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August 25, 2005

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AJStrata

I agree 100%. I go back to my initial descriptiono of Able Danger as a pilot program that got lucky. In many ways it was supporting existing intel through the data mining of public domain information. What is possible here is that everyone dismissed it because it was backing up existing information. And maybe the issue here is they detected Atta coming in to the US, but were rebuffed because they were a demonstration system which was not validated or proven.

The mindset in the government is truly one of ignore new ideas until they are proven because everyone has been burned by a supposedly great new idea that bombed and made them look naive or foolish. It is not unreasonable to have this hesitancy. My guess is their were honestly reached judgements, for the times, that look really bad in the light of hind sight.

Enough speculation, hopefully more details will come out soon.

Captain Ed

Well, let's remember that the Commissioners were the ones who claimed that Phillpott's data conflicted with their timeline for Atta's entry into the US. That wasn't conjecture on our part. If that's not the case, then it calls their reluctance to include Able Danger in the report into even further question -- why not bolster their evidentiary chain with Phillpott's testimony? Because then they would have to also include that American intel identified Atta as a potential threat over a year before the attack.

The willful refusal to report on Able Danger still is the central problem with the Commission's credibility, on this point as well as other information they missed.

kim

Like I say, let's not put Gorelick and Zelikow down to lead the national discussion on privacy vs public order. Perhaps they fall down too hard on the side of privacy, at least their own.
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MaDr

Unfortunately, we don't know exactly what Phillpott "explained" to the Commission. We do know Staffers listened through their filter/prism (don't most/all humans), then wrote a report (which we haven't seen). We do have the Commission's latest statement, linked above, which relies heavily on this earlier report, and probably just a dash omission and wordsmithing (CYA).

The only hope of ever getting to the bottom of this is for a House investigation. Not the Senate - it'd look/act to much like the 9/11 Commission(ers).

cathyf

Weldon and Shaffer were pretty specific that Able Danger had identified the Atta+3 cell in Brooklyn. Wasn't Atta in Florida after he entered the country in June?

...they detected Atta coming in to the US, but were rebuffed because they were a demonstration system which was not validated or proven.
The mindset in the government is truly one of ignore new ideas until they are proven because everyone has been burned by a supposedly great new idea that bombed and made them look naive or foolish. It is not unreasonable to have this hesitancy.

Fair enough. But Able Danger was the prototype for TIA, and TIA was killed in 2003. If AD identified Atta+3 in Jan, 2000, then that (should!) totally change the judgement that data mining is "unproven." It's one thing to say that we didn't go with the info in 2000 because the system was unproven; it is quite another to leave TIA dead in 2005 because the 9/11 Commission is covering up the evidence about the effectiveness of data mining.

cathy :-)

Black Jack

Atta was trained in terrorism and spycraft. For him to be able to move about from place to place, or from country to country, was an essential prerequisite of his trade. For second guessers to claim he couldn't possibly be in one place or another is to ignore the man's training and abilities. We are well advised to forgo declarative statements on where he "had to have been" and to be guided by where he was seen and identified, and who he was known to have been with. We will gain a better understanding of the man and his movements if we stick with the facts and leave off with the silly speculation.

An example: Atta was identified in Prague meeting with Sadam's Intelligence Service, but since that would conflict with Leftist dogma -- the absolutely bizarre claim there is no connection between Iraq and Al Qaida -- that significant meeting is covered-up. We need to let the facts speak for themselves. The conclusions will then surface without undue confusion.

TexasToast

Atta was identified in Prague meeting with Sadam's Intelligence Service, but since that would conflict with Leftist dogma -- the absolutely bizarre claim there is no connection between Iraq and Al Qaida -- that significant meeting is covered-up. We need to let the facts speak for themselves. The conclusions will then surface without undue confusion.

You guys are working real hard to create some evidence, ANY evidence, to connect Saddam to AQ. Disproveing the negative (no meeting in prague, for instance)still doesn't prove that Saddam and AQ were partners in crime.

Further, I really don't think it will change anyone's mine about whether or not the war in Iraq was justified. If you beleave it was justified, Atta's meeting in prague doesnt really matter, now does it? If you think the Iraq war was a big mistake and distraction, Atta's meeting in Prague STILL doesn't really matter.

Its just a talking point - nothing more.

Lurking Observer

But TT, the point of the 9-11 Commission was not to justify or unjustify the Iraq War.

The point of the 9-11 Commission was to identify where the intelligence system failed, in order to try and remedy it.

Regardless of where one stands on Iraq, the point is whether Mohammed Atta was identified prior to 9-11, who did it, how and why.

For the sake of argument, let us assume that Atta did meet with Iraqi agents prior to 9-11. In terms of justifying the war with Iraq or not, you're right, it's marginal.

But imagine that folks, in the course of reviewing this, are sufficiently partisan to want to deny it happened. (The reverse, in which Atta didn't meet Iraqi agents, but folks want to prove he did works as well.)

Then there are deep issues at work within the intelligence community, to the point where a given policy decision is "fixing" the intelligence (to coin a phrase).

Do you really think it doesn't matter? If there were genuine proof that the Downing Street Memos reflected US intelligence handling, in which contrary evidence was not only ignored (which often happens in any organization) but suppressed, would you still say that it was no more than a talking point?

j.foster

this at least for me is not about the war. it's about information that was known about men who killed americans. also it's about the commisions cya for all involved. i don't fall for the head fakes ,it's about information that we deserve to know. lets get all of it out and correct the problem. if there is nothing there so what , at least this time we looked.

