights. They claim a recommendation to round up Atta and what they termed his “Brooklyn Cell” (!) was rejected in the fall of 2000 by commanders at MacDill Air Force Base, supposedly on the advice of Defense Department lawyers. As of Sept. 2, the Pentagon says three additional people with knowledge of Able Danger have corroborated the story.

This dossier by Nicholas Levis rounds up Able Danger news reports to date, as well as analyses by various authors. The views expressed herein are the writers’ own and do not necessarily reflect those of



A Tommy Franks Detour


Archived Articles:

New York Times articles on “Able Danger”

Other News Reports

Reactions: The Families & The Commission

Commentaries and Analysis Around the Web


The corporate media’s Able Danger stories have the character of a “limited hangout,” meaning that certain facts apparently embarrassing to the US government are promoted to create the appearance of disclosure–even as other, far more important and damaging matters are obscured or ignored. Chief among these is that Atta and his friends were known to the intelligence and law enforcement agencies of several countries, including the United States, long before Able Danger. Furthermore, the revelations make mincemeat of both the official FBI timeline of Atta’s movements and of the 9/11 Commission’s already spotty credibility.

10 Salient Points About Able Danger

Image of Atta from Able Danger with sticky note over his face
Atta identified by Able Danger

1) In early 2000 the secret Able Danger program under the US Special Operations Command supposedly identified four men as Al-Qaeda operatives working in the United States. Their names were Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, Khalid Almidhar and Nawaf Alhazmi. The US government has named Atta as the overall ringleader of the 9/11 hijackers. Atta and al-Shehhi came to the United States from Germany in 2000 and at times lived together in Florida, where they attended the same flight schools. They have been named as the pilots of the two World Trade Center crash planes. They were members of the al-Qaeda “Hamburg Cell,” which the government says also provided the alleged suicide pilot of Flight 93, Ziad Jarrah. Almidhar and Alhazmi are considered to have played an important role in organizing personnel for the attack, and are said to have been among the Flight 77 hijackers.

2) Able Danger used sophisticated electronic “data-mining” or “matrix” techniques to locate potential terrorists. But according to a former Pentagon contractor who worked on the program, James D. Smith, Able Danger obtained Atta’s name and photograph from “a private researcher in California, who was paid to gather the information from contacts in the Middle East.” (NYT, 8/23/2005) Who was this private reasearcher?

Atta’s photo was added to a wall chart plotting “Brooklyn Cell” connections, which included the other three suspects so far named. The chart was ordered destroyed after objections from Defense Department lawyers, according to the officers who have come forward (Col. Anthony Shaffer and Capt. Scott Phillpott). But a spokesman for the Special Operations Command, of which Able Danger was a part, says “that ‘we have negative indications’ that destruction of such a chart was advised by military lawyers.” (Reuters, 9/1/01) In that case, who did advise it, and why?

3) The original Times story contains a blanket statement that hides the most important facts of all: “The account is the first assertion that Mr. 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.”

This is the heart of the “limited hangout.” The Times statement is false for at least two reasons:

– Already in September 2001, German authorities told their own press that the CIA had Atta and the Hamburg Cell under observation from Jan. to June 2000, while they were still in Germany. (This counts as an “assertion.”) The German authorities say the CIA did not inform them of its activities, and that they only found out after the attacks. (See Berliner Zeitung, 9/24/01, archived as third article here, among many other German reports at that time.) According to the German authorities and the FBI, Atta received a travel visa from the US Consulate in Berlin in May, and first left for the United States via Prague in June 2000.

– How did the CIA get on Atta’s tail in the first place? It could be because in March 1999, “German intelligence officials gave the Central Intelligence Agency the first name and telephone number of Marwan al-Shehhi, and asked the Americans to track him.” And that is how the New York Times itself reported it (“C.I.A. Was Given Data on Hijacker Long Before 9/11,” NYT Feb. 24, 2004). In late 1999, the CIA attempted to recruit Mamoun Darkazanli, an associate of the “Hamburg Cell” members. (Chicago Tribune, 11/16/2002, archived here.)

4) The exact same four names reportedly uncovered by Able Danger–Atta, al-Shehhi, Almidhar and Alhazmi–were also provided to the CIA on Aug. 23, 2001 by the Mossad, as part of a list of nineteen men the Israelis said were planning a terror attack in the United States (as reported in Der Spiegel and Die Zeit, Oct. 2002). Note that Israeli intelligence is known to have maintained a large spy ring in the United States, many of whom posed as art students in attempts to enter federal facilities. About 60 suspected “art students” were rounded up by US authorities before 9/11, and a similar number were arrested in the post-Sept. 11 crackdown. All were ultimately deported or released. (See Forward 3/15/02, Haaretz and Wayne Madsen’s Israeli “art students” dossier, which includes the 60-page text of a suppressed DEA report on the spy ring.) Forward presents claims that the “Israelis in the United States [were] spying on a common enemy, radical Islamic networks suspected of links to Middle East terrorism.”

