"The Sept. 11 commission (search) did not learn of any U.S. government knowledge prior to 9/11 of surveillance of Mohammed Atta or of his cell," said Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana. "Had we learned of it obviously it would've been a major focus of our investigation."
Hamilton's remarks Tuesday followed findings by Rep. Curt Weldon (search), R-Pa., vice chairman of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees, that made front-page news.
In June, Weldon displayed charts on the floor of the U.S. Senate showing that Able Danger identified the suspected terrorists in 1999. The unit repeatedly asked for the information to be forwarded to the FBI but apparently to no avail. Various news outlets picked up on the story this week.
Weldon told FOX News on Wednesday that staff members of the Sept. 11 commission were briefed at least once by officials on Able Danger, but that he does not believe the message was sent to the panel members themselves. He also said some phone calls made by military officials with Able Danger to the commission staff went unreturned.
"Why weren't they briefed? Was there some deliberate attempt at the staff level of the 9/11 commission to steer the commissioners away from Able Danger because of where it might lead?" Weldon asked. "Why was there no mention of Able Danger?"
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Sept. 11 commission looked into the matter during its investigation of government missteps leading to the attacks and chose not to include it in the final report.
According to Weldon, Able Danger identified Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi (search), Khalid al-Mihdar (search) and Nawaf al-Hazmi (search) as members of a cell Able Danger code-named "Brooklyn" because of some loose connections to New York City.
Weldon said that in September 2000, the unit recommended on three separate occasions that its information on the hijackers be given to the FBI "so they could bring that cell in and take out the terrorists." However, Weldon said Pentagon lawyers rejected the recommendation, arguing that Atta and the others were in the country legally so information on them could not be shared with law enforcement.
"Lawyers within the administration — and we're talking about the Clinton administration, not the Bush administration — said 'you can't do it,'" and put post-its over Atta's face, Weldon said. "They said they were concerned about the political fallout that occurred after Waco ... and the Branch Davidians."
Of course, the first thing that lept to my mind was that, if true, this could possibly have been the motive behind former Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy "docs in his socks" Berger's inexplicable actions in removing classified documents at the National Archives at about the same time as the 9/11 Commission was reviewing documents associated with terrorism.
I know this is a loose association on my part, but it seems to me that if anyone in the Clinton adminsitration knew about Able Danger, it would have been Mr. Berger as National Security Advisor. A revelation that he was behind the decision not to allow military intelligence to pass on information to law enforcement officials about a terror cell that included Atta and other 9/11 murderers provides the first, possibly significant motive for Berger's bizarre behavior in spring of 2004. It would have to be something sensational like this to have made the Clinton official do something that egregiously antithetical to his professional reputation. His actions in stuffing documents into his clothing were those of a person in a state of panic, or high emotion (e.g. fear).
One other point. Berger's sentencing after he pleaded guilty was postponed from this July to September. Isn't it interesting that this new information is coming out in August?
I, for one, would like a lot more information about precisely what Berger was up to when he was caught removing documents from the Archive, particularly in light of this new information.
Maybe I'm just paranoid, but I would really like to know what Berger knew about Able Danger; and if he wrote a memo, or signed off on one, that specifically related to Able Danger; and that prevented the dissemination of information that might have led to the arrest of the 9/11 hijackers before they could carry out their plans. And, could that memo--or copies--have been in the National Archives?
It is, of course, unlikely in the extreme that it still exists after his foray into the archives.
UPDATE: Here is a timeline that I have quickly put together:
2002 - 9/11 Commission set up by Congress
March, 2003 - 9/11 Commission begins first hearings. One of its members is Jamie Gorelick, the person most responsible for the legal firewall between FBI/CIA and sharing intelligence information
Fall, 2003 - Briefing given to four 9/11 staff members by defense intelligence officials during an overseas trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia
Oct, 2003 - Sandy Berger observed by Archives staff removing documents
March, 2004 -Madeleine Albright testifies before 9/11 Commission, and defends the Clinton administration's handling of Al-Qaeda and terrorism
April, 2004 - Condi Rice testifies before 9/11 Commission; states that there was serious problem in sharing intelligence information prior to 9/11
May, 2004 - Berger testifies before the 9/11 Commission; completely overshadowed by the fact that Richard Clark and George Tenet also testified on the same day (testimony is here)
July, 2004 - Berger steps down as an advisor to the Kerry campaign after it is revealed that he was being investigated for removing classified documents from the National Archive
July, 2004 - 9/11 Commission report issued without any mention of the Able Danger information
April, 2005 - Berger pleads guilty to removing classified documents
July, 2005 - Berger's sentencing is delayed to September, 2005.
August, 2005 -News breaks about the existence of Able Danger and its ID of 9/11 hijackers in 1999 and attempts to pass this information to law enforcement
UPDATE II: The Strata-Sphere has a good post about Able Danger, Jamie Gorelick and 9/11
UPDATE III: I was interested to discover that Jamie Gorelick was not only deputy attorney general of the United States under Clinton, a position she assumed in March 1994 and held until 1997; but from May 1993 until she joined the Justice Department, Gorelick also served as general counsel of the Department of Defense. These dates are not relevant except possibly to point out that Gorelick was familiar with and worked in the DoD. She is someone else that I have wished the press were more curious about.
UPDATE IV: The Jawa Report has more information to consider. Also, a commentor at Roger Simon's blog asks, what's the point if Berger has destroyed all evidence? Well, we don't know that is the case. There may be evidence to disprove my theory; and there may still be documentation out there to prove it--if anyone is willing to look. (10:30 pm)
UPDATE V: I notice that the first report I cited from Fox states that DoD personnel briefed 9/11 staffers in the "fall of 2003" on Able Danger. However, in the NY Times this AM (here) there was a second briefing given to 9/11 staffers on July 12, 2004. That should be added to the timeline.(9:59 am, 8/11/05)