Sep 28 2005

Able Danger, Arkin Part Deux, 09/28/05

Published by at 12:55 pm under Able Danger/9-11,All General Discussions

Having addressed Bill Arkin’s initial Able Danger post yesterday here to mixed results (good background info, weak conclusions) I feel compelled to continue to review his update today. He begins with a stunning conclusion:

In April 2000, Able Danger, only months old, was abruptly shut down. Caught violating Reagan administration Executive Orders and Defense Department and Army regulations restricting intelligence agencies from collecting information on United States “persons,” the highly compartmented cell within the Army’s Land Information Warfare Activity (LIWA) was halted in its effort to use data mining and link analysis to characterize the worldwide nature of the al Qaeda terrorist network.

I seriously doubt this. For one thing, characterizing Al Qaeda oversees is not against any laws or executive orders – none. But if what they found was a US person associated with Al Qaeda then there is a process to handle that unique situation. It can typically be handled through FISA. Arkin provides nothing to back up this claim and doesn’t discuss the fact that Shaffer and JD Smith (and I presume Eileen Preisser) would testify that it was the China connection study that got the program turned off. This seems awfully sloppy conjecture pretending to be fact. Here is the NY Post story on the effect the China connection had on elements working Able Danger, per JD Smith:

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.’ ”

I still want to know the name of this Colonel. So, like yesterday, Arkin starts of on the wrong foot with a weak conclusion. His next point is interesting:

Anthony Shaffer, the whistle blower who went public in August, claims lawyers shut down the operation just at the point that it named and identified 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta.

Shaffer does mention the DoD lawyers beginning to look at the early work products coming into SOCOM. Lawyers reporting directly to Clinton appointee Dworkin – who is possibly General Counsel (Gorelick’s old job), but if not is then the Deputy General Counsel at the time. So we have some more confirmation of Shaffer’s comments by Arkin. Here is Shaffer in the GSN interview.

Which legal organization within SOCOM is raising these questions?

We’re talking about the lawyers. All lawyers in DoD report back to the DoD General Counsel. There’s no exception to that. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if the lawyer sits in SOCOM or Defense Intelligence, they all report back to the General Counsel.< ... GSN: Did this issue get to the DoD general counsel? SHAFFER: Yes it did. I know for a fact that it did because I talked to the general counsel lawyer who was the oversight for this issue. I know for a fact that is was being looked at by the DoD general counsel.

Interestingly, Shaffer never specifically says whether the decision was made at that time to stop targeting US persons. So Arkin could again be right on the money here. Then Arkin falls for the ‘chart’ deception – which is totally irrelevant. Whether they were on a chart, with or without pictures, I simply want to know if SOCOM did detect Al Qaeda in the US. How the information was presented is irrelevant to me.

Another interesting tidbit:

blockquote>Two Defense Department lawyers familiar with the case told me that there is no evidence that lawyers directed the destruction of information nor restricted any sharing of useful intelligence with the FBI, as Shaffer claims.

Well then, no one should fear the testimony of the FBI employee who is willing to claim just the opposite. Of course, she has first hand knowledge since she tried to set up the meetings. Who knows who Arkin was talking to.

Arkin then tries to connect Able Danger to the abuses that led to the Church Committee recommendations. That is an incredible leap (something Arkin appears good at). Since Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden were known terrorists, with terrorist acts against the US clearly tied to them, and the declaration of a holy war had been made on the US – this was not a fishing expedition. Arkin jumps another shark here.

But then he slips up – big time:

The buzz words suggest, of course, that other intelligence efforts were in-the-box and boring, that only the LIWA and other compartmented workers were motivated and insightful enough to take chances, that if the lawyers and the bureaucrats and the Clintonistas and the other villains had just gotten out of the way, there would have been no 9/11. If only…

The use of public data as a potential gold mine of information doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a maverick to figure out. It is obvious this information can and did provide a lot of new leads and supporting data to existing leads and targets. But Arkin is tied into some key players on this. His information is really very good and tight. And he let the cat out of the bag.

If only “the Clintonistas and other villains had just gotten out of the way”….

Arkin has now increased my confidence that the source of headaches for Able Danger was Clintonistas trying to tamp down potential scandals and being more worried about China connections that Al Qaeda in the US. And these Arkin pieces look more and more like shaded, half truths designed to deflect attention away from the facts and disparage the main players.

If we have the colonel who had to shutdown Orion mentioned by JD Smith and Eileen Preisser’s recollections from LIWA the Arkin version will either stand or collapse.

Arkin jumps so many sharks it is hard to tell if this is a new one or old one, but it is a leap of illogic just the same:

But in 2000, the problem was also a pretty simple one: An off-the-books intelligence effort once again abused the “force protection” justification to collect information on Americans. Military commanders, mindful of the law and regulations, shut down the operation.

Not true. The information could have been handed over to the FBI. But the real problem with this logic is SOCOM reconstituted the Orion-LIWA front end data acquisition and initial processing chain through Raytheon and a SOCOM field office in Texas. That is how they continued their work beyond April 2000 and into February 2001. Somehow Arkin misses this – or at least conveniently forgets to address it.

