Dec 07 2005
Folks, I have corrected the sections which did not copy right
Looks like this is the week for my Able Danger predictions to come true. Yesterday, Gen Hugh Shelton confirmed my early suspicions that Able Danger was a technology demonstration program.
Today there is a major article on Able Danger out from GovExec.com, which has many fascinating details I want to discuss. This goes back to my theory that Able Danger had its initial data set purged when results of the China study, being done in parallel to the Al Qaeda study that had ID’ the four 9-11 terrorists/pilots Atta, Shehhei, Hazmi and Mihdar, came up with results that implicated people in the Clinton administration. I made this prediction back in September when the NY Post broke the China connection aspect of Able Danger (here and here). This is what JD Smith had to say about those times:
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.
â€œIt was shut down in a matter of hours. The colonel said our service was no longer needed and told me: â€˜You just ended my career.â€™ â€
Back then, in the referenced post, I pulled the name of John Podesta’s brother out of the news and wondered if he was the name that panicked the Clinton administration, which was just getting through impeachment. The GovExec story has a different name:
The people involved said the experiment looked specifically at technology transfers to China, whose military posed the gravest post-Cold War threat to the United States. Kleinsmith says the particular technology the IDC researched was arbitrary. “I think we flipped a coin” to decide. The point was to show the Pentagon that data mining could identify front companies, potential leaks of technology, and other vulnerabilities. “What we found was absolutely enormous,” Kleinsmith said.
Former IDC employees and others familiar with the work say the China research exposed a variety of avenues through which military technology designs could end up in Chinese government hands. The IDC created a diagram showing how organizations and people in the United States were connected to the Chinese. Hamre had visited the center, and according to Weldon, reported back, “It is amazing what they are doing there.”
The experiment “went well,” the former IDC employee said. “Unfortunately, it went too well.” During construction of those link diagrams, the names of a number of U.S. citizens popped up, including some very prominent figures. Condoleezza Rice, then the provost at Stanford University, appeared in one of the harvests, the by-product of a presumably innocuous connection between other subjects and the university, which hosts notable Chinese scholars.
William Cohen, then the secretary of Defense, also appeared. As one former senior Defense official explained, the IDC’s results “raised eyebrows,” and leaders in the Pentagon grew nervous about the political implications of turning up such high-profile names, or those of any American citizens who were not the subject of a legally authorized intelligence investigation. Rumors still abound about other notable figures caught up in the IDC’s harvest. “I heard they turned up Hillary Clinton,” the official said. The experiment was not continued.
That is clear as it gets folks. Able Danger was working to identify Al Qaeda and had struck gold with the Hamburg cell. But the same technology and group, working on a completely independent study implicates the Clinton administration so all the data, China and Al Qaeda targets, is destroyed in a moment of political panic.
It is now highly possible 9-11 happened because the Clinton administration was afraid of bad PR.
The contractor for the unclassified work was Orion, working for LIWA. They fed their unclassified results to Lt Col Shaffer at DIA to pass on to the classified portion of Able Danger at SOCOM.
The article solidifies timelines and sequences along the lines the blogoshpere has coalesced around.
In the fall of 1999, top officials in the Special Operations Command were looking for a way to take the nascent fight on terrorism to its source. Al Qaeda had recently destroyed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Special Operations’ top officers, including the commander, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, “wanted the mission of ‘putting boots on the ground’ to get at [Osama] bin Laden and Al Qaeda,” according to the 9/11 commission report.
But the military leadership believed that without concrete intelligence about Al Qaeda, a strike on the group was doomed to fail. President Clinton told the 9/11 commission, “If we had really good intelligence about … where [bin Laden] was, I would have done it.” Plans were already under way to attack Al Qaeda using AC-130 gunships. What was lacking was actionable intelligence to tell the military whom to hit and where.
Kleinsmith said that a pair of Special Operations officials visited him at the IDC in December 1999. At the instruction of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the officials wanted as much intelligence on Al Qaeda and other transnational terrorists that could be mustered. They called the project Able Danger. (The word “able” has been commonly used for military exercises for more than two decades.)
This would be Shaffer, and I believe Philpott.
In January 2000, Special Operations gave Kleinsmith and his team the green light to find as much information as they could. “They told us, ‘Start with the words “Al Qaeda,” and go,’ ” he said. A month later, the IDC conducted the first Able Danger harvest. The initial results, while impressive, were hardly what Special Operations forces needed to put boots on the ground.
