Dec 07 2005

Able Danger, Gen Shelton Speaks Up

Published by at 12:57 am under Able Danger/9-11,All General Discussions

Able Danger got a huge boost today when General Hugh Shelton confirmed he established the program:

Gen. Hugh Shelton, who was the military’s top commander during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, confirmed that four years before the tragedy he authorized a secret computer data-mining initiative to track down Osama bin Laden and operatives in the fugitive terrorist’s al-Qaida network.

Unfortunately the rest of the story requires registration at the site (which is free). In the story Weldon confirms he had two breifings on the matter, both before 9-11. Shelton does confirm my initial view of Able Danger, which I stated back on August 11 to be:

So I can envision this upstart, prototype data mining methodology being given the evil eye by the old guard. Why do you think the FBI and FAA computer systems belong in museums representing 1990 technology? Able Danger was a demonstration effort to show the power of data mining, therefore it was not supposed to actually be ‘operational’ – a conceptual state a system must attain through process and paperwork, not simply capability to produce results.

Here are Shelton’s recollection on Able Danger:

asked my successor to put together a small team, if he could, to try to use the Internet and start trying to see if there was any way that we could track down Osama bin Laden or where he was getting his money from or anything of that nature,” Shelton said Tuesday in an interview.
“It was just kind of an experiment,” Shelton said. “What can we do? So, he pulled together a bunch of really bright, computer-literate guys from across the services.”

Which is partially why it might have been dismissed. But since August I am now of the opinion the CIA pushed back because it was in Germany trying to turn people next to Atta and Co. and wanted the mole.

Much of the rest is simply confirmation of what is known in the blogosphere, with some detail added:

But under his direction, Shelton said, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, now Army chief of staff, set up a team of five to seven intelligence officers after Shelton was promoted to chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1997 and Schoomaker succeeded him as Special Operations commander.

Shelton says he doesn’t recall hearing Atta’s name, which is obvious since it then name would have been Mohamed el-Amir, not Mohamed Atta. Shelton doesn’t recall the charts eithert, but himself admits this doesn’t mean anything:

“Unless they had a big star by their names saying ‘potential 9/11 guy,’ then they (the names) wouldn’t jump out at you,” Shelton said.

Well, at least it was not a mirage as many on the commission initially claimed. In fact, all the Able Danger details have withstood the test of time.


Ed Morrissey caught something I missed in my late night, bleary-eyed reading of the article. From the article:

Shelton, though, said that a CIA representative and an FBI representative were present at the second briefing. And he said, “I know for a fact that I was told that they had been a part of the effort” to track al-Qaida through computer data-mining.

To which the good Captain adds:

That puts a much different light on the status of the program. Up to now, we’ve heard that the FBI knew nothing of AD and its efforts. Now we have the FBI attending high-level briefings on its progress. No one before this, to my knowledge, has shown any operational awareness of the program on the FBI’s part prior to the 9/11 attacks. Doesn’t that beg the question of why the FBI never followed up on AD and any information it might supply?

Very good points. Of course, that depends on when these meetings happened. My recollection (and I will check on this later) is Shelton’s second briefing was in Jan-March 2001 – after the purge of data in the spring of 2000 and the rebuff of a SOCOM-FBI meeting in late summer of 2000. Very curious indeed.


Seems the 9-11 commission members were all over the networks yesterday, and many were incredulous about Able Danger. The Able Danger Blog has the transcripts of all the events, but what is surprising is Ben-Veniste’s emotional tirade:

BEN-VENISTE: No. Able Danger is a distraction but ought to be investigated. We ought to have hearings on it. The American public ought to see what Able Danger was about, what it discovered, what it didn‘t discover, why it was shut down and what we ought to be looking at is what the Pentagon is doing in terms of the intrusiveness of its data mining programs: Son of Able Danger, Grandson of Able Danger, the Total Information Awareness Project.

The guy sounds absolutely frightened that Able Danger will get traction! He is so scared he is playing the chicken-little diversion ploy common in DC: “ignore the scandal, look over here at the end of freedom as we know it”.

If there ever was a tell that the democrats fear Able Danger, that was one unambiguous signal from Ben-Veniste. The man is so worried he has gone to ‘the government is spying on you’ conspiracy theory to try and lead the news media away from the real story. Fascinating.

8 responses so far

8 Responses to “Able Danger, Gen Shelton Speaks Up”

  1. mary mapes says:


    I have a theory on this as in regards to Bush Admin/Rummy on this. A few weeks ago Rummy was on FOX with Chris Wallace. Wallace asked Rummy. Notice here he corrects the year to an earlier time AND does not rule it out altogether. I suspect the Admin. is playing this carefully. MSM won’t become curious unless the Admin appears to be holding something too close. Once gets the MSM past protecting Clinton and thinks it may hurt Bush they will really start looking at the story. I was particularly interested Rummy went to years earlier.