In particular, A GROUP OF FIVE ISRAELIS ARRESTED in New Jersey shortly after the September 11 attacks and held for more than two months was subjected to an unusual number of polygraph tests and interrogated by a series of government agencies including the FBI’s counterintelligence division, which by some reports remains convinced that Israel was conducting an intelligence operation. The five Israelis worked for a moving company with few discernable assets that closed up shop immediately afterward and whose owner fled to Israel. (link)

A couple of the “art students” held Florida addresses just blocks away from Atta and al-Shehhi. Whether or not they were spying on the pair, the list provided to the CIA on Aug. 23, 2001 indicates Mossad was on the trail of the alleged 9/11 hijackers in advance of Sept. 11.

5) The Mossad’s list may have been what finally prompted the CIA for the first time to place Almidhar and Alhazmi (but not Atta or al-Shehhi) on a general watch-list available to the FBI, in late August 2001. However, Almidhar and Alhazmi were under CIA surveillance no later than January 2000, when CIA asked Malaysian intelligence to spy on a purported al-Qaeda conference in Kuala Lumpur. (The official mythology long ago incorporated this as fact, e.g., see Frontline). The official story holds that “Hamburg Cell” member Ramzi Binalshibh also attended the Kuala Lumpur conference. He traveled from there back to Hamburg, where he supposedly convinced Atta & co. to tackle the operation codenamed “Big Wedding,” i.e. 9/11. (The US government says purported 9/11 co-mastermind Binalshibh has been held in custody at undisclosed locations since Sept. 2002.)

6) Meanwhile, Almidhar and Alhazmi left the Malaysia conference via Thailand on their way to San Diego. There, they were met and helped out financially by Omar al-Bayoumi, a recipient of much largesse from the Saudi state and from the wife of the Saudi ambassador to the US. They spent two months living under the roof of long-time FBI informant Abdusattar Shaikh (whose name has been all over the press, although The 9/11 Commission Report pretends it’s still a secret). Another coincidence, according to the official story. Though the CIA identified Almidhar and Alhazmi as al-Qaeda operatives involved previously in the bombing of the USS Cole, it did not place them on the watch-list until Aug 2001. Recently we’ve learned (from Newsweek, 6/20/2005) that a Jan. 2000 CIA directive to place them on the watch-list was intentionally blocked by an unnamed person at the CIA Counterterrorist Center. The current story on that is an operative told George Tenet and others at the CIA she had forwarded the alert as agreed to the FBI, without actually doing so.

Kristen Breitweiser, a leader of the 9/11 families, told NEWSWEEK she and other family members were assured last September by Porter Goss, then CIA director-designate, that a declassified version of the report would be made public when complete. “I’d like to know why they’re not releasing it–and what they’re trying to hide,” Breitweiser told NEWSWEEK, adding that “all hell is going to break loose” if the report is eventually not released.

7) The official FBI timeline of the alleged hijackers’ movements holds that Atta entered the United States for the first time in June 2000. Yet many witnesses have said they dealt with him in the period from April to June 2000 (for one example, consider Johnelle Bryant’s incredible story of Atta’s attempt to get a loan from the Agriculture Department). Daniel Hopsicker uncovered much about Atta’s early months in Florida indicating shady dealings, including many press accounts of witness statements verifying his presence in Florida before June 2000. Now we hear that Able Danger also tagged him as being in the United States months before June 2000. It’s almost as though there were two Attas in the spring of 2000–an urban planning student finishing up the semester in Hamburg, and a party animal with drug connections in Florida.

8) The Kean-Hamilton 9/11 Commission received a briefing on Able Danger in advance of their report’s July 2004 publication. This included the information that Atta & co. were specifically identified, which the ever-affable Commission spokesman Al Felzenberg at first denied and then admitted. (NYT, 8/11/2005) Able Danger was kept out of The 9/11 Commission Report, and the former Commissioners have been forced into a series of damage-control statements. Any credibility they had left is now a dead letter. (Interestingly, the Commission members on Aug. 30 summarily canceled two sessions of their laughable “9/11 Public Discourse Project,” scheduled for Sept. 1 and 12, 2005.)

9) Curt Weldon is a hardline war supporter whose just-published book advocates an immediate attack on Iran. As the initial channel for the Able Danger revelations, he has attempted to give it all an anti-Clinton spin. This in turn is prompting Democrats to back away from the material. In fact, the Able Danger leakers may have approached other politicians before Weldon took up their cause. The facts they have revealed about a military intelligence program allow no simple anti-Clinton or anti-Bush interpretration. Able Danger was originally approved in 1998 by Clinton’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Hugh Shelton, and “unceremoniously axed” in February 2001, at the beginning of the Bush administration. (PA Times Herald, 8/13/2005)

10) The fall 2000 decision to drop the “Brooklyn Cell” lead was made by as-yet unnamed military brass at MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa, Florida, headquarters of Special Operations Command and Central Command. (The base is not far from the contemporaneous haunts of Atta and al-Shehhi.) The commander-in-chief of CENTCOM from July 2000 to July 2003 was Gen. Tommy Franks. The pretext for dropping the lead, that Defense Department lawyers were concerned about the civil liberties implications, is absurd on its face. None of the four men named as the “Brooklyn Cell” by Able Danger had green cards, as Weldon has claimed. And when did any US agency, before 9/11, refuse to pursue a potential terrorism case involving foreigners without green cards named as al-Qaeda operatives because of civil liberties concerns? There must be another reason why Able Danger was called off from its pursuit of the “Brooklyn Cell.”

