I spent several hours following the hearings today and will attempt to summarize some of the more interesting aspects. Here are my rough notes:
Curt Weldon's opening comments:
- Able Danger existed in 1999. It amassed a tremendous amount of data on Al Qaeda up until 2001, when it was disbanded.
- 5 individuals who worked on Able Danger have voluntarily agreed to testify and are risking their careers to do so.
- DoD is actively preventing them from testifying and 2 days ago completely revoked Lt. Col Shaffer's security clearance (up till then it had been suspended).
- DoD is engaged currently in "denial, deception, threats, character assassinations, and now silence" trying to prevent this information from being discussed
- DoD never conducted an official, formal investigation about the Able Danger allegations
-per Weldon: AD was never "one photo or one chart" but a massive compilation of data that amounted to one quarter of the amount of data in the Library of Congress(several terrabytes).
- when the Able Danger documents and data were destroyed in March, 2000, it was done without the knowledge of the customer of the data (General Lambert) who was not informed of the destruction until after the fact and was furious.
- Weldon attempted to get all the information on Able Danger that he had to the 9/11 Commisssion and provided them with all the material; even including questions that he would like them to ask witnesses. None of the material he provided to the Commission was used; none of his questions were asked.
- Weldon states that it was a 9/11 Commission member (unnamed) who encouraged him (Weldon) to pursue the AD story, and claimed that the Commission was never briefed on any of the information Weldon turned over to staff.
- Weldon was at a loss to explain why there would be a cover-up. The Army was under pressure to shut down AD because of concerns that it had overstepped its bounds/authority and that the names of US citizens were being used inappropriately. However, Weldon notes that EVERYTHING that AD ccame up with was information within the public domain. The Democrats and Republicans both use similar data about American citizens--e.g., "votesmart" for voter ID purposes--so why can't such info be used to track terrorists? How did the concerns justify destroying all the data?
-he wondered, in fact, what information was kept; since information from AD was used in a briefing in January, 2001.
- Why is the DoD so focused on this information not coming forward?
- Why did the 9/11 Commission not get briefed?
- Is someone trying to protect the Clinton Administration? the Bush Administration? or was this just normal Washington D.C. CYA operations?
- The photo of Atta used by AD was pruchased from a contractor in California and was a source separate from the US government. Hence, the 9/11 Commission's point that they couldn't possibly have a photo of Atta in 99-2000 is incorrect.
- 2 weeks after 9/11 Weldon took a reproduction of the chart (with Atta) from AD to Deputy NSA Hadley, who said, " I've got to show this to the man" --referring to POTUS.
-The charts of AD were charts of the world-wide AQ organization and cells with link analysis. They included the organization and activity of all known AQ operatives. They had identified 5 key cells world-wide, including a cell in Brooklyn from info garnered from 1st WTC attack; Sheik Rahman; other terrorist attacks/activities, including the USS Cole bombing.
- The charts were prepared by Orion Corporation and also included many charts on Chinese proliferation; drug cartels; operations in Russia--as well as the AQ information.
MARK ZAID next testified. He is a lawyer and surrogate speaker for several of the witnesses who had been scheduled to appear but were being prevented from testifying by the DoD.
- summarized again the AD timeline and emphasized that they searched and compiled public data.
- emphasized that AD did not identify Atta as "present in the US" or specifically identify the WTC plot
- In 2003 Lt. Col. Shaffer met with 9/11 Commission staff in Afghanistan and briefed them on AD. He assumed he would talk to them again. However, the DoD did not support Shaffer's information and the 9/11 Commission staff never talked to Shaffer again. Unknown to Dod was the fact that Shaffer had, in 2004, some of the charts that they had thought were destroyed.
-Shaffer's security clearance was suspended when he brought up Ad earlier; but it was revoked 2 days prior to these hearings
- Zaid wondered what the current locations of the other terrorists on the chart with Atta were
****SPECULATION**** This point leapt out at me as the possible explanation of why the DoD is currently so aggressively trying to shut down exposure of Able Danger. What if we are actively tracking and/or following other people who were on that chart, and that any revelations about that information would be a tip-off and interfere with ongoing intelligence operations? ***END SPECULATION****
The next person to testify was ERIK KLEINSMITH a former Army Major; now an employee for Lockheed-Martin. In March 99 - Feb 2001 he was in Army Intel.
- worked with all the members of the AD team and feel they are credible
- AD collected an immense amount of data on AQ but in April, 2000 quite abruptly there was "constricted" support for AD activities and it was shut down.
- he was ordered to destroy all analytic data and charts not already turned over to other agencies
- he deleted the data himself; classified and unclassified; charts produced by AD and Orion; soft and hard copies
-Everything was deleted - summary: all info on the worldwide perspective of AQ, including operations in the US
- this was done in May/June 2000 and ordered by Tony Gentry at INSCOM (?) per Army Regulation 381-10 relating to Army intelligence oversight regulations on no more than 90 day retention of data of American citizens.
- Kleinsmith was told he would delete this data or go to jail
- Kleinsmith believed he was following Army regulations and DoD regulations -knew nothing or heard nothing about Posse Comitatus
- He thinks that all the legal memos that existed regarding retention of data on American citizens should be examined. Discussion about how the Army provided information that assisted the FBI in Waco; and how the Army was severely criticized for this action. Some of the questioners wondered if the Army Regulations were now being TOO zealously applied.
- Bottom-line is that Kleinsmith believes that if AD had not been shut down, there might have been more of a warning about 9/11 --perhaps not prevented, but more of a warning beforehand.