But as I mentioned earlier, Arkin is probably being fed info by the Clintonista legal eagles who were culpable of the poor decisions on Able Danger. Here is more proof of that theory:

According to military sources familiar with the Able Danger legal side, the effort stepped over the line when LIWA contractors purchased photographic collections of people entering and exiting mosques in the United States and overseas. One source says that LIWA contractors dealt with a questionable source of photographs in California, either a white supremacy group or some other anti-Islamic organization.

His sources are “familiar with the Able Danger legal side” = Clinton appointees. Busted! And what is this lame excuse about buying pictures from mosques? Is he going to try and trot out the separation of Church and State canard?? The questionable sources comment is the indicator his sources are Clintonistas, or at least Durbinistas. Those lily white pure liberals who gutted our intelligence by saying we couldn’t buy information from the types of folks likely to associate with terrorist thugs. Folks, we have a leftwing PR game afoot – plain and simple.

Arkin also blows holes in any possible misidentifications of various Mohamed’s:

With advanced software, including facial recognition software able to track individuals from the collected photographs,…

Well, that same SW would show Mohemad el-Amir #1 is not Mohemad el-Amir #2. Arkin, in an attempt to shore up his bona fides so his theory is believable is making the classic mistake of providing too much information. Information which calls into question his own conclusions.

And this statement seems strange:

Thomas Gandy, Army Director of Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence, said at the September 1 Pentagon briefing that the problem with LIWA’s work was that “it was a gobbling up of a lot of data from a lot of sources and put (it) in one pile.” Thus there was a “commingling of U.S. person data” with other data. The contractors and software specialists did not take precautions to tag data from different sources or to segregate information about wholly innocent Americans of Islamic faith from others who were not US persons.

The Able Danger folks agreed once the data was run to create linkages, at the time you could not delete data on US persons. But then again you wouldn’t want to. The process chain, again, possibly looked like this:

Open Data -> Orion -> LIWA -> DIA -> SOCOM

The work Orion and LIWA did was unclassified and simple allowed the data mining to detect possible linkages, all of which emanated from KNOWN terrorists in the WTC 1 bombings. Since the core anchors of the data analysis were known terrorists, the US hotel they stayed at, which would provide a link to the US owner of said Hotel, is not an act of doing intelligence gathering on US persons. It is tracking known terrorists and finding out who they had contact with. No one in their right mind, even pre 9-11, would confuse the two approaches. However, someone on a mission to work the system could use this as an excuse, a cover story, to derail an activity.

So far, I am unimpressed with the conclusions Arkin leaps to. And I am beginning to question his motivations. He is connected because we are getting a lot of detail which maps well into what we know to date. Let’s see what strange conclusions he reaches tomorrow.

As expected, MacRanger has his take on today’s Arkin post here.

Tom Maguire has a post on a Chicago Tribune article here covering a recent interview with Shaffer.

I am sure others will be coming out with their thoughts as the day progresses.

8 responses so far

8 Responses to “Able Danger, Arkin Part Deux, 09/28/05”

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  2. bobo says:

    Check out the Orion link analysis software demo… (Turn up sound)

    Note: An Al Qaeda sample is even shown!

  3. Snapple says:

    I watched the Orion Magic show about the Afghan girl.
    It was very interesting.

    It says it does visual data analysis. I guess you could take pictures of people coming into airports, put them all in a computer, and the computer would be able to tell if people with different names were really the same person, right?

    Where is the show about Al Qaeda?

  4. bobo says:

    Snapple –

    Simply click on View On-Line Demo; select the Feature Presentation; let the application load and lastly click on the Link Analysis diagram on the demo page.

  5. bobo says:

    A.J. –

    You’re on to something, but if you flip the “process-chain” around, the path points to the origin/source of the link analysis diagrams…

    SOCOM -> DIA -> LIWA -> Orion

    My guess is that should any pre-9/11 Atta identifying link diagrams still exist, folks at Orion may know where they reside. This is based on the theory that Orion was not just developing software, but was actively collecting, processing, and analyzing data as evidenced in the testimony provided on 9/21.

  6. AJStrata says:


    I once thought that would be the case too. But the data at Orion was also deleted in the purge in spring of 2000. The only things that survived were the few charts JD Smith had in his car (it was an unclassified program so there was no requirement to control the documents).

    Supposedly they are all gone.

  7. bobo says:

    AJ –

    How certain are you that EVERYTHING was deleted and/or destroyed? If you look carefully at the features and functionality of the tool as shown in the product demo, the link diagrams and supporting data can be shared and transferred to multiple site locations quite easily.

  8. AJStrata says:


    I am not certain at all. All I know from JD Smith’s comments is that armed guards came and picked up all the data from Orion. Orion would have no reason not to assist in this, and plenty of rea$on$ to assist. The government paid for the data and it was theirs to do with as they please. JD Smith’s few remnants were supposedly in his car, and he was not there that day.

    Shaffer had his copies up until 2002. As far as I know SOCOM still have theirs, though that set is probably now integrated with classified intelligence data and unaccessable.