TM

On the Able Danger chart, "Brooklyn" was a state of mind, not a geographical location.

I assume that some of the "Brooklyn" cell was actually there, but computer linkages need not respect geopgraphy.

However, (Speculation Alert) that naming decision may have created a communication problem - most people, thinking that the Brooklyn cell ought to be in Brooklyn, will figure that Atta could not have qualified, and that Able Danger must have been blowing smoke.

But why Phillpott could not clarify this eludes me (unless I am all wet).

Forbes

Yeah, Toast, you're proving BlackJack's point by suggesting the confirmation of a piece of evidence leads to a preconceived conclusion.

Just as you accuse "you guys" of working to make ANY connection between AQ and Saddam, you're so heavily invested in denying such a connection that you use such fact-finding efforts as evidence of an ulterior motive in order to dismiss any inconvenient evidence turned up.

This isn't about the war in Iraq, it's about 9/11. Evidentiary leads should be followed wherever they go, but more importantly, they should all see the light of day. Evidence ignored because it doesn't fit a conclusion is no investigation at all.

Also, it isn't about blame-fixing, but about creating an institutional memory that facilitates the intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies to learn from their past mistakes--rather than building complex bureauacracies and tightly coupled hierarchies that are the building blocks of catastrophic failures.

TexasToast

LO

I agree with both you and Forbes that the point of the 9/11 commission was determining why the intelligence failure happened with a view towards adjustments in our intelligence apparatus. It was not to provide supporting evidence in furtherance of the administration’s Iraq policy – which seems to be the goal of the “Atta-miners” (to coin a phrase). Blackjack makes it clear that his goal is disproving “…the absolutely bizarre claim there is no connection between Iraq and Al Qaida”

The commission reached its conclusions – some folks didn’t like those conclusions, and it appears these folks believe the “wrong” conclusions can only be the result of malfeasance, partisanship or worse by the commission or its staff. That strikes me as wrong.

We still don’t know where this is going – but it looks less and less like a 9/11 commission problem.

boris

LO: For the sake of argument, let us assume that Atta did meet with Iraqi agents prior to 9-11. In terms of justifying the war with Iraq or not, you're right, it's marginal.

It's not marginal. The swing in support for removing Saddam given no WMD stockpiles is significant. It doesn't affect my support because leaving Saddam in power after the Gulf war was a big, obvious mistake and his time was long past due. But there are a lot who don't get the WOT unless there's a 911 connection.

TT: Blackjack makes it clear that his goal is disproving “…the absolutely bizarre claim there is no connection between Iraq and Al Qaida”

There were multiple connections between Saddam and terrorism, including Al Qaeda, but Atta support puts it in an entirely different category. Connection to 911.

The open question of Saddam's involvement with terror and 911 in addition to the ongoing violation of cease fire agreement and mass murder meant removal was of strategic value. Those claiming it was ignoble or even unnecessary are guilty of the kind of head in the sand thinking that led to 911.

But for them open debate on the subject is shouted down using the invalid logic that absence of proof is proof of absence. (And lying about the evidence to boot).

boris

It also occurs to me now that in hindsight most understand why it would have been better to take out Osama BEFORE 911. To claim then that we should wait for Saddam to do something just as bad is ... well ... idiocy.

Cecil Turner

"There were multiple connections between Saddam and terrorism, including Al Qaeda, but Atta support puts it in an entirely different category. Connection to 911."

More importantly, it'd make it much more likely that Iraq provided the post-9/11 anthrax. The threat of which (providing BW to terrorists . . . along with allegations of training Al Qaeda in chem/bio techniques) was the main reason for the Iraq war. The main failure of the 9/11 Commission was completely ignoring the anthrax mailings, largely invalidating its in-depth analysis of strategic threats.

syn

Boris
President Bush said the same thing in his State of the Union address.."we cannot wait until Saddam BECOMES an imminent threat"

Ambiorix

We also have to keep the Commission in its historical context.

Let's remember that its public hearing and the publication of its report were timed in prime time for the presidential election year. Any objective observer would have to recognize the anti-Bush tenor of the hearings, and of the leaks and the spin of report.

It is therefore understandable that the crediblity of the Commission is being questioned when every information the Commission disregarded ( or did not ivestigate) tend to exhonerate the Bush administration or gives support to his decision to include Iraq in the war on terror.

At this point, we need to discover all the points of information that were known (including all possibilities). Once all the dots are uncovered, then we can go about connecting them, cosidering all possibilities. This System will unveil what happened as well as what was known, when and by whom. The issue of what kept the proper authorities from realizing what was actually happening, will be evidently clear.

Only then can we address the way to correct/improve our intelligence system, and the assertion of blame.

But as long as we start we the pre-conceived desire of pinning the blame on somebody/some organization, or of protecting somebody/some organization from blame, we will never be able to discover all the dots.

So, let's discover all the dots and may the chips fall where they may!

AJStrata

TM,

On that brooklyn item. Somewhere in all those posts and links I have collected there was comment that 'brooklyn' referred to an ISP or server or something similar. It was not used to identify Atta in Brooklyn.

Cheers.

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Wilson/Plame