The harvest “was a mile wide and an inch deep,” Kleinsmith said. It included more than two terabytes of information, too vast an amount to provide specific targets. The IDC analysts could see the broad outlines of Al Qaeda, particularly its transformation from an idealistic movement into an operational network that could possibly inflict damage. Names, locations, and capabilities, and even the group’s financial sources, were “coming together,” Kleinsmith said. But the data set was still too big.
As they distilled the data playing the ‘Kevin Bacon’ game, more detailed patterns began to appear.
Eventually, they were able to isolate some 20 people about whom Special Operations wanted further, deeper analysis, Kleinsmith said.
The team developed charts to serve as “simplified explanations” of what they found. But those charts, now famously alluded to by Weldon and others as having named Mohamed Atta, sometimes measured 20 feet in length and were covered with small type, the former IDC employee said. The charts were so big, in fact, that analysts had to hang them on walls just to read them. The former employee doesn’t remember seeing Atta’s picture.
Let’s jump ahead to determine when the China study caused the Al Qaeda data to be destroyed:
In early 2000, in the midst of Able Danger, a lawyer with the Army’s general counsel visited Kleinsmith. As Kleinsmith testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September, the lawyer reminded him that under Army regulations, any data the IDC collected on U.S. persons — even inadvertently — had to be destroyed within 90 days. If analysts could establish a legitimate reason to investigate a person further, they could keep the corresponding data.
But with potentially tens of thousands of names, checking each one would have been impossible, Kleinsmith said. In the Pentagon briefing, Gandy concurred: “I don’t think they had the capability to scrub it in the fashion that the oversight rules could live with.”
By the spring of 2000, Kleinsmith said, the IDC had the list of 20 individuals whom Special Operations wanted investigated further under Able Danger. But in March, Kleinsmith was ordered to cease all work on the project. He believes the order came from outside the IDC’s command. From May to June, Kleinsmith and his team destroyed the information, and possibly the linkages between Mohamed Atta, Al Qaeda, and convicted terrorists already sitting in U.S. prisons.
Not only did the Clinton panic destroy all the leads to Al Qaeda that had been developed at a key juncture in the 9-11 plotâ€™s execution, it caused Able Danger to stand down for months as LIWA and Orion were replaced. This is the time Attaâ€™s movements were lost.
Another one of my predictions was the replacement was a group in Texas (the Garland group). This prediction also has been proven accurate in this article:
Special Operations Command, unhappy because the IDC’s attention had shifted, moved Able Danger to a private intelligence research center run by Raytheon in Garland, Texas, Kleinsmith said.
While I am happy to be correct in so much of my speculation, I have to admit to being depressed to think our leads to Al Qaeda in Germany, and the 9-11 plotters, was probably lost due to the Clinton administration being shell shocked from the impeachment process. As I pointed out here, had Atta and company been pursued, 9-11 would have, in all likelihood, been avoided.
Now there is still the problem of the CIA turf wars and the barrier that posed to Able Danger being taken seriously. But it would have been one step closer to saving 3000 lives.
Please refer to this blog when using the analysis presented here, in whole or in part. Thanks.
Captain Ed Morrissey also comments on this, asking another great question:
…but it still doesn’t explain why the FBI never went back and rechecked on the status of this promising counterterrorism program.
Mac Ranger has very important post on this matter, questioning whether America is ready to lose its innocence.
More at Jawa Report
More at Cooperative Research – lots more!
A report commissioned in mid-1999 by Rep. Curt Weldon (R) looks into possible Chinese front companies in the US seeking technology for the Chinese military. Dr. Eileen Preisser and Michael Maloof are commissioned to make the report. Dr. Preisser, who runs the Information Dominance Center at the US Army’s Land Information Warfare Activity (LIWA) and will later become closely tied to Able Danger, uses LIWA’s data mining capabilities to search unclassified information. According to Maloof, their results show Chinese front companies in the US posing as US corporations that acquire technology from US defense contractors. When the study is completed in November 1999, the General Counsel’s office in the Office of the Defense Secretary orders the study destroyed. Weldon complains about this to Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, and apparently delays the destruction of the report. Weldon also writes a letter to FBI Director Louis Freeh requesting an espionage investigation into these Chinese links, but Freeh never responds to this. [Washington Times, 10/9/05] As part of this report, LIWA analysts had produced a chart of Chinese strategic and business connections in the US. But this data mining effort runs into controversy when the chart apparently shows connections between future National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, former Defense Secretary William Perry, and other prominent US figures, and business deals benefiting the Chinese military.
Able Danger and LIWA’s data mining efforts will be severely proscribed in April 2000 as part of the fallout from this China controversy (see April 2000), and the destruction of their collected data will follow shortly thereafter (see May-June 2000).
More concurrence here. Honestly folks, I had no idea this information had been compiled this way.