Despite Pentagon stonewalling and intimidation of whistleblowers, the story that a hardline Republican congressman says is “bigger than Watergate” refuses to go away.
Five former operatives of a US military intelligence project say they identified Mohamed Atta and three other men later alleged to have been the lead 9/11 hijackers as suspected al Qaeda terrorists working in the United States more than a year before September 11, 2001. The five whistleblowers say their superiors at the US Special Operations Command chose to suppress the information and keep it from law enforcement authorities, thus protecting Atta and Co. – at the very least in effect, if not as a matter of intent. They were forced to destroy their data on Atta; and their program, Able Danger, was killed by the Bush administration prior to September 11.
Years after the destruction of the World Trade Center, they told their story to the 9/11 Commission, only to be soundly ignored. When they finally came forward as whistleblowers last year, they were placed under gag orders by the Pentagon. The most prominent of them, Col. Anthony Shaffer, was investigated on charges that he stole pens and overcharged the Defense Department for $67 in phone calls. He claims the investigation of him to date has cost the taxpayers $2 million.
That, at any rate, is the Able Danger saga as we know it so far.
In the latest wrinkle, blog reporter Rory O’Connor (Mar 1, archived below) says a Pentagon inspector general’s investigation has identified the person who provided Able Danger with Atta’s name and photo. Atta’s photo was incorporated into the “Brooklyn Cell” within a chart of alleged al Qaeda activities in the United States. The brass who later shut down surveillance of Atta and Co. ordered the Able Danger operatives to cover the photo with a yellow stickie, and finally had the chart and the data that went into it destroyed altogether.
The source of the photo, O’Connor now writes, is “a female contract employee of defense contractor Orion Scientific,” nowadays a data-mining subsidiary of SRA with heavy Homeland Security involvements. This would appear to confirm an earlier assertion by Orion employee James D. Smith, who had also worked with Able Danger, “that Mr. Atta’s name and photograph were obtained [in 2000] through a private researcher in California who was paid to gather the information from contacts in the Middle East.” Since that story was already in the New York Times of Aug. 23, 2005, we wonder why it should take until now for a Pentagon inspector-general to “identify” someone who was working for the Pentagon in the first place.
O’Connor does not name his source for the story, but his blog makes clear that he is in contact with Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA), the public champion of the Able Danger whistleblowers. Weldon is known for his aggressive approach to Iran and strong support for the unrestricted use of data-mining surveillance. Some observers have therefore voiced suspicions that claims of Able Danger’s successes may be designed as a commercial for more Orwellian programs of the “Total Information Awareness” type.
Curt Weldon Conference Call (4 parts – audio quality bad)
Yet Able Danger’s real success in rooting out the 9/11 suspects was apparently thanks to the as-yet unnamed woman and her contacts in the Middle East. Score another one for human intelligence. The question now is, who was this “mystery woman,” and how did she find out about Atta and Co.? Who were her contacts? And what exactly did they know?
A note of caution: There is no doubt the Able Danger stories have the character of a “limited hangout,” the spook world’s term for admissions that seem controversial but function to hide more perilous realities. Even as a few newspapers concede cursory coverage to Weldon’s crusade, in the four years since 9/11 the US corporate media have reported almost nothing on CIA surveillance of Atta and Co. in the years prior to their arrival in the United States – including at least one attempted recruitment of an Atta associate in Hamburg. Nor have the major media spoken of the Mossad’s surveillance of the same men (see “Able Danger Roundup”).
Meanwhile, a number of 9/11 skeptics have expressed suspicions that Able Danger is but a propaganda showcase, possibly a whole-cloth invention, intended to reinforce the US government’s story that 19 hijackers dispatched by Osama Bin Ladin were the sole perpetrators of the September 11th massacres.
But what we have learned so far hardly supports the official conspiracy theory. The whistleblowers say simply that by the summer of 2000, they had put the “al Qaeda terrorist in the United States” tag on four men who were later identified as the alleged 9/11 ringleaders. That doesn’t rule out theories that Atta and Co. were actually being set up as the patsies for an “inside job.” No matter what the role played by Atta and Co., the planners of a possible inside job would have had to know the names of their alleged hijackers and create legends around them in advance of the attacks. Perhaps Able Danger ended up serving such a process; perhaps the men who now step forward as whistleblowers played an unwitting role in it.
