Dec 15 2005

Able Danger Coming Out Party

Published by at 2:16 pm under Able Danger/9-11,All General Discussions

Well it looks like it is official, the Pentagon has agreed to Senate hearings on Able Danger. I hope they are looking at some of the questions I posted so that the hearings are not some sort of catch up to the blogosphere but actually settle some serious issues.

TopDog at the Able Danger Blog alerted me to this Delco Times article on the news hearings could start in January.

Many of the questions surrounding the Able Danger intelligence program — and the 9/11 Commission’s decision not to include the program’s purported findings in its final report — could be answered during congressional hearings as early as next month, according to U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon. The Pentagon had previously blocked open hearings on the grounds that the program was classified.

“To have the Defense Department reverse itself and say they will allow these hearings to be held in an open forum is an historic win that all the members (of Congress) are talking about,” Weldon, R-7, of Thornbury, said Wednesday.

Given the fact a couple hundred congressman backed the hearings probably had something to do with the Pentagon’s attitude adjustment, as this story from The Hill highlights:

More than half of the House members signed Weldon’s letter, among them members of the GOP leadership such as Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.); Peter King (R-N.Y.), who chairs the Homeland Security Committee; Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the Government Reform Committee; and Don Young (R-Alaska), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

In a Dec. 13 letter to Weldon, Gordon England, the acting deputy secretary of defense, said that the Department of Defense has been “consistent in its position to cooperate fully with appropriate committees of the Congress on the issue of Able Danger.”

Interestingly enough, the Delco Times articles identifies the barrier between SOCOM/Able Danger and their attempts to warn the FBI of Al Qaeda in the US as the Gorelick wall:

Participants in the defunct data-mining operation claim it had identified Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta in early 2000, but that the information was not relayed to the FBI because of legal constraints on the dissemination of domestic intelligence.

The article goes on to mention a few witnesses:

The congressional hearings will likely include testimony from Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and Navy Capt. Scott Phillpott, two Able Danger participants who went public with some of their findings earlier this year. The Defense Department blocked Shaffer and Phillpott from testifying in September before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Well, two others probably should be added to the list:

Weldon has singled out former 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick and commission staff member Dieter Snell as the main players behind the commission’s decision not to include Able Danger in its final report. When the national news media picked up on the story this summer, Weldon’s chief of staff, Russ Caso, received an unsolicited phone call from Gorelick in which she stated, “I did nothing wrong.”

Well, Jamie Gorelick should have no problem testifying to the Senate then. I want to hear from Eileen Preiser and JD Smith, the FBI agent Shaffer tried coordinating the meetings with for SOCOM to present their information on terrorists in the US, and a few others. I want to see all the people involved in the decision to purge the data from the DoD’s Counsel’s Office. I would like to hear from the DIA on why they destroyed Tony Shaffer’s data set in 2004. I would like to know all who reviewed the LIWA-Orion China study and decided to kill it off.

It is clear the program took a major hit in early 2000 from the agitation the China study unearthed in their data mining runs. They two studies are probably linked because the uproar from the China connections has been claimed to be the reason Able Danger was diverted at the exact time Atta and company were finalizing their plans in Germany and moving to the US. I posted a large post on the activities going on with the 9-11 highjackers and the Able Danger purge here. But here is the main points (of course near the end where only the truly masochistic will venture)

In fact, I am beginning to wonder if the reason the Able Danger meetings with the FBI were cancelled was to absolutely conform to the Gorelick wall! If the FBI was on to Mihdar and Hamzi then meeting with SOCOM and Able Danger might put their legal case into jeopardy. To see if this is the case we must check the timeline for when these two entered the US:

    The FBI and the 9/11 Commission report say that al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar first entered the United States in 2000, but the Washington Post and the LA Times report that the two first came in 1999, and that al-Hazmi’s name was on their future apartment’s lease in November of 1999. Either way, the two definitely attended the 2000 Al Qaeda Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was there that the details of the 9/11 attacks were decided upon. He was secretly videotaped at this meeting by Malaysian authorities.

    A week afterwards, on January 15, 2000, al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar flew to Los Angeles, California from Bangkok, Thailand. They were identified by the CIA, but were not put on the terrorist watch list that is shared with other agencies, despite the fact that the CIA’s counter-terrorism center had sent out a cable just a month before, reminding agents how important it was to put suspicious people on this shared list when they enter the United States

The timing of the purge with the final moves of the 9-11 terrorists tells me there is a real potential that the partisan backlash on the China study could have led to us losing track of the 9-11 terrorists. Which really shouldn’t have happened since the CIA was also tracking Atta at the same time. Which begs the question, why couldn’t Able Danger alert the CIA? Did they alert them and was Able Danger rebuffed? That is a very important question as well.

What worries me is the fact there has been hearings on this subject, with nothing breaking lose to date. Again, from the Hill article:

In a Dec. 13 letter to Weldon, Gordon England, the acting deputy secretary of defense, said that the Department of Defense has been “consistent in its position to cooperate fully with appropriate committees of the Congress on the issue of Able Danger.”

