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August 26, 2005



You be green, I be stunned.

Need that scotch now.



aj-may i 2nd that .



The private contractors working for the counter-terrorism unit Able Danger lost their jobs in May 2000. The firings following a series of analyses that Pentagon lawyers feared were dangerously close to violating laws banning the military from spying on Americans, sources said.

The Pentagon canceled its contract with the private firm shortly after the analysts — who were working on identifying al Qaeda operatives — produced a particularly controversial chart on proliferation of sensitive technology to Chin, the sources said."

"It was shut down in a matter of hours. The colonel said our service was no longer needed and told me: 'You just ended my career.'"

They threw the baby out with the bath water.


Why would Able Danger be looking at NY and Rahman?

During the 9/11 Commission hearings, the contents were declassified of the PDB (Presidential Daily Briefing) of August 6, 2001, which stated:
"A clandestine source said in 1998 that a Bin Ladin cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks."

"We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [deleted] service in 1998 saying that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of "Blind Shaykh" Umar 'Abd al-Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists."


I believe Shaffer to be a credible witness. The Blogosphere is saying now that he is changing his story to say he tried to set up meetings with another agency other than the FBI. That is not what he is saying. He is simply stating that if the Commission and the Senate Staff want to get the informatio (data, records, etc.) they need to direct their inquiries to the people (Another Alphabet) that most likely possess them.

The FBI NEVER got any records from Able Danger. The meetings were all cancelled - by someone at one of the Alphabets. Shaffer was simply stating that the Specter sent the letter to the WRONG place! It does NOT mean that Shaffer did not tell them what he stated he told them. We DO NOT know whether Specter sent a second, third or multiple letters to various Classified Alphebets requesting data. All we know is that Specter requested the FBI to supply information. All he is going to get (if Shaffer is credible) is the information regarding the meetings that never occured.

Before we bury Shaffer, Philpot, etc. let's see what shakes out. In listening to Shaffer and reading transcripts of interviews, he has always been consistent. All he is saying is that someone other than the FBI (Another Alphabet) pulled the plug on the arranged meetings. That is consistent with what he has been saying all along.

Dafydd ab Hugh

Tom, I cc'ed you on some e-mail to Power Line.

I think you misunderstood Shaffer's complaint about the Specter letter. Shaffer is not claiming that it was some different agency other than the FBI that he attempted (unsuccessfully) to tell about the identification of an al-Qaeda terrorist cell in Brooklyn, a cell that included Mohammed Atta. Shaffer is saying that Specter is asking information from the wrong agency to find out about this.

Which should be fairly clear, as the whole point was that the DoD prevented the FBI from finding out the information. Thus, the FBI would of course have no idea at all about Able Danger or what they were or were not trying to tell the FBI.

The key is in the paragraphs directly above your quotation from the Norristown Times Herald. Right before the part you quoted, the article says the following:

The Pentagon's Office of General Counsel is ultimately responsible for legal decisions, [Shaffer] said, and he believes getting hold of the legal papers on "Able Danger" is paramount to resolving the controversy.

"If I could have one (set of) documents, I would ask for the lawyers' notes," he said.

In Specter's letter to the FBI director, the chairman requested Mangum's correspondence with Shaffer, who attempted to arrange meetings at the FBI, according to the letter. The document request asks for "e-mail communication, notes, phone message slips, memos or any other supporting documentation" relevant to "Able Danger."
The letter also requested an interview with Mangum.

In June, Shaffer said he tried to "broker" a working arrangement between Special Operations and the FBI for the operation, but the effort failed.

Then it continues where you pick it up:

After reading the letter Thursday, Shaffer said the text was at odds with what he told the committee. "They got it wrong," he said.

Shaffer claimed he directed the committee to ask for information from an agency other than the FBI, which he refused to identify for The Times Herald.

"This (request) isn't going to get (the committee) the information they're looking for," he said.

(All the emphasis above is added by me.)

I think it fairly clear from context that Shaffer is saying that the correct agency for the J-Com to contact is not the FBI -- who do not of course know what information Able Danger was not allowed to tell them -- but rather the DoD General Counsel (Jamie Gorelick's successor), and that is the agency Specter should pursue.

