Aug 27 2005

Able Danger Round Up, 08/27/05

Published by at 11:53 am under Able Danger/9-11,All General Discussions


More updates at the end. Rick Moran from Right Wing Nut House sent me a very informative email regarding the Global Research story I led with today. Hopefully it was clear I had serious doubts about the story, but I could see it mixed enough fact with fiction unsubstantiated information to meet the standard for a good conspiracy theory. Here are Rick’s insights:

Just to let you know…

It looks like that fellow from Canada Global Research lifted most of that Atta info from the 9/11 tin foil hat “timeline” by these folks:

There were a zillion stories in the MSM about Atta, al Qaeda, and Bin Laden after 9/11. And while Cooperative Research has a lot of tin foil hat stuff, every once and a while, there’s a tantalizing nugget of gold amidst the [garbage]. What’s interesting is reading some of these stories 3 and 4 years after the fact. Some things become clearer, others more confusing, and others lead to some pretty interesting speculation.

I think establishing the credibility of information is very important so I wanted to make sure everyone could benefit from Rick’s wisdom.

John Armor at NewsBusters is also worth a visit because he points out the errors and misconceptions in the NYPost article, also reviewed below.

Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend.


Welcome readers of Captain’s Quarters, Powerline, Instapundit, NRO and Just One Minute – to name a few. I hope you find the site interesting and useful. If you really are into information overload, you can puruse my posts on Able Danger here. Have lots of coffee on hand.

Since the interview with James Smith came out late yesterday, the Able Danger story is roiling through the press and blogosphere as the new details are woven into the ever clearing picture of what happened in the summer of 2000. This morning we begin our focus on one very strange story – part conspiracy, part fact.

The story that caught my eye this morning was from Global Research, Canada. Tin Hat warning: while it begins benignly it ends with a series of wild speculation. I myself am not sure what to make of the story – it has some interesting points which appear to be factual, and some claims I would not touch with a ten foot pole.

The article does a good job of background on the Able Danger program and the General who apparently spear headed it – Current Army Chief of Staff Gen Schoomaker. One of the things that has been intriguing about this story is all the people it ‘touched’ through connections to major players. Who knew the Blind Sheik would get into the story line? Some more big names appear:

the U.S. Army’s Project “Able Danger,” which was established in September 1999 by Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, then head of the Special Operations Command. Schoomaker had previously advised Texas Governor Ann Richards and the FBI regarding what military equipment could be used in the attack upon the Branch Davidians at Waco (a mock-up of the Davidians’ compound was at Fort Hood, Texas, where Schoomaker was an assistant to Gen. Wesley Clark, a Rhodes Scholar named by fellow Rhodes Scholar President Bill Clinton to be military head of NATO).

Here is a bit of information worth remembering as we move through the stories today (I peeked at what Ed Morrissey and Tom Maguire have out already):

Able Danger used advanced technology and data analysis to identify and target Al-Qaeda members around the world. Long before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Able Danger identified 9-11 ringleader Mohammed Atta in September 2000 as part of an Al-Qaeda cell in Brooklyn, and eventually 60 members of Al-Qaeda were identified.

Notice that this says 60 members, not ‘possible members’. My guess is this number was determined after the fact somehow. Was it after 9-11 or after confirmation from other intel sources? Key question. Either answer poses other interesting implications.

Concerning Atta’s background, in November 1998 he and several other terrorists moved into a 4-bedroom apartment in Hamburg, Germany. On February 17 of the next year, German intelligence began tapping suspected Al-Qaeda terrorist Mohammed Haydar Zammar’s phone, and they heard Zammar was at a meeting with Atta. By December 1999, the CIA began to recruit German businessman Mamoun Darkazanli for information because he knew Atta and others of the Hamburg Al-Qaeda terrorist cell.