In the letter obtained by The Hill, Gordon said that it is the department’s understanding that the Armed Services and Judiciary committees are satisfied with the Pentagon’s previous briefings on the topic and that the leadership of those committees “declined to have hearings.”

Nevertheless Gordon, replying at the behest of Rumsfeld, said that the Pentagon remains committed to supporting a further review of the Able Danger issue and “will accordingly be pleased to participate in any resultant hearings requested.”

Closed hearings will not solve the issues around Able Danger. Exposing a SNAFU by partisan lawyers overreacting to a data mining study on China is not a classified issue or going to hurt our intelligence efforts. Admitting there was another case of the Gorelick Wall handcuffing our defenses is not going to expose secrets. Learning we stumbled at the time Atta and his team began executing their plan is not a big secret – we have memorials in DC, NY City and PA to remind us of that.

13 responses so far

13 Responses to “Able Danger Coming Out Party”

  1. 9/11 is not a state secret

    AJ Strata has a good post tying together the latest developments and ending with this simple observation:

    Closed hearings will not solve the issues around Able Danger.

  2. Hannah K OLuthon says:

    You are absolutely right to insist on open hearings, although I suspect it will mostly lead to pompous posturing by the politicians rather than
    a serious no-holds-barred investigation of untouchables. The poobahs of a bipartisan culture of treason will perhaps produce a few scapegoats, and offer sanctimonious condemnations, but we can be sure that there will be no steps toward serious congressional oversight of the spooks or mention of the unmentionable. Meanwhile, it seems that another information purge has been sanctioned this week at the Pentagon for reasons regarding civil liberties.

  3. Snapple says:

    Here is a big article about domestic spying. Personally, I am glad they are doing this. Some Al Qaeda and their collaborators will be American citizens recruited from radical American organizations.

    This article claims this is all illegal, but the constitution gives the President enormous wartime powers.


    “President Bush signed a secret order in 2002 authorizing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in the United States, despite previous legal prohibitions against such domestic spying, sources with knowledge of the program said last night.

    The super-secretive NSA, which has generally been barred from domestic spying except in narrow circumstances involving foreign nationals, has monitored the e-mail, telephone calls and other communications of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of people under the program, the New York Times disclosed last night….

    But the program’s ramifications also prompted concerns from some quarters, including Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.), the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, and the presiding judge of the surveillance court, which oversees lawful domestic spying, according to the Times….

    continued at

    The effort, which began within days after the attacks, has partly consisted of monitoring domestic telephone conversations, e-mails and even fax communications of individuals identified by the NSA as having some connection to Al Qaeda events or figures, or to potential terrorism-related activities in the United States, the official said.

    It has also involved teams of Defense Intelligence Agency personnel stationed in major U.S. cities conducting the type of surveillance typically performed by the FBI: monitoring the movements and activities — through high-tech equipment — of individuals and vehicles, the official said.

    The involvement of military personnel in such tasks, often without independent scrutiny, court order or fully developed authority from responsible government officials, was provoked by grave anxiety among senior intelligence officials after the 2001 suicide attacks that additional terrorist cells were present within U.S. borders and could only be discovered with the military’s help, said the official, who had direct knowledge of the events.”

  4. foil says:

    Wasn’t Congressman Weldon’s original push to get “data mining” technologies used as a tool against terrorism? Isn’t this a case where the technology was shown to be very effective and yet politics and the Gorelick wall prevented it from being effective?

    While I would love to see these hearings expose the pompous posturing of some of those on the 9/11 commission and show how political calculations of some officials trumped national security, I am afraid of missing the bigger point. We need to implement a “data mining” program which guides some of our intelligence agencies towards finding the bad guys BEFORE they do something.

  5. Snapple says:

    Here is an interesting article about the supposed illegal domestic spying. I believe Bush, not his critics.

    “WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush has personally authorized a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States more than three dozen times since October 2001, a senior intelligence official said Friday night.

    The disclosure follows angry demands by lawmakers earlier in the day for congressional inquiries into whether the monitoring by the highly secretive National Security Agency violated civil liberties….a senior intelligence official told The Associated Press that the eavesdropping was narrowly designed to go after possible terrorist threats in the United States.

    The official said that, since October 2001, the program has been renewed more than three dozen times. Each time, the White House counsel and the attorney general certified the lawfulness of the program, the official said. Bush then signed the authorizations.

    During the reviews, government officials have also provided a fresh assessment of the terrorist threat, showing that there is a catastrophic risk to the country or government, the official said…

    “The president has authorized NSA to fully use its resources – let me underscore this now – consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution to defend the United States and its citizens,” the official said, adding that congressional leaders have also been briefed more than a dozen times.

    Senior administration officials asserted the president would do everything in his power to protect the American people while safeguarding civil liberties.

