Sep 17 2005

Able Danger Major Update, 09/17/05

Published by at 10:24 am under Able Danger/9-11,All General Discussions

Thanks to Top Dog and his comment to this post, we learn two things in this Fox News story. The first is the Pentagon is trying to close the hearings – which would be a big PR mistake.

The Pentagon is pressuring the Senate Judiciary Committee to close to the public next week’s hearings on a former secret military intelligence unit called “Able Danger,” two congressional sources have confirmed to FOX News.

Witnesses from the Pentagon are expected to testify at that hearing; that’s why they want it classified. FOX News has learned that committee Chairman Arlen Specter’s office is vigorously resisting the request.

We need to know what happened. If they need a closed session to go into technical details which are classifed- fine. If they need to screen witnesses – fine. But we need to have the discussion of what happened out in the open. And the second revelation points out why.

Weldon said a former Army officer will testify next week that he was also ordered to destroy data that included reference to Atta.

“In the summer of 2000, he was ordered and, or, he would go to jail if he didn’t comply,” the Pennsylvania Republican said. “He was ordered to destroy 2.5 terabytes of data specific to Able Danger, the Brooklyn [terror] cell and Mohammad Atta. He will name the person who ordered him to destroy that material.”

This is huge. As I stated in this last post on this, if the documents were ordered destroyed before the program ended in February 2001, it would look like someone was covering something up.

The order to destroy the documents, apparently after being rebuffed on their attempts to contact the FBI, is not the normal cleaning up of preliminary data and reports we have were told was happening in the DoD briefing earlier this month. This is referred to in the Fox story as well

However, the Pentagon confirmed this month that documents associated with Able Danger were destroyed because of strict regulations governing the collection of data on foreign visitors in the United States.

Ordering the destruction of documents, over the resistance of the document managers and under threat of charges, is not normal. The timeline is becoming clearer [speculation alert].

    – Able Danger was initiated in the fall of 1999 to identify Al Qaeda members as part of the US attempt to protect against a millenium attack, and continued efforts into 2000 due to heightened concerns right after the millenium.
    – Atta and his cohorts probabley were identified back in February-April 2000, while still in Hamburg.
    – When Atta and the others came to the US in the late spring of 2000, alarm bells went off in Able Danger because Al Qaeda in the US was a really big deal at the time – according to Bergler and Clarke and NSA pronouncements.
    – Able Danger correctly determined the situation had moved from intel to domestic law enforcement, which meant contacting the FBI and alerting them.
    – Someone else got word that meetings were going to be held to alert the FBI to AQ in the US. Again, NSA announcements to watch for AQ in country would make this kind of news stand out, draw attention and draw in related organizations – as it should.
    – Then things go south. Someone starts putting up barriers to the meetings and telling Able Danger to back off what they are doing.
    – Then someone takes the extreme step and orders the destruction of the documents, over the objections of the document managers (a key role in classified material handling).

The order to destroy was not made by DoD lawyers, per the Pentagon:

The Defense Department did confirm that documents associated with Able Danger were destroyed in accordance with strict regulations about collection, dissemination and destruction procedures for intelligence gathered on people inside the United States.The officials denied that military lawyers ordered the destruction of the documents.

If the military did not order the destruction – who did? More importantly: who could?

My guess is the CIA was also notified of the meetings – why wouldn’t they be? Somehow, some kind of turf war ignited and the Able Danger team was told to get back into their box. They resisted and the orders came down to not only cease their efforts to contact the FBI, but to destroy their data sources.

While it is possible a ranking military official could have given the order to destroy, I seriously doubt it. The orders came from lawyers who were not military. And Able Danger would not have resisted very long if their immediate chain of command was backing them up as much as they could.

That leaves the civilian command, which means the office Secretary of Defense or the White House.

Tom Maguire as a brief post on this subject here.


Ed Morrissey makes some excellent points in his post on the attempt of the Pentagon to close the Senate hearings from the public.

AJ Strata wonders who ordered the destruction of the data, and notes that the Pentagon’s exclusion of military lawyers from that order somehow strikes an ominous note. He and I differ on this point. Under normal circumstances, the lawyers wouldn’t make that decision anyway. Destruction of classified material gets handled through the normal chain of command, and receiving “orders” to destroy data on a closed program like Able Danger may not really be that unusual. If the lawyers had demanded it, I think that would lend itself to a more political explanation.

I agree with Captain Ed on this point 100%, and almost started posting the same basic comments myself when I recalled Shaffer’s original claim that lawyers squashed the meetings with the FBI and told them to cover up the faces of Atta and others.

I’ll put up another speculation warning now – but it seems the person (or persons) who squashed the meetings and told Able Danger to drop Atta and the others – who were non military lawyers according to unchallenged statements to date – were most likely the ones to go one step further and order the purging of the data. That is a leap of logic, I admit. But I feel more confident in that kind of leap than the 9-11 commission should in their claim there is no ‘there’ there.

More thoughts at Mac’s Mind here. His theory has always attracted my dark side:

…I found that hard to swallow, especially since it began under Clinton. What in the hell did he care about terrorist? He and his administration were all about keeping tabs – on US Citizens, specifically political enemies – that’s what they cared about!