A Tommy Franks Detour

We’ll detour here briefly to note that after Sept. 11, Gen. Franks oversaw both of the post-9/11 invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. This is the same Tommy Franks who raised the prospect of military rule in the United States in his notorious Dec. 2003 interview by Cigar Aficianado. After an oily paean to 200-plus years of constitutional democracy that sounds suspiciously like an obituary, Franks informed cigar consumers about

the potential of a weapon of mass destruction and a terrorist, massive casualty-producing event somewhere in the western world–it may be in the United States of America–that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass-casualty-producing event. Which, in fact, then begins to potentially unravel the fabric of our Constitution.

Of his activities on Sept. 11, Franks told Cigar Aficianado:

Kathy [Mrs. Franks] was with me. And we were headed to Pakistan for a visit with President [Pervez] Musharraf. We had stopped in Souda Bay, Crete, to get gas for the jet. Kathy and I had walked into a small market in this little town, because that’s where one buys the best olives in the world. We went back to this little hotel. I was about to take a nap. There was a rap on the door. And I opened the door and one of my assistants said, “Turn on the television.” I turned on the TV just in time to see the second tower strike. My wife would tell you that the first words out of my mouth were “Osama bin Laden.” That’s the first thing that I said. I got on the telephone, called back, talked to people in my headquarters, raced off to the jet, got back here on the 12th of September, talked to [Secretary of Defense] Don Rumsfeld, and we started planning for operations in Afghanistan.

President Bush Gives Tommy Franks the Medal of Freedom
Tommy Franks

Yes, someone at his base had blocked the investigation of Atta in 2000, but at least the first words out of his mouth on Sept. 11 were “Osama Bin Laden.” And why was Franks on his way to see the Pakistani president? When did he and Rumsfeld really start planning for operations in Afghanistan? Let us recall that on Sept. 9, 2001 the National Security Council placed on Bush’s desk a worldwide “gameplan to remove al-Qaeda off the face of the earth.” This included a strategy to force the Taliban to hand over Bin Ladin under threat of military invasion. The US military deployments underway to South and Central Asia at the time were consistent with an operation against Afghanistan.

During the first few months of 2001, the US provided $125 million in aid to Afghanistan, while also pursuing covert diplomacy designed to get the Taliban to make peace with the Northern Alliance, stabilize the country, and allow the building of an oil pipeline. When the back-channel talks broke down in May, the negotiators delivered threats that the Taliban faced “a carpet of gold, or a carpet of bombs” by mid-October–exactly when the invasion occurred. As of September 9, all that was missing for a war in Afghanistan was a casus belli that the American people could unequivocally support. (See timeline of US preparations for the Afghanistan invasion prior to September 11.)


To review: German authorities fed the CIA information about the Hamburg cell. Without telling the Germans, the CIA independently observed the Hamburg cell in Germany, at least until Atta and al-Shehhi left for the United States. Once they were in the United States, Able Danger identified Atta and al-Shehhi and was blocked from passing their names to other agencies. The Mossad knew about them, and passed their names to the CIA. The CIA was on the tail of Almidhar and Alhazmi before they came to the US, and spied on them at the Kuala Lumpur conference that supposedly initiated the 9/11 attacks. That pair stayed in San Diego with an FBI informant, but the FBI says it didn’t know. They were only put on the general watch-list in August 2001. On Sept. 11, the FBI immediately knew which flight schools to visit to pick up the trail of Atta & co. Finally, the FBI timeline suggests Atta was in two places at once in the spring of 2000.

No matter where Mohamed Atta went, someone was spying on him. But the official story would have us believe each of these surveillances was an isolated incident, and that the failure to stop 9/11 was due to a series of oddities, coincidences and close calls, with no pattern behind it all except for bureaucratic intransigence.

Now recall the long-known accounts of how FBI officials at the Islamic Radicals Unit prior to Sept. 11 actively obstructed and killed field investigations that could have led to the alleged 9/11 perpetrators.  Add in the stories of high-level foreign intelligence warnings from various countries, including specific information that the United States would be attacked using hijacked planes directed against prominent targets. Add the widespread knowledge that 9/11 was imminent among individuals who tried to warn the United States, and the reports of insider trading based on prior knowledge of the 9/11 events.

There is an explanation for these facts that is simpler than the official theory of luck for the hijackers and stupidity in government. The alternative hypothesis holds that a network ensconced within multiple US and allied foreign agencies was aware of the alleged 9/11 plotters’ movements, and acted to protect them by blocking information flows and suspending investigations.

The motive may have been to shield a covert operation that was using the men, whether they knew about it or not. (A military spokesperson once said that five of the alleged 9/11 hijackers including Atta shared names with men who trained at US military bases, and in its subsequent denials the Pentagon provided no further clarification on who the trainees might have otherwise been.)

From above article:

news: The FBI tracked down thousands of leads this week as Operation Penttbom grew, including reports that some of the hijackers may have received training at some of the nation’s military bases.

Air Force spokesman Col. Ken McClellan said a man named Mohamed Atta — which the FBI has identified as one of the five hijackers of American Airlines Flight 11 — had once attended the International Officer’s School at Maxwell/Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala.