What is most important at this stage is that Able Danger blows yet another fatal hole in the myth that 19 men successfully evaded all surveillance, that their plans could not have been known by the US government in advance, or that “no one could have imagined” the September 11 attacks. The details released so far contradict the official FBI timeline of Mohamed Atta’s movements. Most importantly, they make mincemeat of the laughable 9/11 Commission, which after omitting Able Danger from its supposedly exhaustive report can no longer be cited as a credible source on anything. And this dismantling of the official conspiracy theory is happening in a way that its champions cannot ignore or dismiss.
–Nicholas Levis, 911Truth.org New York City Correspondant
–Reprehensor on Col. Anthony Shaffer’s written testimony to the Congress (in which it was made clear that yes, they had identified that Mohamed Atta), Feb 19, 2006.
— Media Channel’s video archive of Able Danger TV coverage, last updated Feb 21, 2005.
— “The King’s Red Herring” by Kristen Breitweiser, Dec 19, 2005.
— “Able Danger and 9/11 Foreknowledge” by William Jasper, Oct 31, 2005.
— Louis Freeh mauls the 9/11 Commission, Nov 17, 2005.
— Petition to Demand Coverage of Able Danger
Able Danger Atta Photo Mystery Solved
(Published Mar 1, 2005 at roryoconnor.org)
Sources close to the ongoing Department of Defense investigation into the controversial Able Danger data mining intelligence program, which purportedly identified Mohammed Atta and three other 9/11 hijackers a year before the worst terror attacks in US history, say the mystery person who actually obtained a much-disputed photograph of Atta for the Able Danger team has now been identified.
Ever since the Pentagon-ordered destruction in 2000 of 2.5 terabytes of data unearthed by Able Danger — allegedly including a chart featuring Atta’s photograph that revealed terrorist links and patterns when clicked on — skeptics have long raised doubt about the very existence of the chart and the photograph in question.
It has now been confirmed that a female contract employee of defense contractor Orion Scientific, which provided personnel and proprietary software to the original Able Danger operation, has been identified as a result of investigation by the Pentagon’s own Inspector General.
Identification of the mystery woman lends more credence to claims by Able Danger members, such as team leader Captain Mark Phillpott, Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer, and Orion analyst J.D. Smith, among others, that the Able Danger program did in fact identify four 9/11 hijackers well before the attacks.
Despite their best efforts, however, Able Danger members were unsuccessful in several attempts to relay their information to the FBI for further investigation and/or action. And although the team did meet with staff members of the National Commission charged with investigating the 9/11 attacks, their data was largely ignored, dismissed as “historically insignificant” and “not fitting the story the Commission wants to tell.” There is no mention of Able Danger, its identification of five active Al Qaeda cells and other pre-attack threat assessment information contained in the voluminous official account of the 9/11 attacks.
In addition, the Pentagon, at the very highest level, has gone to great lengths to quash public discussion of the Able Danger findings. DOD actions to cover up the Able Danger data include gagging, muzzling and threatening Able Danger team members, last-minute cancellation of permission for team members to testify before Congressional committees looking into the affair, holding up promotions of military personnel, and in particular the vilification of LTC Shaffer, a Bronze Star-awarded twenty-two year veteran of the US Army Reserve, after he went public with the Able Danger story despite Pentagon opposition.
The DOD Inspector General probe began at the behest of Representative Curt Weldon, (R-Pennsylvania) who was upset by the Pentagon retribution aimed at LTC Shaffer. Weldon, vice-chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and an avowed supporter of the Bush Administration, surprisingly went to war with the Pentagon and his own party in an effort to bring the truth about the Able Danger program to light.
Weldon’s efforts finally resulted in hearings last week before the House Armed Services Committee. Although much testimony was offered only in closed session, Undersecretary of Defense Stephen Cambone did partially testify in open session. Notably, Cambone called the Able Danger program “an enormous success” — a far cry from the previous Pentagon stance that there was little of value discovered by the program.
Representative Weldon continues to push for full disclosure of what he has termed “a massive cover up much bigger than that of Watergate.”
© Copyright 2006 Rory O’Connor’s Blog