    “I will make this point,” Bush said in an interview with “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.” “That whatever I do to protect the American people – and I have an obligation to do so – that we will uphold the law, and decisions made are made understanding we have an obligation to protect the civil liberties of the American people.”

    The surveillance, disclosed in Friday’s New York Times, is said to allow the agency to monitor international calls and e-mail messages of people inside the United States. But the paper said the agency would still seek warrants to snoop on purely domestic communications – for example, Americans’ calls between New York and California.”

  6. Snapple says:

    Here is this NYT article by James Risen that started all the trouble about “illegal” domestic surveillance.


    But you know what? Risen has a book coming out according to Drudge. The NYT said they saved the article for a year not to damage national security but now are publishing it.

    I guess Risen has a book coming out and that is more important than my family.

    I don’ t know all the details of the laws, but I am not scared of having my rights violated and which the democrats wouldn’t “care” so much about my rights.

    I am much more worried about the terrorists violating my rights.

    I think Bush is protecting me; not the Democrats.

    Now they have stopped the Patriot Act in the Senate.


  7. Snapple says:

    Dear AJ–

    I am really interested in this domestic spying information in the news right now.

    First, though, it seems to be crowding out the great election in Iraq, so I wonder about the timng of this story.

    The news is saying all of this domestic spying was illegal, but Bush has lots of lawyers, so I bet a good case can be made that it is legal.

    I saw this lady named Victoria Toensing on TV, and she tried to explain what Bush was doing. She used to be involved with these issues. I think she has also commented on ABle Danger.

    Also, I saw on TV that there is something called the “mid-Atlantic drop.” It means that we spy in Britain and they spy in the US and the countries trade the information.

    I really trust Bush, and I don’t think he is going to violate my liberties. I think he is going to keep me safe, if the Democrats don’t get in the way.

    I am worried about the terrorists violating my civil liberties. And I am really mad at the Democrats because they are a 5th Column.

  8. Snapple says:


    Maybe you know about how the laws on all of this domestic spying works and could explain the laws and give some good links. If you have time, of course.

    I think it is terrible that all these programs are being publicized because it tips off the terrorists to what we are doing to catch them.

    On the other hand, maybe that will scare some of them. Who knows.

    People on TV are saying it is bad to spy on Americans, but Bush is spying on Americans because some Americans are terrorists. Maybe they even helped with 9-11.

    People just can’t believe that.

    Lots of time when the police investigate they gather information on people who turn out to be innocent. But unless they gather the information, how do they know?

    It’s the same with terrorists. Maybe dissenting groups are investigated, but if they have no links to terrorists, the government moves on.

    Sometimes, the terrorists hide in there with the dissenting groups and may even fund them and manipulate them into becoming mouthpieces for the terrorists or for Saddam, when he ruled.

  9. […] Spying on Americans is defined as selecting a US citizen and focusing on that person exclusively. Monitoring data means watching everyone equally and trying to identify a threat from key words and patterns. The Able Danger data mining technology came out of the SIGINT and COMINT world. The monitoring of data is not new by any means, and the fact a target outside communicates with someone here in the US is fair game. The country has been debating this long bef0re 9-11 or George W Bush. […]

  10. Our teammates in the war on terror decide to relea

    First we get confirmation from a Israeli General, who during the Iraq Freedom military operations was the head of the Israeli military,

  11. […] These are the people who served in the DoD General Counsel’s Office during the purge of Able Danger: […]

  12. Hannah K OLuthon says:

    The following Slate article by Shane Harris and Tim Naftali may be of interest /

    A possibly pertinent excerpt follows:
    Citing current and former government and corporate officials, the Times reported that the companies have granted the NSA access to their all-important switches, the hubs through which colossal volumes of voice calls and data transmissions move every second. A former telecom executive told us that efforts to obtain call details go back to early 2001, predating the 9/11 attacks and the president’s now celebrated secret executive order. The source, who asked not to be identified so as not to out his former company, reports that the NSA approached U.S. carriers and asked for their cooperation in a “data-mining” operation, which might eventually cull “millions” of individual calls and e-mails.

    Like the pressure applied to ITT a half-century ago, our source says the government was insistent, arguing that his competitors had already shown their patriotism by signing on. The NSA would not comment on the issue, saying that, “We do not discuss details of actual or alleged operational issues.”
    On the other hand this exchange between N. Pelosi and NSA Director Michael Hayden

    is too “redacted” to yield much information.

  13. AJStrata says:


    Welcome. I would beware Raw Story. They are 95% wrong, an amazing record. The same story is in the NY Times and Washington Post and is the top post on the site this morning.

    The problem all communications carriers have is they are using public airwaves. Once they win the right to use them, they also accept the rights of the government to demand their support during times of war. So it is no surprise carriers bend to their contracts with the government for the use of government resources. Telephone lines are the exception to some degree. But recall they run on public access property!