So simply put, in my humble view, Able Danger was a prototype data minining program to spy on CITIZENS. You know, like big brother. Hardly unknown or earth shattering in itself. But if found out would have had devastating effects on what is left of the Clinton Administration legacy. “I feel your pain”…..

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Able Danger Major Update, 09/17/05”

  1. LuckyBogey says:

    I have always believed the truth about AD will never be told to the American public. They will tell us that due to national security, the general public must not know the facts. Sad! The 911 Commission members continue to be arrogant and tell us what they want us to know.

    I have always worried about Weldon’s motivation especially since he was pushing his book. I really don’t care about Weldon or anyone else. I just want the truth and wherever it goes, so be it. If the Clinton legacy is hurt by it’s failures to protect our country’s national securityt, so be it!

    The AD Pentagon briefing was a poor excuse for a press conference. The Pentagon spokesman presented nothing and the media questions were stupid. Why? No Pentagon legal council and “subject matter experts” who said nothing! I would like to ask some of my own questions?

    1. How many contracts were awarded under the AD Program? Classified vs Unclassified?
    2. What are the contract/subcontract numbers and the dates of award/termination for a FOIA request?
    3. Who were the prime contractors and subcontractors?
    4. Are copies of the Certificates of Destruction for all AD data available for each classified level?
    5. What was the highest level of classified material? Secret/TS?
    6. Where these AD contracts awarded under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)? CAS?
    7. Who administrated the contracts and are Defense Contract Audit Agency records available?
    8. Are final contract close-out file documentation available? Including prime and subcontractors contract close-out files?

    Wednesday will be very interesting. Let’s see who comes to the table?

  2. ordi says:

    The Jerry Doyle Show will be discussing this tonight (Sat) on his love show. You can listen at This show is LIVE at 5pm to 8pm EST, 6pm to 9pm CST, 7pm to 10pm MST or 8pm to 11pm PST.

    He will have on some guy named David (Unsure of last name) for the full three hours to talk about AD. I heard a preview of the show last night and he thinks one of three people could have ordered the Doc destroyed. John Duetch, Jamie Gorelick or some guy I can’t recall his name.

  3. Monday Morning Intelligence with the New York Time

    The story that REFUSES to go away, we now have another twist…

  4. topdog08 says:

    Google News can barely even keep up with the story now:

    September 17, 2005 — WASHINGTON — Members of a secret Pentagon intelligence unit known as Able Danger warned top military generals that it had uncovered information of increased al Qaeda “activity” in Aden harbor less than three weeks before the attack on the USS Cole, The Post has learned.

    In the latest explosive revelation in the Able Danger saga, two former members of the data-mining team are expected to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee next week that they uncovered alarming terrorist activity and associations in Aden weeks before the Oct. 12, 2000, suicide bombing of the U.S. warship that killed 17 sailors.

    Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s former liaison to Able Danger, told The Post that Capt. Scott Phillpott, Able Danger’s leader, briefed Gen. Peter Schoomaker, former head of Special Operations Command and now Army chief of staff, about the findings on Yemen “two or three weeks” before the Cole attack.

  5. AJStrata says:

    Thanks Top Dog. I was out all day and really appreciate the help keeping up with the breaking news.

  6. […] I have mentioned this theory before: Once DIA/Able Danger tried to contact the FBI all sorts of other people were probably notified as a courtesy or to fulfill the chain of command requirements – and this is when someone stepped in. What will be the added dimension to the Senate investigation and hearing that will take place on Wednesday is not just the five people that the Pentagon has confirmed, identified and knew about Mohammed Atta prior to 9/11, but we’ll bring out the person who actually did much of the data analysis. Actually, his name, I think, has already been brought out in the public. That’s J.D. (ph). […]

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  8. Jeff says:

    You guys have done some truly valuable work on this story–I’ve got a reasonably analytical mind but the twists and turns of the timeline leave me glassy-eyed sometimes.

    From my less informed perspective, two nodes of interest jump out: 1) As AJ noted, it’s critical to find out wh0 had the authority to order the documents destroyed; 2) the whole narrative seems to reach a critical point at the time AD determined the threat had become domestic, i.e, it was time to get the FBI involved. Do I smell Gorelick’s wall at work?

  9. Snapple says:

    I think that the Clinton Administration was very worried about terrorism. And they were worried that by responding to terrorism they might make Al Qaeda escalate its attacks.

    Here is a long report on terrorism from 1999. This was the Congressional Research Service but it says it is prepared under an interagency agreement—I think this really this means the CIA. I read that some time ago about this article. You can get this by googling psychology terrorists.

    Notice that the author–writing in 1999– predicts that an Al Qaeda Martydom Brigade may crash a plane into the Pentagon, CIA or Whitehouse to get revenge for the bombing of an Al Qaeda training facility in Afghanistan. The author notes that Ramzi Yousef had planned to do this against CIA headquarters.

    Now I didn’t vote for Clinton, but facts are public, published facts.