Feb 18 2006
As threatened when I started analyzing the Able Danger hearings I am summarizing what I believe are the key revelations coming from these hearings. There is a lot of information out there to digest. More than one person can process in a few days, so I expect to see more revelations as time goes by. First the sources:
Audio Feeds of the hearings from QT Monster
A transcript of these audio feeds being developed at Flopping Aces
PDF files of the opening statements at Able Danger Blog
My four part analysis (of which only Parts II, III and IV are important)
There are numerous other live blog posts, reporting, etc. which I do not have the time to catalogue (but people are free to link-trackback to if they wish). QT Monster has the most extensive record of posts and articles out there.
In my review of the audio tapes I identified 54 news worthy items of interest. These are things that were previously speculation and now being confirmed, additional information that changes or expands what we believed to be the truth about Able Danger, and some new revelations. These items are contained in the three parts of the analysis I did as follows: my post on Part II covers items 1 – 15, Part III covers 16 – 35, and Part IV covers items 35-54. I will refer to these in this post so I do not have to repeat what is written already.
Fair warning: I am interpretting statements based on my knowledge of working in the Federal Government, extrapolating some comments as well, and speculating what it could mean. It is possible I read too much into a comment – though I have tried to check myself. I will do so again once the full transcript is out.
Going into these meetings I felt we needed answers to 5 pivotal questions:
(1) Who ordered the purging of the China Study data, that ended up including the purging of the Able Danger data as well in the spring 0f 2000 when Atta and the other three 9-11 terrorists had been identified (and then lost due to the purge)?
(2) What was the rationale used for ordering this data purge?
(3) Who put the stop to meetings between the DIA and FBI in the late summer and fall of 2000 to alert the FBI of possible terrorists in the US?
(4) Where any of the terrorists known at that time linked to 9-11?
(5) Who ordered the destruction of Lt Col Shafferâ€™s Able Danger files at DIA in 2003-2004?
I am afraid we did not get answers to all of these, at least in open session. Who knows what happened in the closed session.
I am going to highlight briefly the big new items that I gleaned from the hearings, and then embark on some speculation using this new information to develop a theory. Being a science based person speculation is the first step to facts, something to put out and test against what we know. It is how a clear picture evolves as we add new information and cycle through the speculation and testing. I am happy to say my earlier speculations have been confirmed, much of what I assumed is now becoming established as what happened. So we shall see how I do this next round.
Success and Failure: (Item 28 Apparently Able Danger an enormous success, post 9-11. I am getting the feeling, mostly from the awe in Cambone’s voice and his clearly honest comments, that it is a bit of a legend in intel circles under its current designation. Cambone let on that Able Danger’s products played a huge role in the rolling up of Al Qaeda after 9-11. My feeling is it is this successful period after 9-11, where the technology showed how we can reach out and touch the ones we want, that makes those who lived through the 2000 mess really frustrated. The post 9-11 success meant it was possible to have another huge success before 9-11, without the loss of 3000 lives.
Think of it as if Apollo 13 happened before we landed on the moon, and we covered it up until afterward the first moon landing. The Apollo program would be considered an historic success, and naysayers complaining about some near miss that happened in the march to the moon would be swimming against a strong current. We seem to have that here with Able Danger – the horrific screw up in 200o is overshadowed by what it did as we went on the offensive.
“Cam-Boners” On Reason For Purge: I was seeing so many wet-tissue thin alibis by Cambone for why the data was purged in 2000 I coined the term “Cam-boner” for when his excuse was so lame it was ripped to shreds by logic or Weldon or Shaffer. All of Cambone’s Cam-boners are associated with the reasons for the data purge. Cambone wants to pin this purge on lack of Federal Forms (Item 10). The truth is there was no real problem holding the unclassified data (Item 49), but even if there was an issue Cambone testified it was easily taken care of in the second incarnation of Able Danger in Garland, TX (Item 15). One form was related to data retention and the other was related to authorizing LIWA to work for SOCOM-DIA. But neither was a huge obstacle or a reason for what really happened.
The real Cam-boner here is it was not simply a data purge. It was not simply an effort to deal with stale information. Because all that required was the data purge. But not only was the data purged, but the LIWA efforts on two data mining studies were shutdown in midstream and a contractor had their contract closed, their unclassified data illegally confiscated and people put out of work. Those kinds of draconian actions are not take because some data was hitting its 90-day birthday.
I direct folks to the top of page seven of Shaffer’s written statement and how Kleinsmith argued the data purge was not required by statute and how he was ordered, with the threat of jail, to purge the data anyway.