In addition, a man having the same name as one of the suspected hijackers on the plane that crashed in western Pennsylvania, Saeed Alghamdi, attended California’s Defense Language Institute in Presidio of Monterey, Calif. In addition, a man named Abdulaziz Alomari who attended Brooks Air Force Base Aerospace Medical School in San Antonio, Texas shared the same name as another person on the FBI’s hijackers’ list.

McClellan cautioned that in all three cases “there were discrepancies in the biographical data” — mainly the birth dates — of the individuals who attended the military schools and those believed to have seized the planes involved in the terrorist attacks.

That’s also the case with two men named Saeed Alghamdi and Ahmed Alghamdi who are listed as living in housing for foreign military trainees at Florida’s Pensacola Naval Air Station. Two of the suspected hijackers of the United Airlines Flight 175 that crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center have the same names.

Or else the motive may have been to allow the 9/11 plot to succeed, as a necessary sacrifice to launch “The New American Century.” Or else the motive was to protect the patsies and dupes who would later be blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks, if in fact the entire plot was orchestrated by elements within the US and allied government from the go.

The obvious possibility that the failures were intentional, and that the alleged hijackers were not just lucky but living under a protective veil, has never been raised by official investigations, the 9/11 Commission, or the corporate media. Why not?



New York Times articles on “Able Danger”
(6 out of 16 search results as of Sep 2)

Four in 9/11 Plot Are Called Tied to Qaeda in ’00 (NYT, 8/9/2005)
… In the summer of 2000, the military 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 Federal Bureau of Investigation… The account is the first assertion that Mr. 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.

9/11 Commission’s Staff Rejected Report on Early Identification of Chief Hijacker (NYT, 8/11/2005)
… Al Felzenberg, who served as the commission’s chief spokesman, said earlier this week that staff members who were briefed about Able Danger at a first meeting, in October 2003, did not remember hearing anything about Mr. Atta or an American terrorist cell. On Wednesday, however, Mr. Felzenberg said the uniformed officer who briefed two staff members in July 2004 had indeed mentioned Mr. Atta…

Officer Says Pentagon Barred Sharing Pre-9/11 Qaeda Data With F.B.I. (NYT, 8/16/2005)
… Colonel Shaffer said in an interview on Monday night that the small, highly classified intelligence program, known as Able Danger, had identified the terrorist ringleader, Mohamed Atta, and three other future hijackers by name by mid-2000… But he said military lawyers forced members of the intelligence program to cancel three scheduled meetings with the F.B.I. at the last minute, which left the bureau without information that Colonel Shaffer said might have led to Mr. Atta and the other terrorists while the Sept. 11 attacks were still being planned… Colonel Shaffer said he assumed that by speaking out publicly this week about Able Danger, he might effectively be ending his military career and limiting his ability to participate in intelligence work in the government. “I’m proud of my operational record and I love what I do,” he said. “But there comes a time – and I believe the time for me is now — to stand for something, to stand for what is right.”…

Second Officer Says 9/11 Leader Was Named Before Attacks (NYT, 8/23/2005)
… “My story is consistent,” said Captain Phillpott, who managed the program for the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command. “Atta was identified by Able Danger by January-February of 2000.” … Representative Weldon also arranged an interview on Monday with a former employee of a defense contractor who said he had helped create a chart in 2000 for the intelligence program that included Mr. Atta’s photograph and name. The former contractor, James D. Smith, said that Mr. Atta’s name and photograph were obtained through a private researcher in California who was paid to gather the information from contacts in the Middle East…

Senate Panel Plans Hearing Into Reports on Terrorist (NYT, 9/1/2005)
… The committee’s chairman, Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said in an interview that he was scheduling a public hearing on Sept. 14 “to get to the bottom of this” and that the military officers “appear to have credibility.” …

Pentagon Finds More Who Recall Atta Intel (Associated Press in NBCNews 9/1/2005) [Original version of article by Associated Press appeared in NYTimes–>Original NYTimes link and article gone, Associated Press in NYT 9/2/2005]
… Four intelligence officials provided the first extensive briefing for reporters on the outcome of their interviews with people associated with Able Danger and their review of documents… They said they interviewed at least 80 people over a three-week period and found three, besides Philpott and Shaffer, who said they remember seeing a chart that either mentioned Atta by name as an al-Qaida operative or showed his photograph. Four of the five recalled a chart with a pre-9/11 photo of Atta… Downs and the other officials said they could not rule out that the chart recalled by Shaffer, Philpott and three others had been destroyed in compliance with regulations pertaining to intelligence information about people inside the United States. They also did not rule out that the five simply had faulty recollections. …

Other News Reports, Aug 13-Sep 2:

Congressman: Defense Knew 9/11 Hijackers (San Francisco Chronicle/Associated Press, 8/9/2005) [Updated with subheading on 8/10/2005: 9/11 Commission to look into Atta Claim –>U.S. Defense Intelligence Knew Sep. 11 Plotter in 1999, Congressman says ]
The Sept. 11 commission will investigate a claim that U.S. defense intelligence officials identified ringleader Mohammed Atta and three other hijackers as a likely part of an al-Qaida cell more than a year before the hijackings but didn’t forward the information to law enforcement… [NOTE: This is bizarre. There is no 9/11 Commission, it was disbanded in July 2004. Or did they get a lifetime appointment?] … Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he was unaware of the intelligence until the latest reports surfaced. But Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the 9/11 Commission looked into the matter during its investigation into government missteps leading to the attacks and chose not to include it in the final report. [9/11 Commission co-chair Lee] Hamilton said 9/11 Commission staff members learned of Able Danger during a meeting with military personnel in October 2003 in Afghanistan, but the staff members do not recall learning of a connection between Able Danger and any of the four terrorists Weldon mentioned. …

