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August 10, 2005

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» Able Danger:Is the Problem How We Got Atta's Name? from Decision '08
I must confess that the Able Danger/Mohammed Atta story has, like the Plamegate scandal, so many threads to follow that I find it difficult isolating the significant facts, times, documents, etc., so as a public service to those who may be similarly ... [Read More]

» When I’m wrong, I’m wrong… from The Anchoress
When I blow it, I know it! Yes, I am taking the day off, but not until I correct my own post from yesterday where I had, it is now clear, quite the wrong impression about something. I wrote: I guess that “the paper of record” is going to get awa... [Read More]

Comments

kim

You really have to wonder, though it's far-fetched, if this is what Berger risked shame to conceal.
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AJStrata

Tom,

I can speculate on why Atta was not mentioned earlier. I think Weldon was trying to get attention without tipping some classified material. The fact Atta was ID through data mining is probably classified (or should have been). It may have been declassified as time wore on and the need to get back to this powerful analysis method became evident.

Data mining is not new, but the use of it on open domain information pertaining to citizens is a very, very serious subject. It is one of a few that could light an anti-patriot act fire in me. Not saying it would, but it could. Data mining is imprecise, and it could easily do a false positive on an innocent person.

Your skepticism is admirable. I doubt it will hold up to the fact we now have evidence we could have stopped 9-11 to a great degree.

kim

Isn't another name for it 'Total Information Management'?
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Black jack

Yet another clear example our intelligence gathering operations in the field were in fact doing the job, locating and identifying threats, but higher ups in the Clinton Justice Department obstructed and prevented information flows among security agencies.

Responsibility for failing to prevent 9/11 falls on Bill Clinton, Janet Reno, and especially on Jamie Gorlick and her "firewall memo." The efforts of these people ensured the terrorists were allowed to operate without hindrance from investigative and law enforcement agencies.

TexasToast

Projects like this remind me of the false positive problem inherent in "data mining", profiling etc.

"Average" is tricky. I don't think it means what most people think it means. The average of two shots from a gun - one a foot ahead of the rabbet and one a foot behind the rabbit results in a twice dead rabbit.

TM

The fact Atta was ID through data mining is probably classified (or should have been).

Good point.

But he says (in 2005) that Atta is on the chart, and the chart was on display at the Heritage. Well, that's not a problem that a bit of white-out (TM) can't solve.

cathyf

This is just a matter of curiosity, but we've got a couple of numbers here I'd like to see tied-out (to use a bookkeeping term).

5 cells, one of which, the "Brooklyn Cell" included Atta.

19 hijackers who died on 9/11 (plus the 20th who we think we've got in Gitmo.)

So...

How many of the other 19 were in one of those 5 cells? Knowing this info would go a long way towards telling us just how significant this "pickup" was.

Of the members of the 5 cells not among the 20 hijackers, what has happened to them? Are they still out there? Did we kill or capture any in Afghanistan or Iraq since 9/11? Do we have any more intelligence on them lately?

The whole "20-20 hindsight" thing is a big danger here. It's really easy to claim that intel should have recognized the significance of these particular guys in the huge deluge which is raw intelligence data, but we really should be asking how many false positives (completely innocent people identified as terrorists) Able Danger picked up before pointing too many fingers.

cathy :-)

Mackenzie

If there really was actionable intelligence that was not shared, then presumably any real or imagined legal obstacles to such sharing no longer exist. But can we be certain that such intelligence would now be actually shared? Or would it now be:
(a) still withheld for bureaucratic reasons or the fear of revealing sources? or
(b) passed up to the office of the Director of National Intelligence but become lost in the volume of reports requiring coordination, analysis and possible further action?

boris

The state of awareness before 911 was such that any team of suitably trained suicide terrorists could take over an airliner using simple weapons, kill the crew and fly it into a building. The change in that state of awareness occured on flight 93.

The 911 attack was based on that state of awareness and probably could have adapted to any minor security alterations or glitches so I don't think this info would have made the difference. But ...

It certainly puts lie to the notion that disasterous negligence began with W's term.

craig henry

Tex and Cathy really have homed in on the critical piece of missing information: how many people in total did Able Danger flag as al Qaeda suspects.

Forbes

Oiw, Don't confuse "identified with al Qaeda" cells as necessarily the 9/11 hijackers. Most--not all--of the 9/11 hijackers (the muscle hijackers) came into the US during April to June of 2001. So they don't qualify as being known a year before. See: "Ghost Wars" by Steve Coll, and the 9/11 Commission report. The team leaders that received pilot training were all here at some point in 2000. Sympathizers providing some forms of assistance were found in San Diego, LA, Arizona, MD, NJ, NY, VA, and Florida, and could by varying definition be considered cells. Also note that terrorist convictions have occurred in Lackawana, Portland, Detroit, and elsewhere(?), so much of this reporting may be redundant, including the idea that domestic terror investigators not talk to criminal investigators.