- Lt. Col Shaffer had separate files at the DIA with AD data that were not destroyed by Kleinsmith. But, in 2004, when Able Danger surfaced again and Schaeffer's security clearance was suspended, DIA destroyed those files. WHY?
- bottom-line: unbleievable prohibitions on information sharing
ZAID then made some comments about another individual who was not permitted to testify himself (Mr. Smith, who used to work for Orion):
- In March, 2000 or thereabouts; armed federal agents came to Orion Corporation to confiscate all data from Able Danger. Smith had some of the data in the trunk of his car (since it was unclassified) and that is the only reason it was preserved (presumably some of the charts, etc.)
- Smith had one of the charts on his wall with the picture of Atta purchased from the CA contractor, which he would point out to many after 9/11. That chart was inadvertantly destroyed when it was taken off the wall where it had been taped for 3 years.
From my perspective, listening to this testimony, it seemed that someone or some group went to a considerable effort to destroy all evidence of Able Danger in mid-2000. When it resurfaced again in 2004; similar attempts to suppress and destroy informtion were immediately implemented.
Folks, this is serious stuff. What is it about the information collected by Able Danger that is so dangerous that such extreme steps were and are being taken to supress the information they collected?
I watched these hearings on a Webcast from a US government site. They were not on TV that I could find.
UPDATE: I have been digesting this information for a few hours now, and here are some of my conclusions.
First, the initial attempt to destroy ABLE DANGER DOCUMENTS occurred in mid-2000, long before the 9/11 attacks. So the destruction of this data was not based on an attempt to "cover-up" malfeasance related to 9/11. It seems to me that there are two possible reasons for the aggressive shutdown of this program:
--- The April, 1993 Waco, Texas incident between the Branch Dividians and the FBI is interestingly mentioned by one of the witnesses. This event led to severe criticism of the Army and its sharing of information with the FBI. This in turn may have led to a hardening of "The Wall" that was being set up between intelligence services and the resultant severe prohibitions on information sharing. It is possible that the destruction of the Able Danger data was a result of this overly aggressive oversight and prosecution of rules and memos related to sharing of information.
---A second plausable reason for the termination of Able Danger is that it was in the NON-AL QAEDA data mining that they unearthed something sensitive that was of such a compromising nature (presumably to someone in the Clinton Administration)) that all of Able Danger was shut down to destroy this information. Possibilities include material relating to China, Russia or International Drug Cartels--or other areas. In this scenario, there would have been a "CYA" motivation.
Now, the second attempt to suppress information related to Able Danger occurred in mid to late 2004 and continues through today. Possible reasons are:
---First, one cannot help but think that the existence of the "Wall" preventing intelligences sharing was a key ingredient in preventing connecting the dots of 9/11. That the main architect of the Wall in both the DoD when she was there; and in the Department of Justice later, on was 9/11 Commission member Jamie Gorelick is pertinent. Was there an attempt on the part of 9/11 Commission members and/or staff to protect one of its members? Were there attempts on the part of members of the Clinton Administration to cover-up this important information (Berger's activities in the National Archives to name one).
---Even if the above were true, it doesn't even begin to explain the actions of the DoD toward Lt. Col Shaffer and other members of Able Danger. It seems clear that they have thrown everything in the way of letting this information out and into the public arena. Why? I refer back to my speculation alert in the body of the post. If those charts contained as much information as Weldon and the others contend, then the other names on that list must (or should) be under active investigation. Leakage of the names in the charts and links could compromise those investigations. This would be a significant enough item to aggressively pursue what would otherwise appear to be a suicidal course by the DoD and the Bush Administration regarding this information. But, if that is the case, why not a quiet word spoken in the ear of a few key people to back off? I don't know, and I can't answer that. But, if there are lives on the line, then I would imagine that the DoD would try everything in its power to keep this information quiet.
The above is a positive explanation for the bizarre behavior of the DoD with regard to Able Danger, Shaffer, Smith and the others.
---The negative explanation is that there are people in the DoD from either or both the previous administration and the current one-- who do not want this information to be released for reasons unknown, but presumably because those reasons will reflect badly on them (in other words a CYA maneuver).
---Finally,and more benignly, it could just be the passive,knee-jerk resistance of an incompetent, bureaucratic and large government agency when preseed for any information by anyone. But, it seems excessive for this explanation to be correct.
So there may be two completely separate reasons why Able Danger and its data was terminated in 2000; and why now the information which survived the 2000 purge is still being suppressed.
I'd welcome other's thoughts on this. ( 1:44 pm 9/21/05)
UPDATE II: Welcome Michelle Malkin Readers! Here are two previous and related posts on Able Danger:
A Motive For Berger's Bizarre Behavior
Berger and Able Danger Speculation, Part II
Also check out AJ Strata and Captain Ed for regular updates.
UPDATE III: Full transcripts are posted here of all the testimony. Just One Minute speculates on the Pentagon's behavior. Also, when there is secrecy like this, it can lead to all sorts of speculation--for example, this post discusses some of the theories connecting Oklahoma City; Tim McVeigh and connections to Iraq. Make of it what you will.
UPDATE IV: According to Fox News' Catherine Herrige, Secretary Rumsfeld offered to give the Committee a closed briefing but his option was declined by Committee Chair Specter. Not sure what to make of this, but it suggests that there are national security reasons not to have all of Able Danger public. This may go along with my earlier speculation alert.
UPDATE V: Andy McCarthy at The Corner has some interesting thoughts about today's hearings.