Feb 17 2006

Able Danger Hearings Part III

Published by at 7:38 pm under Able Danger/9-11,All General Discussions

** updates at the end **

update: I am highlighting what I think are important items with a bold font.

I decided to start a fresh post as a slog on through these hearings. You may want to check out Part I (which has nothing in it really) and Part II (which takes us through Cambone’s opening statement). As before, I am listening to part 1 of the hearings at QT Monster. As context I will use the post QT liveblogged as a reference.

3:13 PM Eastern, questioning begins

16th Item: New Director of DIA seems to be allowing more investigation. Weldon first called Cambone when learning of Able Danger – the irony.

17th Item: Weldon in his ‘question-statement’ confirms the Brooklyn cell, one of five focused on by Able Danger, had four of the highjackers, (Atta, Hazmi, Midhar and Shehhi) and that in September of 2000 SOCOM tried to pass this information (the Brooklyn Cell info) to the FBI Washington Field Office (with which apparently Lt Col Shaffer was discussing data mining research opportunities). It has been hard to confirm the 9-11 terrorists were in the information SOCOM had at the time in the second phase after the purge of the LIWA data sets. But Weldon is clear on this point finally.

18th Item: Weldon now has 3 FBI Agents who can testify to the attempts to set up the meeting. That is pretty good confirmation.

19th Item: Weldon is right about one thing (and I was half right about my guess Able Danger data still existed!). If Cambone and his people did not check the Garland facility then this is a whole new ballgame – if the powers to be want it to be a new ball game. Apparently Garland and much more extensive data sets than LIWA (makes sense, the took over and went farther than LIWA) and possibly could reproduce everything LIWA had. The purge was only at LIWA and Orion as suspected.

20th Item: Weldon’s claims that they reran this second repository of pre 9-11 data and had numerous hits on Atta (hopefully the real Atta which, in hindsight, they should be able to easily match with his now known activities and locations) is enormously helpful to his cause. It is not earth shattering Atta was on radar screens of various intelligence groups. But the fact it has been missed in the 9-11 Omission study and now apparently is being covered up a bit might give this story legs.

21st Item: Meehan (D) is trying to rescue Cambone credibility through irrelevant, soft ball questions. The question is why? Why would a Democrat Congressman try and help a Bush administration figure look better in a public forum like this? After all the left’s efforts to find fault with the Bush administration, why is Cambone being helped by the lefty???

22nd Item: The name of “Mr Shiffrin” arises again. We heard this first when Weldon went ballistic over the reprisals being taken against Shaffer. I think I even have some background in the guy, if it is the right guy. Weldon recounts how the meeting with Cambone in the spring of 2001 (which Shaffer probably attended) included Shiffrin. Shiffrin is the person who states unequivocally that there was no reason to destroy the LIWA data on terrorists (or China for that matter) because it contained information on US persons. I still think it was because it had information on certain US persons close to Clinton. The second time we heard about Shiffrin is when Weldon let out he was in contact with Dr. Bob Johnson – Head of the Garland facility. Shiffrin would eat Cambone’s lunch with all Cambone’s silly claims about legal issues regarding the data sets.

23rd Item: Weldon says the more dramatic testimony was in the closed session – drat.

24th Item: Cambone has guts. He just claimed Able Danger was so important that, after having ‘problems getting it up and running’ at LIWA it was reconstituted at Garland. What a crock of bull! Not having the proper data handling paperwork and cross support agreements is NOT what stopped LIWA. These minor obstacles could just as easily been worked for LIWA as they were for Garland! There is no magic in Federal forms. Cambone just insulted everyone with an ounce of knowledge on how the government works. Clearly there was something very dramatic at LIWA that caused the entire effort to be uprooted – and it wasn’t missing forms.

25th Item: Holy Cow! Weldon has a signed affidavit from a witness that talked to one of Cambone’s staff recently and who said Cambone’s group was going to ‘kill this story’ and Shaffer had no credibility. The name is Butch Willard This is right after Cambone claimed no one was not trying to ‘bring the information forward’. If Weldon is right, Cambone just perjured himself and is in hot water now. The witness is an ex intelligence officer (woman). They moved all this to the closed session!