Reports: 9/11 clue hid in Tampa (St. Petersburg Times, 8/10/2005)
… In fall 2000, the unit recommended SOCom share the information with the FBI, [PA Rep. Curt] Weldon said in an interview Tuesday. But lawyers at either the Pentagon or SOCom determined the men were in the country legally, Weldon said. He said he based his information on intelligence sources. When members of Able Danger made their presentation at command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base, Weldon said, the legal team “put stickies on the faces of Mohammed Atta on the chart,” to reinforce that he was off-limits. “They said, “You can’t talk to Atta because he’s here on a green card,”‘ Weldon said. … [Who is this legal team? Who dispatched them? What’s this about a green card? None of the alleged hijackers had green cards.]

Weldon wants answers on Atta (Pennsylvania Times Herald, 8/13/2005)
… The Times Herald broke the Able Danger story in its June 19 edition. The story eluded the national media until early last week. A small group of Defense Intelligence Agency employees ran the Able Danger operation from fall 1999 to February 2001 – just seven months before the terrorist attacks – when the operation was unceremoniously axed, according to a former defense intelligence official familiar with the program. The former official asked not to be identified.
In their efforts to locate terrorists, the operation’s technology analysts used data mining and fusion techniques to search terabyte-sized data sets from open source material – such as travel manifests, bank transactions, hotel records, credit applications – and compared this material with classified information. … By charting the movements and transactions of suspected terrorists, the operation linked Atta to al-Qaida. Between fall 1999 and early 2000, the intelligence team concluded that Atta, and two others, were likely part of a terrorist cell in Brooklyn. … At that point, Able Danger wanted the FBI, assisted by Special Operations Command, to track the group. But to the team’s surprise, SOCOM’s legal counsel shot down the idea. …

US officer says Pentagon prevented al-Qaida reports reaching the FBI (The Guardian, 8/18/2005)
… The commissioners issued a statement last week saying the claim that Mohammed Atta and other plotters had been identified before 2001 was not supported by official documents the commission had requested. They said Atta had not been mentioned in the 2003 briefing on Able Danger in Afghanistan, and the allegation made by the naval officer in 2004, that Atta was attached to an al-Qaida cell in Brooklyn, was incompatible with official records of his movements.
Col Shaffer countered that the commission was never given all the relevant documentation by the Pentagon. “I’m told confidently by the person who moved the material over, that the 9/11 commission received two briefcase-sized containers of documents. I can tell you for a fact that would not be one-twentieth of the information that Able Danger consisted of during the time we spent investigating,” the intelligence officer told Fox News. …

Errors of Commission. The hijacking of the probe into the 9-11 hijackers (Village Voice, 8/23/2005)
… By 1998, Atta was living in a Hamburg apartment (later found to be an Al Qaeda cell) and under surveillance by German intelligence. The Germans were passing along what they knew to the CIA. There are suggestions that Atta may have been known to U.S. intelligence as far back as 1993 and, according to the German press, the CIA itself had other people in the apartment under surveillance… In 2004, the German prosecutor who was in charge of the investigation was scheduled to testify about this Hamburg cell to the 9-11 Commission. But his testimony was unexpectedly canceled. The documents from the investigation are reported to be missing. …
What Weldon and Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer are claiming is that the Army Intelligence and Special Operations Command in 1998-1999 launched a secret program, Able Danger, to map out the international Al Qaeda network. One Defense official has said the project was approved by General Henry H. Shelton, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Shelton said recently that he does not remember the project but that “we had lots of initiatives to find out where Al Qaeda was.” …
The 9-11 Commission was established to get to the bottom of the attacks that day. However, it often skipped over key issues:
*Bush and Cheney were interviewed together, in secret, with no record of the meeting.
*Florida senator Bob Graham’s joint congressional inquiry had unearthed the outlines of what may have been a Saudi spy operation linked to Al Qaeda and operating in the U.S. But the commission dismissed Saudi involvement and cleared the royal family.
*The commission never seriously inquired into the activities of Pakistan, whose secret intelligence agency had created the Taliban and subsequently backed Al Qaeda.
*The commission had no time for FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, who came up with one tale after another of fishy operations in the FBI translations section, including the mind-boggling information that FBI interpreters were being sent to Guant·namo to translate languages they could not speak.
*The congressional joint inquiry discovered that an FBI informant on the West Coast, unbeknownst to the Bureau, rented an apartment to two hijackers. When Graham tried to interview the landlord, the FBI refused. Later a top FBI official told Graham that the White House had blocked the informant’s testimony. The commission dismissed all this.
*The commission skipped over the scandalous mess at the FAA, suppressing a staff study saying that the agency had ignored numerous warnings issued in the months before the attack. After the election, the commission released parts of this study, leaving some of it classified.
*The commission never seriously inquired into intelligence failures at the Hamburg cell where Atta lived off and on and which was a key center for planning the attacks.
Every day it looks as if the government’s main probe of 9-11 has turned into a political fix.