This implies that Atta (who at that time I believe was still going by Mohamed el-Amir) was on intelligence radar screens in 1999. So much so the CIA started tracking Atta. One of the biggest problems for this story has been how it conflicts in just too many ways with the 9-11 commission testimony and report. For a feel of what was happening in this time period leading up to the Millenium – a high terror alert period in our history – please refer to this latest timeline post. It contains a lot of references and quotes from the 9-11 report.

But there is much more in this story which may be of interest to Ed Morrissey, and his theory Atta met in Prague because things were getting to hot in Germany. Well Captain, it appears you were right that Germany was a bit too hot for Atta, if what this story claims is true:

The next month (January 2000), according to the German intelligence magazine FOCUS (September 24, 2001), the CIA began surveillance of Atta which lasted to May 2000. Christian Elflein and others wrote in the FOCUS article that “U.S. agents followed him (Atta) mainly in the area around Frankfurt am Main and noted that Atta bought large quantities of chemicals for the possible production of explosives….On May 18, 2000 the U.S. Embassy in Berlin gave (Atta) a visa….Strange that the visa application and granting it happened in the period when the (CIA) was still observing the suspicious buying of chemicals by the person (Atta) concerned….Someone from the (German) intelligence service (told) FOCUS: ‘We can no longer exclude the possibility that the Americans wanted to keep an eye on Atta after his entry in the USA.’…German security experts are still stunned about the speed with which the FBI could present the conspirative ties of Atta and his presumed Hamburg accomplices. ‘As (if all it needed was) a push on a button,’ an insider says, ‘As if the Americans for a long time already had loads of info on their computers about the culprits.'”

One thing I always suspected was Able Danger, being what appears to be a pilot demonstration project, may have been dismissed for finding things the ‘professional’ Intel folks knew. Data mining is not new. Not even to Intel. It is used in one form or another in signal intercepts. What was unique to Able Danger was it bought commercially available data and sifted that. So is it possible Mohamed el-Amir was on the CIA radar? This story says it was and we some how gave him access even though he posed a risk. At this stage Atta and his friends were heavily into the Jihad and planning stages of 9-11. This is the point I begin to get very skeptical of the claims in this story. Most myth is built upon some fact. It will be interesting to see what is fact and which is not in this piece. But the rest of this piece is a bit much to swallow.

Onto stories from the news media outlets. Ed Morrissey and others are posting on this NY Post story – which in my opinion is hyperventilating a bit.

Cyber-sleuths working for a Pentagon intelligence unit that reportedly identified some of the 9/11 hijackers before the attack were fired by military officials, after they mistakenly pinpointed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other prominent Americans as potential security risks, The Post has learned.
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.

Let’s step back a bit. I am guessing the story is basically true since it is coming from contractor James Smith who just did his interviews yesterday (links here). But we need to realize the analysts are not going to simply say “we found this women, Condi Rice, who appears to have connections to China” and leave it at that. They are not that slow. And anyone connecting Condi Rice to China or Russia is going to have an easy time with that connection. That area of the world is her area of expertise.

Sources said the private contractors, using sophisticated computer software that sifts through massive amounts of raw data to establish patterns, came up with a chart of Chinese strategic and business connections in the U.S.

The program wrongly tagged Rice, who at the time was an adviser to then-candidate George W. Bush, and former Defense Secretary William Perry by linking their associations at Stanford, along with their contacts with Chinese leaders, sources said.

The program also spat out scores of names of other former government officials with legitimate ties to China, as well as prominent American businessmen. There was no suggestion that Rice or any of the others had done anything wrong.

Again, this is a probably a pilot program. And apparently it functioned just as expected – false positives. Those are easy to deal with and remove from the candidate list. So identifying Rice having connections to China is not going to be a problem or a concern. These were not terrorist searches, they were connections to China businesses. Some have miss reported this – including whoever came up with the title to the story:


Since when is doing public records research spying? Am I spying when I google? Spying is a completely different animal than what is described in this story. I am with Ed Morrissey on this to some degree. It would make sense that the lawyers would be more concerned about surveillance of US citizens and the pols about a story of spying on the Bush campaign. But note the timeline. This is right on top of the time period of the terrorist analysis going on in parallel. One group was doing a study on China connections and one on Al Qaeda. One focused inside the US (china connections) one world wide. This makes total sense for a pilot program effort showing the viability of data mining.