    Here is the transcript

    “WALLACE: Finally, I want to ask you about something, and I must say, when I…

    RUMSFELD: This is a typical Washington game, isn’t it? You go around to everybody and say what about you, what about you, what about you. He’s really caused a stir. I was in Adelaide, Australia and I read something about this and was amused by it all.

    WALLACE: Well, so it’s not just Washington. But let me ask you one last thing. And I have to say, a lot of people wanted me to ask you about this. Able Danger, an intelligence unit in the Pentagon — did they or did they not identify Mohammed Atta and some of the other 9/11 hijackers in the year 2000?

    RUMSFELD: There are people that said they did. The year 2000 or earlier? I don’t remember when it was.

    WALLACE: No, the year 2000.

    RUMSFELD: Was it? I wasn’t in government at the time, obviously.

    WALLACE: Right.

    RUMSFELD: But there are some people who say that that’s the case. There are other people involved who say it isn’t. And the people in the Pentagon, I’m told, have spent just enormous numbers of hours digging into everything they can find and giving it to the appropriate committees of the Congress, and they have not been able to validate it.

    WALLACE: I don’t understand why it’s so complicated. I mean, people are — I mean, it’s a fact. Why wouldn’t you, as the secretary of defense, your people underneath you, be able to find out?

    RUMSFELD: They’ve looked and they — you can’t prove a negative. They’ve looked and looked and looked and looked and found everything they could find. Cannot find validation of that, which doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

    You say you don’t understand why it can’t be done. But you couldn’t do it either. You can’t prove a negative. All you can say is we’ve looked and looked and looked. We can’t say it didn’t happen, but we also don’t have evidence that it did.”,2933,176148,00.html

  2. Able Danger – General Shelton Speaks – Says…som

    Via AJ Strata, General Hugh Shelton has spoken up about Able Danger:

  3. Able Danger Revisited

    So, Gen. Hugh Shelton knew about Able Danger. In fact, he claims that he suggested using data mining…And yet the 9/11 Commission didn’t think this program was worth checking out or including in the final report? I think the Commission gets a failin…

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  5. Snapple says:

    This is a really tremendously informative article on Able Danger and successor programs. Here are some snips, but this is a fantastic article.

    This document is located at

    In its futuristic-style building — its interior spaces designed by a Hollywood set artist to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise, complete with a large captain’s chair in the center of the main room — the IDC covered a range of topics.

    At the IDC, Kleinsmith and three colleagues mapped Al Qaeda for Able Danger by mining open sources and fusing their results with classified government intelligence. But in addition to the mass of information they returned on suspected terrorists, they collected thousands of names of U.S. citizens.

    any data the IDC collected on U.S. persons — even inadvertently — had to be destroyed within 90 days. If analysts could establish a legitimate reason to investigate a person further, they could keep the corresponding data.

    From then on, U.S. Central Command, responsible for the Middle East, became the IDC’s primary customer, Kleinsmith said. Special Operations Command, unhappy because the IDC’s attention had shifted, moved Able Danger to a private intelligence research center run by Raytheon in Garland, Texas, Kleinsmith said.

    Today, Kleinsmith is an employee with Lockheed Martin, working as a contractor to the Army’s Information Operations Center, an IDC spin-off that is chartered to support the global war on terrorism. He oversees an intelligence training team of about 28 instructors, five of whom are working in Iraq to train U.S. analysts in data mining.

  6. MerryJ1 says:

    That 90 day rule seems like a typical bureaucratic ‘feel good’ measure that affords no intrusion/privacy protection for any citizen, but manages to hamstring legitimate operations.

    If we’re talking about open sourced data, then almost any nosy but determined neighbor (or stalker) who knows how to use Nexis and Google could find out just about anything about just about anybody.

    So can investigators, if they have a name to start with, and they can keep that data in an office file with an individual’s name label until some years hence when it’s moved to a basement storage area or off-site warehouse.

    But results of data-mining, which is pretty much a similar search but from the other end (starting from the “what,” “where,” “why” or “how” instead of from the “who”) and which, if fruitful, can turn up entire schemes complete with schemers — but which would be filed under some generic operational label — is somehow too intrusive and violates individual rights?

    Yeah. Right.

  7. Shelton might be alluding to Stratus Ivy

    Captain Ed and AJ Strata have pointed to this quote from General Shelton as an issue:

    Shelton, though, said that a CIA representative and an FBI representative were present at the second briefing.

  8. […] on Able Danger: Looks like this is the week for my Able Danger predictions to come true. Yesterday, Gen Hugh Shelton confirmed my early suspicions that Able Danger was a technology demonstration […]