Three more assert Pentagon knew of 9/11 ringleader (Reuters, September 1, 2005)
… Pat Downs, a senior policy analyst in the office of the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, told reporters that as part of the review, the Pentagon interviewed 80 people. Downs said that three more people, as well as Phillpott and Shaffer, recalled the existence of an intelligence chart identifying Atta by name. Four of the five recalled a photo of Atta accompanying the chart, Downs said. Pentagon officials declined to identify the three by name, but said they were an analyst with the military’s Special Operations Command, an analyst with the Land Information Warfare Assessment Center and a contractor who supported the center. Downs said all five were considered “credible people.” But officials said an exhaustive search of tens of thousands of documents and electronic files related to Able Danger failed to find the chart or other documents corroborating the identification of Atta. Phillpott has said Atta was identified by Able Danger by January or February of 2000.

Reactions: The Families & The Commission

Statement of September 11th Advocates Regarding Surveillance of Mohammed Atta (8/10/2005)
… By legislative mandate, Public Law 107-306, November 27, 2002, the 9/11 Independent Commission was charged with providing a full accounting of the 9/11 attacks to the American people. As has been indicated repeatedly since the release of the Commission’s Final Report and via the NY Times article published yesterday, the 9/11 Commission failed to provide said full accounting. As a result, each Commissioner and Staff Member should be held accountable. …

Kean-Hamilton 9/11 Commission Co-Chairs Statement on ABLE DANGER (8/12/2005)
[Passing the buck to Dieter Snell] … On July 12, 2004, as the drafting and editing process for the Report was coming to an end (the Report was released on July 22, and editing continued to occur through July 17), a senior staff member, Dieter Snell, accompanied by another staff member, met with the officer at one of the Commission’s Washington, D.C. offices. A representative of the DOD also attended the interview. …

September 11th Advocates: We would like to thank Lt. Colonel Anthony Shaffer (8/17/2005)
… It is our fervent wish that any other individuals who have information find the strength and courage, as exhibited by Lt. Colonel Shaffer, to come forward and that in doing so they suffer no consequences but instead are properly rewarded for their patriotism.


Commentaries and Analysis Around the Web

How Bin Laden and Mohamed Atta Escaped Gen. Franks (Mark G. Levey, Daily Kos)
… Tommy Franks, retired U.S. Army four star General, and long-time Texas friend of President George W. Bush, was in command of two of the worst ever counter-terrorism failures of U.S. military intelligence. Under Frank’s command, Army intelligence released Mohamed Atta along with the main 9/11 hijackers from surveillance in 2000. Then, in early 2002, Usama bin Laden slipped past U.S. forces under Franks and escaped into Pakistan. …

Legal Aspects of Data Mining and Able Danger (Jon Holdaway, Intel Dump)
… First, the “law” cited [as a justification for dropping the Able Danger surveillance of Atta and co.] is Executive Order 12333, which defines the Intelligence Community and its authority to conduct operations…. The general rule for EO 12333 is basically, “thou shalt not collect information (that is, spy on) US Persons, except . . .” The “except” portion is critical. There are 13 exceptions under which an intelligence agency can collect information on US Persons. These include for personnel security investigations, for administrative purposes, when the subject gives consent to collect. The two most important categories are for Foreign Intelligence purposes (that is, collecting information on US Persons who are agents of a foreign power) and for Counterintelligence purposes…

Army Intel Unit Exposes Massive FBI 9.11 Cover-Up (Daniel Hopsicker, Mad Cow Morning News)
… 9.11 Commission spokesman Al Felzenberg … cited the fact that the information provided to them by military officers in the unit did not agree with the FBI’s timeline concerning Atta’s arrival in the U.S. Information provided by a military officer from Able Danger did not make it into the final report, “because it was not consistent with what the commission knew about Atta’s whereabouts before the attacks,” … Felzenberg said. … Staff investigators became wary of the officer, Felzenberg stated, after he stated that the military unit had identified Atta as having been in the United States by late 1999 or early 2000. ‘The investigators knew this was impossible, since travel records confirmed that he had not entered the United States until June 2000.” …

The 911 Commission did no independent investigation of their own. Instead they relied entirely on the much criticized and beleaguered FBI…

an Agency whose competence has been questioned by prominent individuals across all party lines… An Agency which has never managed to offer a coherent account of such investigative niceties as an accurate chronology of when Atta arrived in the United States, and what he did (and with whom) when he got here. Here’s the big question nobody seems to be ready to ask: Upon what basis did the 9.11 Commission conclude that the FBI’s timeline was correct and that an elite Army Intel unit was mistaken in saying they were tracking Mohamed Atta roaming freely across America during 1999 and 2000? We’d love to hear Felzenberg hem and haw his way around that. So too, we suspect, would relatives of the innocent murdered victims…

