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September 01, 2005

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TM

The Pentagon held a press briefing on Able Danger today, and the Associated Press was there:

Pentagon Finds More Who Recall Atta Intel

By ROBERT BURNS

The Associated Press
Thursday, September 1, 2005; 5:06 PM

WASHINGTON -- Pentagon officials said Thursday they have found three more people who recall an intelligence chart that identified Sept. 11 mastermind Mohamed Atta as a terrorist one year before the attacks on New York and Washington. But they have been unable to find the chart or other evidence that it existed.

All eyes turn to Stephen Hadley, who may have received a copy of the chart from Congressman Weldon immediately after 9/11.

Last month, two military officers, Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and Navy Capt. Scott Philpott, went public with claims that a secret unit code-named Able Danger used data mining _ searching large amounts of data for patterns _ to identify Atta in 2000. Shaffer has said three other Sept. 11 hijackers also were identified.


In
recent days Pentagon officials have said they could not yet verify or
disprove the assertions by Shaffer and Philpott. On Thursday, 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; the other person recalled only a reference to his name.

The intelligence officials said they consider the five people to be credible but their recollections are still unverified.

"To date, we have not identified the chart," said Pat Downs, a senior policy analyst in the office of the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. "We have identified a similar chart but it does not contain the photo of Mohamed Atta or a reference to him or a reference to the other (9/11) hijackers."

She said more interviews would be conducted, but the search of official documents is finished.

A "similar" chart?  All eyes turn away from Hadley, and back to the Pentagon - just what was on this "similar" chart, who produced it, where did the Pentagon find it, and did any of the folks who remembered a chart remember this one, too?

And let's review - Shaffer did not remember seeing Atta on the chart prior to 9/11 - after 9/11, someone jogged his memory.  Do these other folks think Atta was on the chart before or after 9/11?  The obvious answer would be "before", since Able Danger was shut down in early 2001.  OTOH, a colleague might have reminded them, post 9/11, about the Atta chart.  Eventually, the transcript should appear here, and we will see if this was covered.

And where are the documents relating to Able Danger?

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.

Navy Cmdr. Christopher Chope, of the Center for Special Operations at U.S. Special Operations Command, said there were "negative indications" that anyone ever ordered the destruction of Able Danger documents, other than the materials that were routinely required to be destroyed under existing regulations.

OK, what does "materials that were routinely required to be destroyed under existing regulations" mean?  Is there some record of Able Danger documents having been destroyed routinely?  I am having a hard time believing that we can't learn more about the program than this.

Chope said there is no evidence that military lawyers blocked the sharing of Able Danger information with the FBI.

That may conflict with the reports from Sen. Specter, who seems to be confirming that meetings with the FBI were scheduled and cancelled.  A possible answer - some non-military lawyers blocked the meeting - I'll nominate OIPR of the DoJ.

And here is a baffling wrinkle - per the Pentagon, Able Danger did not target individuals, and Phillpott was the "team leader":

Chope also said the nature of Able Danger has been misrepresented in some news stories. He said it was created as a result of a directive in early October 1999 by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to U.S. Special Operations Command to develop a campaign plan against transnational terrorism, "specifically al-Qaida."

He called it an internal working group with a core of 10 staffers at Special Operations Command. Philpott was the "team leader," he said. "Able Danger was never a military unit," and it never targeted individual terrorists, he said. It went out of existence when the planning effort was finished in early 2001, he said.

Well, the team leader ought to be able to address this.

Larry

Unless things have changed, destruction of classified documents must be documented. Don't let them off the hook that easy.

AJStrata

Tom, I did try and send you an email on this!

You saw the same things I did.

Cheers, AJStrata

BK

How do I contact Tom Burns regarding this?

Re:where are the documents relating to Able Danger?

I have a chart that shows a picture of Atta as an al Qaeda operative with other terrorist pictured in a timeline that dates back to 1999.

I got the chart on Jan 4, 2004. The company that created it says it “shows either real-world events obtained from external sources believed to be accurate; or fictional events... and may not be relied upon as a claim of any kind.” A typical disclaimer.

But, one has to wonder about what it implies.

Thank you, BK

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