I might note that the Congressman has a book out that presumably discusses some of this, so his promotional tour has made it to the front page of the NYTimes. PR job well done!


kim

Besides Gorelick's stymie, who was a power in Clinton's intelligence apparati who could put the fear of God in Special Forces lawyers? Who were these lawyers anyway, and to whom did they answer?
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j.foster

forbes good points . but it could come down to be a lesser pr move compared to the commisions.

Lurking Observer

Forbes:

Part of the problem is that you're relying on the 9-11 Commission Report to test the veracity and utility of these new revelations. But that same report is suspect, based on this same new information, b/c the question is just what kinds of data, information, etc., were disregarded by the 9-11 Commission in its rush to the printers and apparent conclusons that some sources (e.g., Able Danger) just weren't credible to warrant inclusion.

kim

One wonders why the same lpowers who sent the last minute officer to the commission took a year to enlist political support.
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Forbes

Lurking: Yes, and I agree with your point. I mostly focused on the timeframe for the muscle hijackers--that arrived here in the late stages of the planning for 9/11--so as to make clear the possibility that the "al Qaeda cells" and the "9/11 teams" were more likely overlapping, rather than one in the same. One of the hijack pilots, Hani Hanjour, had been in and out of the US multiple times, apparently, since 1991. (And I also rely on "Ghost Wars" which was seperately reported and does not itself rely upon the 9/11 Commission.)

And if I can extrapolate from your comments, there is/was a risk in elevating the 9/11 Commission to the status of "all knowing and all seeing" (even more so after these recent revelations) as to fact finding, conclusions, and recommendations.

Hollandsig

My one burning question for you all to PONDER; why was the Intel disregarded that the "ABLE DANGER" Military Intelligence Group provided?
Was it simply because they are Military? All of you had better realize that the Military are your best trained in the on the dirt intelligence gathering.

I know - I have been there and done that. It is a fact a lot of your politicians like dandy Sandy Berger got where they are because of their Educations and political arm twisting my friends, but they have not been in the real twilight of death and destruction and real arm breaking where it is really needed to get the real intelligence. Pooh-pooh those remarks if you will as Politically Incorrect! Life is life - but death is forever!
Read the following on-line very rare book that was written in 1936 reference the Philippines. This book is part of a selection of rare Filipiniana books which have long been out of print and are no longer available. "As an account of the campaign of the American-led Philippine Constabulary (created in 1901 as an adjunct of the US occupation army, which was then besieged by popular resistance), this book takes the point of view of the colonial authorities on the various movements struggling for independence and for other social causes. It lumps together all resistance movements as the acts of bandits, savages, and crackpots.
But Vic Hurley's accounts, read from the Filipino vantage point, can give us new insights and new attitudes towards those 'primitive' Filipino rebels. Despite the colonial bias of this book, students of the people's struggle for freedom and justice will gain from its pages many glimpses of the creativity and tenacity of Filipino resistance". Titled: JUNGLE PATROL http://www.bakbakan.com/junglep.html This book is eerily paralleled to what we have going on now in IRAQ with the MUSLIM INSURRECTION there and all over the Middle East. You read this book and maybe just maybe you all will realize there is more going on here than OIL RESERVES and GASOLINE.

The 9/11 Commission staff intentionally overlooked the "ABLE DANGER" report, as had the Clinton Security People… they did not allow it to get into the hands of the FBI, and if had the FBI would not have known what to do with the information, for they had been neutered.

kim

So tell me the eerie parallels. Are these like the canals on Mars, subject to variable interpretation?
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house

If anyone has seen the Jonas presentation (at SRI) that ties most of the hijackers together through the use of mining data within public and private databases, it gives you some idea how this is done.
Despite Tenet's and Mueller's testimony to Congress, that presentation show's Atta's and other hijackers poor tradecraft (many using similar telephone, street address and frequent flyer numbers across cells for air and car reservations). In addition, Al Midhar was making calls to an AQ logistics facility in Yemen from LA in early 2000, and the NSA knew these calls originated from the U.S...in the 911 report, it states 'the FBI, after 9/11,traced these calls to Midhar'.
Surely, the NSA knew where the calls originated.
We still don't know why this wasn't acted on...

house

sorry, that is SRD- 'Systems Research and Development'...the application Jeff Jonas' team developed is called NORA.

house

Of course, the seed that allows one to connect these dots is the knowledge that 2 suspected AQ terrorists had multiple entry US visas and entered the US(LA) in January of 2000. They were not watchlisted until a few weeks before 9/11.The fact is,CIA knew it, and blew it..they did not get them on the CAPS list, and it was their charge (not that the FBI isn't without fault in all this)
Still, without this tool in use prior to 9/11, they still might not have rolled up the operation, only elements of it.

kim

I about half suspect there are AQ-Saddam/Iraq calls that someone dare not release for feaer of exposing the capability. Clearly, the 9/11 attackers didn't suspect the sophistication of intelligence(on this matter), so why would Saddam or bin Laden?
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Thomas

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