26th Item: Weldon confirms that the reason Able Danger LIWA was shutdown was the fact that the parallel China study would embarrass some high level people in the country. More importantly, Weldon clearly states ‘The Army” was told to shutdown LIWA-Orion. No officer in the Army can do that. The order came from the Pentagon, or possibly another Federal area. This is also huge. Unfortunately, before Cambone was forced to respond Weldon went off on the Yemen tip.

27th Item: Two committee staff members interviewed Bob Johnson and the notes will be added into the record. Wonder how to get that information!

28th Item: Another huge item. Cambone calls Able Danger a success because it was used in ‘the campaign’ or military planning exercise. I once worked on those planning systems collectively called GCCS. So what this comment tells me is Able Danger did its prime mission – it identified Al Qaeda members and cells so they could be taken out. What Cambone is saying is Able Danger played a role in our rolling up of Al Qaeda world wide, in Afghanistan, in places like Yemen. It means its impact was quite positive in the end. That could explain why so many have tolerated those crude acts in 2000. Able Danger might just of allowed us to quickly find and neutralize many, many Al Qaeda members after 9-11, and may have led us to folks like Shaikh Mohamed Khalid. Inside the intel community, Able Danger’s success could be legend for all we know. All speculation, but Cambone was pretty clear about the respect of this program and where it products were used.

That’s it for tonight folks. Maybe Part IV tomorrow.

Found a little time for some more listening.

29th Item: Army searched more than 15 modern, open source databases – which are more expansive – and using the tools of today. They looked at Nov 1999 to May 2000 thinking that was the period of interest. They did not apparently come up with ‘the’ Atta we all know from 9-11. Now the one problem I have with this is data mining is part art. tweak a few search parameters and you get a different result. And I suspect they did not seed the process correctly. These people forgot the Brooklyn cell was built around known people from WTC I, where linkages began with these people and spread out from there. And that is how you can trip over Mohamed Atta. The newer systems may be able to discern like named individuals and throw away a link that an older system may have found and accidentally linked in Atta. That is why luck is always part of this. The re-runs using new data mean very little. In fact, since the panelists say they took Garland data to the newer SOCOM facility, ran it and apparently did not get a ‘Brooklyn cell’ shows me they botched these re-runs. No one should have missed the Brooklyn Cell since many of them are known terrorist.

30th Item: Weldon admits his data sets are pre 9-11 but after the USS Cole. And of course his results were different – this is not a repeatable process like folks are used to with computer systems.

31st Item: WOW! Another Weldon bombshell. Gorelick not only called Weldon to say she did nothing wrong, she called Arlen Specter TWICE to say she did nothing wrong! Why is Arlen Specter covering for Gorelick?

32nd Item: Weldon’s list of witnesses is now up to 8 because someone retired and now feels freer to testify. If the witnesses testify to the pressure as well as the details this could really blow up in someone’s face.

33rd Item: Cambone is trying to defend those who did the research under his guidance. Good sign. It means that this is likely not a nefarious cover up – just Cambone’s incompetence. I have dealt with a lot of PhD’s in my time – most are great. But they are not technically sharp, they are theoretically sharp. So the common sense and basic knowledge to know how SW responds to data sets is typically not their forte’. Cambone may honestly just not know what he is doing. I agree with him, the people under him are not the enemy. But incompetence is. Cambone is truly an idiot because he claimed no one’s career has been at risk due to this. No one in their right mind is going to believe that BS regarding Shaffer.

34th Item: The five Able Danger terrorist ‘cells’: Mauritania (ph), Aden – Yemen, Malaysia, New York -Brooklyn, Hamburg-Germany. Hard to see how Atta was missed in Hamburg?