But the fact Condi Rice was connected to China or Russia is not sufficient to confuse researching and spying. Now could the lawyers and pols for Clinton be so risk adverse at this stage to clamp down on anything risky? Yes – but that is not an excuse.

But we do now have the rationale for why the terrorist study with Atta and company was repulsed. If the China study came out first then it poisoned the well for the terrorist study. Which apparently is the case. The jobs were gone by May 2000 – so assume that is 1-2 months after the briefing that lit the warning fires. That takes you to March – April. My recollection is the attempts to pass information to the FBI was summer of 2000. This is partially supported in the story

A Pentagon official said last night that, while the canned contractors worked for Able Danger, the China project was separate from the counter-terrorism assignment.

What is also in the story is another link to those who might have buried this information for political and legal reasons

The China chart was put together by James Smith, who confirmed yesterday that his contract with the military was canceled and he was fired from his company because the military brass became concerned about the focus on U.S. citizens.

“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.’ ”

Smith also claims his team came up with 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta’s name and photo in 2000.

Find that Colonel and who pressured him to shut down the China effort. My guess is they will surface in the group who repulsed the contact with the FBI. At least we know possibly why their was resistance now.

More as it surfaces today – and time permits.


Some Updates. Sort of useless to link to posts which brought people here today to visit, but Powerline reminded me I am remiss in linking to a major voice on this subject. Edward Jay Epstein has been on this issue as well and has a good post out today on the breaking news. Read the powerline post as well since a comment by Mr. Epstein is posted their as well.


Another regular I link to on this subject is Mac at Mac’s Mind, who has this post on the news of the third witness coming forward. Don’t miss his comments since he is from ‘the community’ in question.


Powerline has a post out on the China connection brought up by the NYPost story we discussed above

Interesting perspective by Pierre Legrand at the Pink Flamingo

12 responses so far

12 Responses to “Able Danger Round Up, 08/27/05”

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  2. BurbankErnie says:

    So many connections, leads, dots, theories and coverups related to 9/11, I don’t think the truth will ever come out.
    The more I read, the more diabolical the coverup by the 9/11 Commission looks. What I want to know is why the Bush Admin. and Congress are covering for the Clinton Admin.; Gorelick, Berger et al.
    I consider myself level headed, but the tin foil is drawn to my head like protesters to Crawford. Suddenly theories are looking more likely as dots get connected, but are they feasable, or even plausable?
    We got what we asked for with Clinton, and thank God Bush is our President now, but I am losing faith in my Elected Officials in not pursuing and purging the bile entrenched in our Government.
    I don’t believe we will find out the truth here, our Govt. has too much power and experience in covert ops, and this will (unfortunately) not see the light of day.

    BTW, great job on the Able Danger debacle here and in the comments elsewhere. Just One Minute and Cap’n Ed’s commenters ask some very intelligent questions. I wish others would post here also.


  3. AJStrata says:


    Thanks for the kind words. I have lived and worked around DC my entire life. It is not anymore dysfucntional than any human endeavor, it takes time for important issues to break down barriers and be recognized sometimes. The same group that were able to ID Bin Laden as the prime culprit and have us militarily in Afghanistan within weeks of 9-11 (and trust me – that is incredibly fast, some skids had already been greased due to Bush’s pending order to go after the Taliban and AQ), took this long to see the import of Able Danger.

    The reason I knew early on Able Danger was a pilot program was by the response of the establishment. It was a fluke, lucky hit by a program that was tried and tossed. It is rare for things like that to rise again from the ashes. Able Danger had not established any credibility yet – and in fact may have had a terrible reputation from what the MY Post is telling us.

