[UPDATE: OK, the 9/11 Commission was
lying waiting for someone to jog their memory. More in a post to follow, but the Times has a new story for Thursday:
The Sept. 11 commission was warned by a uniformed military officer 10 days before issuing its final report that the account would be incomplete without reference to what he described as a secret military operation that by the summer of 2000 had identified as a potential threat the member of Al Qaeda who would lead the attacks more than a year later, commission officials said on Wednesday.
The officials said that the information had not been included in the report because aspects of the officer's account had sounded inconsistent with what the commission knew about that Qaeda member, Mohammed Atta, the plot's leader.
...The briefing by the military officer is the second known instance in which people on the commission's staff were told by members of the military team about the secret program, called Able Danger.
...Al Felzenberg, who served as the commission's chief spokesman, said earlier this week that staff members who were briefed about Able Danger at a first meeting, in October 2003, did not remember hearing anything about Mr. Atta or an American terrorist cell. On Wednesday, however, Mr. Felzenberg said the uniformed officer who briefed two staff members in July 2004 had indeed mentioned Mr. Atta.
The meeting, on July 12, 2004, has not been previously disclosed. That it occurred, and that the officer identified Mr. Atta there, were acknowledged by officials of the commission after the congressman, Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, provided information about it.
OK, our skepticism about Weldon needs to be dialed back a bit.]
As of Wednesday, the Times follows up on Tuesday's front-pager, giving us more info on the Pentagon's data-mining project called "Able Danger". The Times has certainly set off a scramble, if that was the goal. But we still wonder why Congressman Curt Weldon is telling us this now.
Laura Rozen provides a fascinating clue - Rep. Curt Weldon was describing the "Able Danger" project and showing part of its product - an organizational chart of Al Qaeda - back in 2002. Ms. Rozen links to a Heritage Foundation video; let me toss in this floor speech Weldon gave on May 21, 2002, which seems to be quite similar. And here is some press reaction (Fox News) from May 2002. (Oh, why not, here is Weldon's floor speech from June 2005 as well.)
Now, as we listen for non-barking dogs - in May 2002, Weldon says that the Pentagon identified five Al Qaeda cells in the US. However, he does *not* mention Mohammed Atta by name, nor is the phrase "Able Danger" mentioned.
By 2005, Atta is described as appearing on the Al Qaeda org chart. Why the evolution in Weldon's presentation? I would have thought that Atta's name was highly significant in May 2002. [Ahh, but was the fact that we gleaned it through data-mining still classified? Good point! And we thank AJ Strata, who lays out the possible Clinton/Berger conspiracy and has an update.]
Mickey has good background on the data-mining tussle and the policy implications.
The Captain tells us that the existence of "Able Danger" has been confirmed - I certainly agree that some team must have doing something - we have reporters telling us about documents and 9/11 staffers admitting to having been briefed. And I am wide open to the possibility of a bipartisan cover-up, or a Pentagon cover-up, or a Clinton/Berger cover-up.
An excerpt from Weldon's 2002 speech appears after the break:
UPDATE: More raw material - Weldon mentioned "Able Danger" in passing on Meet The Press, June 12, 2005, while discussing his new book. That was two weeks before his House floor speech, and Atta went unmentioned. OK, the subject was CIA credibility, but I find this to be puzzling. Although I bury the lede all the time.
Congressional Record: May 21, 2002 (House)
Curt Weldon speaking:
...Mr. Speaker, here is the chart, the unclassified chart of what special forces command had 1 year before 9-11. Interesting. The entire al Qaeda network is identified in a graphic chart with all the linkages to all the terrorist groups around the world.
In fact, Mr. Speaker, I was told by the folks who developed the capability for special forces command that this chart and the briefing that was supposed to be given to General Shelton, Chairman of our Joint Chiefs, had a recommendation to take out 5 cells of bin Laden's network. Mr. Speaker, this was 1 year before 9-11. This was not during President Bush's administration. This occurred in the fall of the remaining term of President Bill Clinton.
The key question I have been trying to get at is why was this 3-hour briefing, which I also got, I got General Holland to bring his briefers up from Florida with special forces, I went in the Pentagon, went in the tank, and they gave me the briefing, as much as they could give me, because part of it is being used for our operational plan, why was that 3-hour briefing with the recommendations to take out 5 cells of bin Laden's network condensed down to a 1-hour brief when it was given to General Hugh Shelton in January of 2001? And why were the recommendations to take out 5 cells not followed up on? That is the question we should get answered, Mr. Speaker.
Because 1 year before 9-11, the capability that special forces built actually identified to us the network of al Qaeda. And they went beyond that and gave us recommendations where we could take out cells to eliminate their capability. So for those pundits out there sitting in their armchairs criticizing President Bush, they have it all wrong.
Facts are a tough thing to refute, and the fact is that back in 1997, we told the administration at that time what to do. In 1998, we briefed the agencies. In 1999, we put language in a defense bill. In 2000, we
put language in a defense bill. In 2000, special forces command built another mini version of that capability. And in 2000 they briefed General Shelton telling him to take out 5 cells of bin Laden's network.
All of that activity could have prevented or helped to prevent 9-11 from ever occurring. I challenge my colleagues, Mr. Speaker, to review the facts. I challenge the media to report the truth.