Mar 02 2006

Able Danger Timeline Updated

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

Kieth Phucas, writing in the Norristown Times Herald uncovers some critical timeline data regarding Able Danger and The China study [hat tip Vi at Able Danger Blog] and the purging of data (and work and contractors) at LIWA. I had assumed the terrorist study, known as Able Danger, had started prior to the China technology transfer study from various articles and discussions about the two efforts. It appears I had it backwards.

SOCOM and DIA (Philpott and Shaffer, respectively) went searching data mining options inside the DoD in the fall of 1999 be part of SOCOM’s mission to find Al Qaeda members world wide. They selected LIWA Orion in that same timeframe with initial results coming out in January-February of 2000.

In December 1999, Kleinsmith got a visit from Special Operations Command (SOCOM) officers interested in the program. By February 2000, the effort was in full swing.

We now know the China study pre-dated the Able Danger effort by a good 3-6 months.

In the summer of 1999, the first test data mining project at LIWA searched for links to high technology transfers to China. The effort was a smashing success as the information dragnet pulled in a mother lode of names, places and hardware descriptions. But once that information made its way to Capitol Hill in November 1999, government officials got nervous, according to Center for Cooperative Research (

Summer can be thought of as late as August. So the China study’s data was ‘stale’ per the 90 day rule once the report was making waves up on the Hill in November. In our conference call, Representative Weldon mention that he and Dan Burton had tried to subpoena the Chine study information to get a copy, which seems to be the next set of events discussed in the article:

Next, federal marshals showed up at LIWA with subpoenas issued from Congressman Dan Burton’s office, Kleinsmith said. Government officials wanted copies of the data mining results.

According to the Center for Cooperative Research, the data included former Secretary of Defense William Perry and then Stanford University provost, Condoleezza Rice, among others. Other reports identified then Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and former Democratic National Committee chairman, Steve Grossman.

“I spent the weekend making 30,000 pages of copies,” Kleinsmith said. He said his group stored two copies in a safe and sent six boxes of material to the Pentagon’s Office of General Counsel and a congressional liaison office.

With the data mining capability declared a success, LIWA closed out the test project.

It would be helpful to know when this close out happened. The order to purge data came down in April of 2000.

By April, the “Able Danger” team was told to end its support of SOCOM. During the month’s long work stoppage, SOCOM’s patience ran out, and the military command transferred the work to a Raytheon facility in Garland, Texas, and continued the effort.

By that time both sets of information would have been past their 90 day ‘stale date’. Yet Kleinsmith testified at the hearings that there was some time before the data hit the 90 day mark and when the order came down to destroy. A time period where there was some attempted push back.

The article does end with the proper questions:

One of the million-dollar questions in Washington is who ordered the shut down.

“Nobody will admit sending down the order to do it,” he said. “It came from somewhere up in the Pentagon.”

Many speculated that Richard Shiffrin, the Pentagon’s deputy general counsel at the time, was to blame for the decision. Shaffer’s testimony claims Army lawyer Tom Taylor cut off Army support for the project.

Critics speculate that politics played a role in the death of “Able Danger” because of fallout from the China study. Others, including Shaffer, blame it on shortsighted Pentagon bureaucrats.

Again, I must have missed something about Shiffrin (discussed here and here). My understanding is he worked with Bob Johnson and is one of those who finds the order to purge data, efforts and contractors (very, very extreme action over some old data) laughable. This inaccuracy bothers me a bit. Mainly because I could be wrong. If anyone who knows which is right please let us all know!

There are two new names in this piece worth exploring: Steve Grossman and Tom Taylor…

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One Response to “Able Danger Timeline Updated”

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