    This is not abnormal – it is normal. We do not put our security in the hands of fly by night promises and quirky results. But it is still important to change the mindset in government to not dismiss new ideas or methods too quickly or because they can make the govies uncomfortable. When all is said and done I think that will be the case. What else was the Gorelick wall for except to minimize headaches for govies in their jobs? It was too much to have to deal with complex issues of law and PR and so they dealt with it ostrich style.

    That is human nature my friend. That has nothing special to do about our government or our elected leaders. And so Bush has little to gain by going through organizations he needs at peak performance and on their toes doing the blame game. What happened will come out. It just cannot be allowed to distract us from our prime purpose: the war on terror.

  4. axiom says:

    AJStrata: It is not unusual for a person on the CIA watch list to enter the United States. Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman was on the INS watch list when he arrived in the United States. The Feds were aware of his anti-western rhetoric, connection to the assasination of Anwar Sadat and his role as spiritual leader to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.

    Rahman was cleared for entry by a N.O.C. CIA agent.

    Additionally, the American Consulate in Jeddah was issuing visas for all sorts of unsavory characters for entry into the United States prior to 9/11 and claims have been made that the CIA was effectively operating the consulate in Jeddah.

  5. Why would President Bush’s administration attempt

    frustrating aspects of the ABLE DANGER scandal has been the insidious set of roadblocks

  6. AJStrata says:


    I guess I should have been clearer. It can make sense to bring these people into our spider web – not doubt. But maybe in hind sight it was too risky. And hopefully in the future we do not play such games – we let them in to arrest them immediately. But my point also was the supposed disconnect from the 9-11 testimony of Bergler and Clarke that everyone was on the look out for AQ in the US in 2000 due to all the near misses we dodged at the Millenium.

    So your point is valid for normal times probably pre 1999. But it makes little sense in 2000, at least according to Clinton’s people.

  7. axiom says:

    AJStrata: The one thing I do discount, as it relates to the special exceptions given to questionable entrants into the United States, is the obvious concessions made to other governments. It is not uncommon for a nation’s intelligence apparatus to make a special request for an exemption as part of an undercover investigation. We’ve made them a number of times on behalf of Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia as they track down elements in the United States that are deemed national security threats in their home countries.

    The dilemna arises when the exceptions lead to information that threatens US interests that the foreign governments are entirely unaware of.

  8. rayabacus says:

    Could it be simply that the Bush Administration (Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, et al) has and had no knowledge of any such program? That they are now scrambling behind the scenes to come up with relevant data on AD?

    As ponderous as things are in DC, it wouldn’t surprise me that Bush & Co. knows nothing of this and are learning just as we are.

  9. BurbankErnie says:

    I agree I do not know the inner workings of the Political Structure and how the wheels turn in DC, let alone what it would take to conduct hearings covering various Agencies.
    Having said that, what I do see is a Federal Grand Jury investigating an alleged CIA leak of a possible NOC Agent (Plame). I saw a Plea Bargain with regards to an admitted Felony Theft of American Security Papers. A Plea Bargain!! A Fed Grand Jury Investigation about what? Plame?
    Personally, I am very upset by what is becoming clearer every day, that the 9/11 Commission was at best a lot of back slapping grandiose “we’re not Partisan” award winning TV drama, and at worst, the coverup I don’t want to accept (yet).
    I just do not like all of the things which are eminating from the Blogosphere, WITHOUT the help of our Elected Officials.
    My one unanswered question is who or what Committee/Agency cancelled the Able Danger Project, and when? We find that out, we get a bit closer to heavy duty aluminum foil territory.

  10. AJStrata says:

    Rayabacus, I would bet that is the case – they are just learning about it as we are.

  11. AJStrata says:

    Burbank Ernie,

    I cannot disagree with your list of debacles. I have truly wondered about the Berger incident. They guy should be in jail. The Plame investigation is a fishing expedition which I seriously doubt will imact Bush or his administration (I have a category on that subject as well). DC does get more than its fair share of bogus stories – too many reporters with too little news.

  12. […] out AJ Strata who along with The Captain are the two best at reporting this […]