In particular, Special Agent Xanthig Mangum might not even have known that Shaffer was with Able Danger, if the project itself was classified at the time. And in any event, she could not have any idea what he was going to tell her if they had met. Neither would the FBI have any records of conversations that did not take place. All that would be with the DoD's General Counsel.

That is likely what Shaffer told Specter; and that is evidently the part Specter got wrong.



There seems to be some fire somewhere but there's a hell of a lot of smoke too. It also seems that many are leaping like lemmings to assumptions about conclusions and then when they pan out differently feeling they've been misled by changing stories.

Tracking from a less skeptical but conservative POV, the storylines from the original members hangs together pretty good. Reading between their lines leads folks astray, maybe understandable, but the reactive derision gets annoying at times.


James Smith worked on the China connection study, which was separate to the Al Qaeda study. I discussed the details and references in the second half (post tin hat fun) of this post



specter got something wrong ? but but according to scottish law .


OK, very good point that Shaffer wanted Specter to get info from some other group that blocked the meeting with the FBI.

And it answers a question I posed two posts ago, and promptly forgot:

Well. Shaffer's claim is that military lawyers advised him to cancel his meetings with the FBI. If the obstacle was that FBI lawyers were advising their military counterparts that the topic of the meeting was verboten, then, Specter might argue, this was an FBI problem which falls into his oversight area.

However, other than knowledge of an outline of the project and of a few cancelled meetings, the FBI ought not to know much about Able Danger. Still, every little bit helps.

So, read that way, Shaffer and I are on the same page - asking the FBI is a waste of time.

All that said - Shaffer met with Specter's people, and couldn't explain this to them?

I stand by my point that as a communicator, he is a bust.

Dafydd ab Hugh


I stand by my point that as a communicator, he is a bust.

Alternatively, Specter is not a good listener.

It's been my experience that a lot of bosses are so used to communication flowing from them to everybody else that they just don't listen (or read) with any real concentration. I don't know if Arlen Specter is that sort, but I wouldn't rule it out, either.

(That is one reason I like Bush so much, and why I grew to like Reagan -- in his second term, when I started to realize: Bush is, and Reagan was a very good listener. It's a rare talent, especially on Capitol Hill.)

Of course, both could be true: Shaffer could be a mediocre communicator, Spector could be a mediocre listener, and between the two of them, they lick the plate of incomprehension clean!



they lick the plate of incomprehension clean

Oh, no, I have gotten many scraps from that plate myself.


Actually, a third, obvious explanation finally occurs to me - regardless of what Specter's staff heard or wanted to do, they are Judiciary, and may not be able to fire off requests to agencies in the DoD.

So they asked the only people under their purview.

Ari Tai

re: data mining

Strange that just asking the China question would have been enough to shut them down. Certainly everyone knew that business and political contacts were multiplying daily during the Clinton years and "who's talking to whom" people networking maps would have had all kinds of powerful and influencial people listed.

There must be something else. Perhaps this is related to the Deutch - Summers shutting down economic spying (i.e. no such thing as secret financial transactions given "financial inducements" to clerks in every multinational bank) in the mid-90s. And how much one party depended on both above board (legal) and less-than-legal financing from individuals and businesses that suffer significant financial impact from U.S. laws, taxes and regulation.

It's been this way for a century, ever since we-the-people decided to regulate business (irrespective of location), it's too bad that the party dominated by lawyers didn't have the "character" to admit it (continue this type of data collection) and get on with life, trusting that their secrets would remain secret in these agencies. But if their policy was to move towards a law-enforcement model of world governance (where this type of behavior would be exposed as, say, the FBI was shown this type of data), then they had no choice but to shut it down.

Also known as the Greek definition of a tragedy, that which we do to ourselves, wittingly. As this becomes commonly understood, I think it means the dems will be kept out of power for a century, i.e. until the people forget, and their childrens' children no longer hear these stories as bed-time (im)morality tales.

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