Calling unwelcome attention to the massive inaccuracies in the FBI’s timeline was probably not Republican Curt Weldon’s purpose when he brought the story to light… But if his efforts to implicate Clinton Administration officials results in highlighting the FBI’s incomplete and corrupt investigation, we think he get some kind of medal, maybe called the Inadvertent ‘Dumb-Ass’ Hero Award…
… ABC’s Brian Ross reported: “Johnelle Bryant is the USDA loan officer in Homestead, Florida, who Atta approached in May of 2000, long before al-Qaeda and bin Laden were household words.” Mr. Atta swung by in May, 2000, and Ms. Bryant remembers quite a bit about it. “At first,” she says, “he refused to speak with me,” on the grounds that she was, in his words, “but a female.” “I told him that if he was interested in getting a farm-service agency loan in my servicing area, then he would need to deal with me.”
Ms. Bryant says the applicant was asking for $650,000 to start a crop-dusting business. His plan was to buy a six-seater twin-prop and then remove the seats. “He wanted to build a chemical tank that would fit inside the aircraft and take up every available square inch of the aircraft except for where the pilot would be sitting.”
Here’s the kicker, or rather, the smoking gun: Before Atta left her office he filled out a loan application. Loan applications are dated, aren’t they? That’s why Johnelle Bryant knows exactly when Atta was in her office. so, without even referencing any of the other numerous indicators of Atta’s presence in the U.S., one thing that can be said with absolute certainty:
The FBI’s timeline, their chronology of events, the essential tool of any homicide investigation, is wrong. And not wrong by accident, either.
Wrong on purpose. Wrong by design.
By the way: don’t try dropping by Bryant’s Homestead office to confirm the details with her, as we did…She’s no longer there.

Cong. Weldon’s Preemptive Strike Against the CIA (Mark G. Levey, Daily Kos)
…Weldon’s widely-publicized campaign of disinformation has spun the story so that blame is laid at the feet of the Clinton Administration for the 9/11 attacks after the CIA and DoD failed to notify the FBI about the presence inside the U.S. of terrorists known to have entered the country in late 1999 and early 2000… 9/11 could have been avoided. The al-Qaeda cells could have been rolled up, if the order had been given by President Bush. Without that order, nobody was going to be arrested. …

Why is the media burying new revelations about 9/11? (Joseph Kay and Barry Grey, World Socialist Web Site)
… What has been said or reported in response to the Able Danger revelations consists largely of evasions and obfuscations. It seems that in the scramble to cover up their past omissions and lies, Bush administration officials and 9/11 commission members have failed to get their story straight. They are tripping over themselves with contradictory statements and inane disclaimers. At a press briefing on Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared he had no knowledge of Able Danger. “I have no idea,” he said. “I’ve never heard of it until this morning. I understand our folks are trying to look into it.”…

9/11 Revisionism, Revisited: The mystery of ‘Able Danger’ (Justin Raimondo,
… The list of “mistakes,” glitches, and tales of staggering incompetence that preceded the worst “intelligence failure” since a certain wooden horse was brought behind the walls of Troy, is getting rather suspiciously long…. It is interesting to note that the Commission staffer who received – and discounted – the “Able Danger” information, Dietrich L. Snell, is the prosecutor who convicted Abdul Hakim Murad in the “Bojinka” terrorist conspiracy case, a 1995 plot to crash airplanes into several U.S. landmark buildings, including the Pentagon and the World Trade Center – a scheme that later morphed into the 9/11 conspiracy. Murad offered to cooperate with investigators in return for a sentence reduction, but prosecutors, led by Snell, turned him down. [Note: Snell now works for Eliot Spitzer in New York!] … In retrospect, it appears as if Atta and his fellow mass murderers had a guardian angel – or rather, a guardian devil – watching over them. At every turn, just when it seemed they would be apprehended, fate – or whomever – intervened, obstructing the normal means of interception and keeping the conspiracy on track. It’s almost as if they traveled in a security bubble, protected by – what? By whom? …

Enabling Danger (Kristen Breitweiser weblog,, 8/20/2005)
… Additionally, some questions have been raised about the ability of DIA to label or “identify” Atta as an al Qaeda operative as early as 2000. To me, it would seem logical that DIA was able to do so, after all, in 2000 Atta was living in Hamburg, Germany and having regular contacts with other known al Qaeda operatives namely Ramzi Binalshibh, Said Bahaji, Zakariya Essabar, Muhammed Zammar, Mounir Motassadeq, Abdelghani Mzoudi, and Mamoun Darkazanli. We know that the German government had Atta’s cell – the Hamburg cell – under surveillance and we also know that our CIA was conducting parallel surveillance during the same time period. Information surrounding the Hamburg cell and the surveillance is documented throughout the German trials of Mzoudi and Mottasedeq–two of the al Qaeda operatives that were prosecuted for their ties to the 9/11 attacks but eventually released after the United States refused to cooperate with the German courts by sharing intelligence evidence linking the men to the 9/11 plot…

The speed by which our government was able to accumulate such a vast amount of information immediately following the 9/11 attacks (in less than 24 hours) is the most persuasive proof that our government had the hijackers under its surveillance. FBI agents descended upon the very flight schools (out of the thousands of flight schools in our country) that the hijackers attended within two hours of the attacks. They were seen removing files from the flight schools buildings. Furthermore, photos of the hijackers and details about their activities in the final days before the attacks were also immediately presented to the American people. I mean you are talking about an intelligence apparatus that according to official accounts was completely in the dark about the plotting and planning of the 9/11 attacks…
Additionally, when one carefully reads the 9/11 chronology and information provided in the public record, it becomes increasingly clear that the CIA’s repeated failure to share information with the FBI about two of the 9/11 hijackers–al Mihdhar and al Hazmi–was purposeful. There exist at least seven instances between January 2000 and September 11th, 2001, that the CIA withheld vital information from the FBI about these two hijackers who were inside this country training for the attacks. Once, twice, maybe even three times could be considered merely careless oversights. But at least seven documented times? To me, that suggests something else….

