US Government Secrets: En-Abling Danger
Here's a story which could have some "legs". Seems the US military had a secret group called Able Danger which asked the FBI to keep an eye on some of the 9/11 hijackers way, way back in September 2000. One of the men identified is 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta.
Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA) has actually raised this issue before but the story was ignored because Weldon has a reputation as a loud-mouthed media whore. Here's his "money quote" this time around:
"In fact, I'll tell you how stupid it was. They put stickies on the faces of Mohamed Atta on the chart that the military intelligence unit had completed and they said you can't talk to Atta because he's here on a green card," Weldon said.So why did the 9/11 commision not include this in their report? From WaPo:
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the 9/11 commission looked into the matter during its investigation into government missteps leading to the attacks and chose not to include it in the final report.Here's some more intriguing analysis from Eric Umansky at Slate:
Al Felzenberg, a spokesman for the 9/11 Commission, confirmed that the panel's investigators had been aware of Able Danger but said they "don't recall any mention of Mohammed Atta" or of cell.
This is the first time the story has hit the big time, but it's been around for at least a few months. As the Times mentions, Weldon actually spoke about the whole deal publicly back in June in a "speech on the House floor." The allegations were picked up only in Weldon's local paper and then recently in more depth by an industry magazine. Presumably, there are only two explanations for this: 1) Other reporters just blew it and didn't notice. 2) They did notice but didn't buy it.So what's going on here? Perhaps the issue being ignored (or covered up) here is that the Able Danger operation was covert and presumably ILLEGAL. And the data-mining techniques they were using at the time (pre-Patriot Act) were also presumably illegal. Perhaps that's the real reason why no action was taken, and the reason why the 9/11 Commission didn't want to touch it?
Which brings us to the next wrinkle: As the Times mentions in passing, Weldon has a reputation for relying on iffy sources. He recently wrote a much-panned book alleging all sorts of Iranian plots, including that Tehran is hosting Bin Laden. The book relied on one source - a source one CIA official told the Times "was a waste of my time and resources." A "fabricator" recalled another former spook. (The American Prospect has more on Weldon's source troubles.)
As for the former unnamed defense official, he talked to the NYT while "in Mr. Weldon's office." And given the allegations being made, the Times offers a loopy explanation for why the former official isn't named: "He did not want to jeopardize political support and the possible financing for future data-mining operations by speaking publicly." (If his accusations are true, how would his being named undercut future data-mining efforts?)
It's a tragedy that the FBI did not follow up on the lead, or at least monitor the men more carefully over the following year. And although this error MAY have occured on Clinton's watch (I don't really care) it's a tragedy that Bush ignored Clinton's warning to make Al Quaeda his #1 priority when he came to office.
But beyond all that, if the US government has been engaging in illegal activity and then covering it up - even in the 9/11 Commission findings - the public has a right to know (it certainly wouldn't be the first time, would it?).
So when exactly was the FBI informed of this information and who exactly decided to bin it, and why? And why did the 9/11 Commision not even mention this important information in their report - were they under pressure not to embarrass the government any further? And why - oh, why? - did the press not give this story the attention it seemingly deserved at the time?