Wednesday, August 17, 2005



This from skeptic John Podhoretz at The Corner:
Liberal blogger Laura Rozen, who is an open-minded skeptic, has some interesting news on the matter: "Delco Times columnist Gil Spencer, who has long covered Curt Weldon's Pennsylvania district, has just interviewed the Able Danger official who is going public tonight on Fox News. Spencer is the first journalist I am aware of to reveal the identity of the Able Danger official who originally briefed the 9/11 commission staff about Able Danger's findings back in October 2003 at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. That official is DIA Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer. He served in a liaison capacity between Able Danger and the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in Tampa, Florida, and he flew into Afghanistan with special ops in a boots on the ground capacity....t's still a bit vague as to what exactly on Atta and the 'Brooklyn cell' the Able Danger team came up with, but Shaffer did tell Spencer that the Able Danger team briefed Pete Schoomaker on their findings. Shaffer also told Spencer that he was meeting with Pentagon intel czar Stephen Cambone today about the Able Danger issue, so clearly the Pentagon is paying attention. Stay tuned."

This should be interesting.

UPDATE: Captain's Quarters has a good update on Able Danger. Also, there will be an interview on Fox News' Fox Report tonight with the anonymous source, an intelligence agent with 22 years experience.(5:30 pm 8/16)

UPDATE II: On Special Report Catherine Herrige interviewed the intelligence agent involved in briefing the 9/11 Commission, who stands by the statement that he briefed the Commission staff on Able Danger and Atta.

Two tidbits. The security clearance of this agent was suspended basically over the Able Danger material (going outside his chain of command and something about phone records?), but he was recently promoted to Lt. Col. by the Army. So, we will have to evaluate his information accordingly. I was disappointed that we didn't get to hear him or any portion of the interview--only Herridge reporting on the interview. Maybe the entire interview will air later?(6:30 pm 8/16)

UPDATE III: Podhoretz again (and read his entire analysis of the interview (original interview here):

If he's telling the truth, then the entire history of the last five years needs to be rewritten. His name is Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, and he's one of the two military intelligence officers alleging that the Defense Department had located Mohammed Atta and other hijackers in America in 2000.

He's now gone public on cable television and in this interview with the New York Times.

What's perfectly credible about what Shaffer says is that his unit, Able Danger, developed information about an Al Qaeda cell in Brooklyn and that Pentagon lawyers thrice blocked meetings between his unit and the FBI because they feared being accused of spying illicitly inside the United States. (He was not an intelligence analyst, but rather Able Danger's liaison with the Defense Intelligence Agency.)

But Shaffer does not have proof that Atta and three others were among those named. To be fair, he should NOT have proof because any such documentation would be classified material that should not be in his possession.

So now we have some manifest contradictions:

He says he told 9/11 commission staffers about this in Afghanistan in 2003. They dispute it. So somebody isn't telling the truth.

The Able Danger papers shown to the 9/11 Commission at the Pentagon after the Afghanistan meeting did not feature anything mentioning Atta. So the 9/11 Commission says. So either the Commission staff is lying. Or no paper mentioned Atta and Shaffer is just wrong. Or the Defense Department misplaced the paperwork mentioning Atta. Or somebody at the Defense Department deliberately didn't give the Commission the material.

In the first case, if the 9/11 commission staff is lying, the hell to be paid is going to be colossal. Among other things, it could shake the current State Department to its foundations, since the 9/11 commission staff director, Philip Zelicow, is one of Condi Rice's most trusted aides.

Podhoretz concludes that it all comes down to the "wall"--and Jamie Gorelick. I would agree with this analysis and add that if Lt. Col. Shaffer is telling the truth, then the 9/11 Commission will be of "no historical significance".

The story continues. (6:30 am 8/17)

UPDATE IV: The Anchoress has some thoughts; as does Captain Ed--both have been all over this story.

UPDATE VI: Wretchard makes an extremely interesting point in his post "Law vs. War" about Clinton's remarks:

What's striking is the use of the word "officially", which suggests President Clinton may have 'known' Osama Bin Laden was a danger with intellectual certainty without being able to assert it officially. That in turn suggests that Osama Bin Laden was implicitly or even subconsciously provided with the protection of due process by a President who felt he would have to defend any action he took against OBL. Those who followed the Army War College monograph will have seen the distaste of legal scholars for applying the concept of war to counterterrorism because it implies action on a "switch that is either on or off." The legal ideal is "violence on a dimmer switch." (page 7) Clinton it would seem, at least subconsciously preferred the dimmer switch.
(emphasisi mine)(7:27 am 8/17)

If we always seem to lag a step or two behind Bin Laden in this war, the reason why is clearly stated above.

UPDATE V: Deborah Orin of the NY POST:
PRESIDENT Bill Clinton's team ignored dire warnings that its approach to terrorism was "very dangerous" and could have "deadly results," according to a blistering memo just obtained by The Post.

Then-Manhattan U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White wrote the memo as she pleaded in vain with Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick to tear down the wall between intelligence and prosecutors, a wall that went beyond legal requirements.

Looking back after 9/11, the memo makes for eerie reading — because White's team foresaw, years in advance, that the Clinton-era wall would make it tougher to stop mass murder.

"This is not an area where it is safe or prudent to build unnecessary walls or to compartmentalize our knowledge of any possible players, plans or activities," wrote White, herself a Clinton appointee.
(7:30 am 8/17)

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