35th Item: Another big no-no and Weldon bombshell. No wonder people are running scared. I have always wondered how anyone in the DoD would know about Tony Shaffer taking pens (US Government Property!) to take back to school. Who would waste the time to investigate to find this out unless it was easy to find. Weldon let the cat out of the bag: Shaffer’s interviews for his clearances. The background checks you have to go through for clearances are quite extensive. Interestingly enough it is best to admit all your youthful digressions because the intent is to determine if someone can blackmail you and turn states secrets. That is why many people have admitted to drugs, petty theft, truancy, you name it. People admit to affairs. Because once the government knows then you cannot be blackmailed and you are actually less a risk than someone who tries to hide things in their past. Well it turns out the pen stealing is in Shaffer’s record – probably as a joke regarding how clean he was. But what is clear is someone went into his security clearance files, where all his personal dirt was volunteered as part of his effort to protect this country, and used it against Shaffer. Now I know why there is so much concern about testifying. This is as serious as the Clinton’s going through the FBI records of Bush administration employees and Democrat Senators leaking hints about someone’s background check. Because a background check does not necessarily catch admissions of bad behavior – past and current. This is serious. Very, very serious. No one will be comfortable knowing someone leaked this information from what is supposed to be air tight files.

Correction: The panel is not ‘under oath’ but also cannot lie when testifying.

OK, finished the first half of QT’s recordings. I will start a new Partr IV sometime tomorrow and plan a summary post of the highlights at the end.

Goodnight all.

11 responses so far

11 Responses to “Able Danger Hearings Part III”

  1. MaidMarion says:


    I attended part of the open testimony Wednesday…could only stay for the first two hours.

    Found a seat about five minutes before showtime and thought it odd no CSpan cameras were there since they were present at the previous day’s Whistleblower hearing (Rep. Shays’ sub-committee). I just figured CSpan had higher priorities for the crew…but then heard talk that the committee didn’t invite them. Does anyone know if that’s the rule…CSpan must be invited in? My assumption all these years has been CSpan could put their cameras anywhere they wanted (i.e., any open hearings). If it’s true CSpan needs an invite, wonder why they didn’t get one?

    Also, before the hearing began at 2:30pm, Philip Zelikow appeared briefly in the room but he came in from the back chamber waiting rooms (is that what they’re called? It’s where the staffers enter and exit) not from the main public entry doors. My guess is he was watching or listening to the open proceedings through audio/video feeds. I read somewhere yesterday that Weldon was highly agitated Zelikow’s subsequent closed door testimony turned out to be unclassified… Very strange… Zelikow acts as though he has something to hide.

    Re. item #25, I was perplexed when the chair stepped in and said this discussion should be moved to the closed door session. Any idea why the chair would step in and do this?

  2. vadkins says:

    AJ, I always wondered how the government could identify the 9-11 hijackers so quickly after the attacks. Could it be that Able Danger is the reason?

  3. vadkins says:

    One other point, reading your analysis, it sounds entirely plausible that Able Danger may have been instrumental in rounding up Al Qaeda terrorists. If that’s the case, how ironic it would be-Lt. Col. Shaffer should be heralded as a hero rather than having his career ruined.

  4. AJStrata says:


    It is very possible. That was Able Danger’s role and the data mining capability allows the analyst to get a world-wide view simply from data. No need for spies or eavesdropping or foreign intel.

    I am fairly positive that this is the case. Especially given the way Cambone talked about its success when he responds to Ruiz.

    Maid Marion,

    Weldon was close to divulging some details about the witness who heard the claims and, since SHE was former intel he was close to pulling a Novak (as in Plame). The fact he twice let it be known it was a woman was what triggered the comment. That’s my guess.


  5. […] I’ve begun the slow process of transcribing the Able Danger hearings, which can be found here. Meanwhile, AJStrata has found a nugget in his listening so far: (h/t Able Danger Blog) Holy Cow! Weldon has a signed affidavit from a witness that talked to one of Cambone’s staff recently and who said Cambone’s group was going to ‘kill this story’ and Shaffer had no credibility. The name is Butch Willard This is right after Cambone claimed no one was not trying to ‘bring the information forward’. If Weldon is right, Cambone just perjured himself and is in hot water now. The witness is an ex intelligence officer (woman). They moved all this to the closed session! […]

  6. MaidMarion says:


    That’s not the impression I got…plus Weldon had already been throwing out warnings about other unnamed witnesses who would be coming forward with sworn statements about other things.

    It was so very obvious that Cambone was caught totally off-guard. When Weldon asked whether Butch Willard was on his staff and Cambone responded “He is.”, the OSD staffer sitting directly behind Cambone, who up until this point had been sitting quietly, bolted forward to the edge of his chair and whispered into Cambone’s ear. It was THEN that the chair interrupted Cambone’s answer (not Weldon’s question) and asked that this discussion be continued behind closed doors.