The spinning of the smoking guns. More pre-9/11 US intelligence connections to al-Qaeda exposed and spun (Larry Chin, Online Journal)
… The furor over new stories involving alleged 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and US-bin Laden go-between Tarik Hamdi pits spinmasters against other spinmasters–Kean 9/11 Commission supporters versus hawkish Bush-linked 9/11 Commission attackers, neocons versus neoliberals, and intelligence and law enforcement agencies are at each other’s throats again over “intelligence failures.” …
While the spin has dwelled exclusively around “anti-terrorism” and various red herrings, and the supposed frustration over the tracking and arrest of al-Qaeda members, the true evidence trail continues to be purposely ignored. This trail leads directly to high-level US government officials and US intelligence agencies themselves (and US intelligence branches such as Pakistan’s ISI), for their nurturing, guiding and placement of “Islamic terrorist” intelligence assets (including Atta, Hamdi, bin Laden and al-Qaeda), and US complicity in 9/11…

Newly unsealed court papers charge that Tarik A. Hamdi, an Iraqi-born American citizen and a former resident of Herndon, Virginia (a suburb of Washington, DC, and a hotbed of intelligence-connected groups), and a direct and key American contact for Osama bin Laden, is now a member of the Iraqi Foreign Ministry in Ankara, Turkey. According to the affadavit from Customs Agent David Kane, and facts confirmed by US authorities (including the FBI), Hamdi supplied a satellite telephone battery to bin Laden, who was in Afghanistan in 1998.
Hamdi, former CIA counter-terrorism chief Vince Cannistraro, and Pakistani journalist (and ISI “favorite”) Rahimullah Yusufszai were among the few go-betweens with bin Laden who set up interviews with bin Laden for American journalists, such as John Miller (now a Commanding Officer in the Los Angeles Police Department’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau). During this period, Cannistraro, Miller and Yusufszai worked for ABC News. Hamdi also had a working relationship with recently deceased ABC anchorman Peter Jennings, who tapped Hamdi as a Middle East expert more than once.
As noted by Chaim Kupferberg, “Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism chief, provided covert aid to the Afghani mujahadeen in the late 80s, as well as supervised CIA operations with the contras. He was also a point man in the notoriously circumspect investigation at Lockerbie.” …
The relationship Hamdi enjoyed with ABC, Miller, and Cannistraro leads to deeper issues that go to the heart of the 9/11 operation, as detailed by Kupferberg in “The Propaganda Preparation for 9/11″. Kupferberg points out that ” . . . if the bin Laden threat was, pre-9/11, a close-knit propaganda campaign, one would expect to find the same names showing up repeatedly in combination with one another.” Among the short list of “same names” who managed the flow of available information on bin Laden, we find Miller and Cannistraro. … ” . . . it is my contention that al-Qaida and bin Laden are elaborate ‘legends’ set up to promote a plausibly sophisticated and ferocious enemy to stand against American interests. I am not, however, implying that bin Laden himself is a total fabrication. Rather, it is my contention that confederates, believing themselves to act on behalf of bin Laden, are being set up in a ‘false flag operation’ to perform operations as their controllers see fit.”

(Dennis L. Cuddy,, 8/23/2005)

… Christian Elflein and others wrote in the FOCUS article that “U.S. agents followed him (Atta) mainly in the area around Frankfurt am Main and noted that Atta bought large quantities of chemicals for the possible production of explosives….On May 18, 2000 the U.S. Embassy in Berlin gave (Atta) a visa….Strange that the visa application and granting it happened in the period when the (CIA) was still observing the suspicious buying of chemicals by the person (Atta) concerned….Someone from the (German) intelligence service (told) FOCUS: ‘We can no longer exclude the possibility that the Americans wanted to keep an eye on Atta after his entry in the USA.’…German security experts are still stunned about the speed with which the FBI could present the conspirative ties of Atta and his presumed Hamburg accomplices. ‘As (if all it needed was) a push on a button,’ an insider says, “As if the Americans for a long time already had loads of info on their computers about the culprits.”
At this point, it is worth mentioning that Yossef Bodansky (director of the U.S. House of Representatives Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare) in TARGET AMERICA: TERRORISM IN THE U.S. TODAY (1993) referred to a large Islamist network spanning the U.S. including “all the components of a mature terrorist support system (with) safe houses in major cities, weapons, ammunition, money, systems to provide medical and legal aid, false identity papers, and intelligence for the operative.” The point in including this here is to ask how Bodansky would know about all this unless the terrorist network were already being monitored by the federal government? …

Weldon Says Records Were Ordered Destroyed  (Dom Giordano Show, Philadelphia, 8/29/2005)
… Congressman Curt Weldon (R – Pennsylvania) gave another exclusive interview to Dom Giordano this evening (Monday) and broke the news that he will be giving a speech on September 8th (next Monday) during which he will present yet another Able Danger’ witness. This new witness will attest (and will swear under oath when called) that he was “ordered to destroy records” relating to the ‘Able Danger’ program. …


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