    Seemed to me the chair, by interrupting the witness, was trying to help Cambone.

  7. sbd says:

    It seems Able Danger isn’t the only information that the 911 Commission didn’t address!!

    Transcribed letter (2/15/01) from Gerard Van Hoorelbeke to Louis Freeh (facsimile of original follows):

    Director Freeh (FBI) 2/15/01
    File # 265A-NY-258172

    “Private and Confidential”

    I had the rare opportunity of inspecting the above FBI 302 forms, that was furnished to me by infomatant Gregory Scarpa who worked this case for the FBI. At any rate, I also had the opportunity to discuss this case file with the person it involves (Ramsey Yousef). After I showed him the file, and after many conversations he uttered in disgust

    “That don’t mean shit, soon “Bin Laden” will use your own planes as bombs to take down the W.T.C.”

    Quote to the best of my knowledge ….
    I forward this sensitive information to you, because I believe it is of national concern, whereas the threat appears to attack the very soul of our nation. I am writing to you like this, because I think the B.O.P. Would botch this investigation, if any, and in view of our personal difficulties I still believe this matter deserves your immediate
    attention. I trust you will follow these allegations up with great interest, and with all the resources the FBI has to offer the citizens of America, and their childrens future.

    The above 302 forms disturbed me, to the point where I question sending you this information, nevertheless I can only hope you do the right thing, and not wait until something terrible happens
    before you act. I must admit the above statement is foreign to me, because I did not take the statement any further.

    P.S. I am the only inmate that had access to (Ramsey Yousef) on a daily basis ….. I’ll explain this situation to you, if need be.

    Gerard Van Hoorelbeke
    U.S.P. MAX, P.O. Box 8500
    Florence, Colorado 81226-8500

    What follows is over 40 pages of the actual FBI302 forms.


  8. OleJim says:

    Shiffrin might well be the right guy.
    James Woolsey, former CIA Director, is also a Booz-Allen-Hamilton senior guy.
    The BAH organization maintains a stable of senior support people of both parties to get government contracts, some of which may overlap the next administration. This kind of practice ensures continuing business for the company.
    (Sorry if I am sending coals to Newcastle with this info.)

  9. AJStrata says:

    Maid Marion,

    Since you were there I would say your call is better than mine. I got the feeling the fireworks were flying in the closed session. I doubt the chair was covering for Cambone. I think Cambone means well and that is why most people are on the sideline – not taking sides really. This is between Cambone and Weldon, and Cambone has enough positive credibilty to have weathered the storm this far. But my guess is Weldon is closing in on him. Cambone handled this all wrong. He should have brought Weldon into his effort and not push if off, and then screw up the investigation like he has. Fights between two good people take this route. It took me a while to see it, but I am more and more sure there is no attempt on Cambone’s part to hide anything. I think he is overly confident and unable to admit he may have been duped by those who are hiding something.

  10. Able Danger Hearings Week One Roundup

    If you want to get the skinny on the hearings, you’ve got to turn to the smaller media outlets or the bloggers.

  11. MaidMarion says:


    That’s exactly what I was thinking as the session progressed and Cambone was singing ABLE DANGER praises. But then he ruined his positive momentum, in my opinion, when Weldon asked him “Do you think AD was historically significant?” by spinning it to “Do you think the 9/11 Commission was correct in saying AD was not historically significant?” and then decline to answer that. (I don’t know the exact verbiage, but Cambone was trying not to answer and Weldon came back with “That’s not what I’m asking. I want to know what YOU think.”

    I was there only two hours but listened to the rest online. I came away with this impression: Cambone’s office screwed up royally…and had they been upfront and above board with Weldon from the git-go back in August 2005, they wouldn’t be in the hot seat today.

    They obviously chose not to do so…for reasons known only to them but now conjectured upon for months in the blogosphere.

    Then, when Weldon and Shaffer went public, Cambone’s office compounds its own bad situation by automatically buying DIA’s version of Shaffer’s security clearance issue, and then using it (or allowing it to be used) to shoot the messenger in order to kill the story.

    So now they have two problems on their hands.