This is confirmed by the people at Garland who have the proper two little forms which allows them to hold identical data beyond 90 days without question. No change in content, just two little forms in the file cabinet (Items 22 and 24, Item 39). So what was the reason to shut down LIWA and Able Danger 1.0?
China Study Rocks The Hill and Unleashes The Purge: While Cambone tried to link the data purge to this 90-day rule, Weldon and the other witnesses (with first hand knowledge) pointed to the LIWA China Study that was being done in parallel to the Able Danger study. I have stated all along this was the lynchpin, the source of all later cover ups and mistakes and lost opportunities.
We all know the story so I will not repeat it here, but what we learned from the hearings is how far up this went. Weldon let slip that the initial China study report made it well outside of LIWA and Orion, up past the Army chain of command, beyond the Pentagon and hopped the Potomac to reach Capitol Hill (Item 54). Trust me when I tell you how stunned I was to hear that the China study report was seen by many in Congress – including Congressman Weldon himself. He briefed others on it. And it was this report containing nationally known names that caused the data purge.
There is no doubt of that now. Kleinsmith testified to the fact the order came from above his chain of command (Item 38). The fact the SOCOM folks were in an uproar means the order was above LIWA and SOCOM, putting it in the Pentagon or higher. Who was involved in this?
Well one person does come to mind: Jamie Gorelick. Another Weldon bomb shell was that no only did Gorelick contact him last summer to claim she “did nothing wrong”, apparently she called Sen Specter twice to convey the same message (Item 31).
Now we can connect some dots. The China study hits Capitol Hill and obviously echoes down Pennsylvania Avenue as Democrats (and possible Reps) wonder if the town is going to be heading back into a second impeachment. My guess is it wasn’t because of sufficient number of Republican names (like Rice), but the Clintons are not taking any chances. Gorelick has roots in the Pentagon’s General Counsel Office and they devise a plan to destroy the study using the 90 day rule. This is put into effect, but somehow the Able Danger data is caught up in the mess because the two efforts share the same people and timeframes. What is required for China to disappear is necessary for Able Danger too. That includes purging data, contracts and personnel. DIA and SOCOM grudgingly end up allowing this to happen (but not without a 6 month battle) when they are allowed to open Garland.
And now, in hindsight, many are probably feeling they made a pact with the devil. If Able Danger was successful post 9-11, then its potential pre 9-11 must be eating away at some good people. So we have a battle between alarmists (needed the data purged) and pragmatists (who were convinced to let things slide) and the outraged (those who cannot live with what happened). Make no mistake – most people in DC are in the middle right now. But they apparently are being pushed towards the outraged.
Shaffer As Symbol To Others: The biggest Cam-boner of the hearings was when Cambone claimed he was not aware of any intimidation. Well Weldon and Shaffer let out some very, very serious charges.
Ever wonder how the DIA found out that Shaffer, as a 15 year old boy, absconded with government pens. Ever wonder how this event became part of the government’s charges to strip Shaffer of his clearance, job, salary and health benefits. Well, it appears this is information from Shaffer’s security clearance files and his interviews. This is one of the most damning things to leak about a person. All of us who have clearances bared our souls to Uncle Sam on all the things we did (and did not get caught doing) so we could never be blackmailed. Every dirty secret you would not tell your parents, spouse or kids. If we could do it, we wouldn’t confess these things to God. And this is where that information came from. It is a clear signal to all involved the brass knuckles are out and the 9mm is aimed at your kneecaps (Item 35).
More than that, the DIA was questioning Shaffer just recently on what he had told the DIA Inspector General which is looking into the DIA’s actions against Shaffer. This is absolutely forbidden to do in these cases (Item 42).
But Weldon may have just caught Cambone with his pants down. Apparently one of Cambone’s staff, Butch Willard (ph), told a former intelligence agent that Cambone’s group was out to kill the Able Danger story. This bombshell was dropped right after Cambone testified no one was against bringing the Able Danger story to light (Item 25).
The lynchpin to understanding what happened to Able Danger is understand the events around Question 1, The China Study reaction. We cannot allow discomfort for partisans and political appointees to trump national defense ever, ever again. We have clearly mixed feelings in the government to get this story put away and protect what is apparently a really great success story. Those who screwed up in 2000 are still in play since Shaffer’s files were destroyed in 2004. There are people in the DIA (Mark Ewing possibly) and the Pentagon and now apparently on Capitol Hill who were possibly involved with the disruption our national defense in an effort to kill the LIWA China stud. One candidate is a 9-11 Commissioner. What will come of this now I do not know – but after 9-11 and 3000 lives lost we deserve assurances this cannot happen ever again.
In looking through Shaffer’s statement I am surprised at how closely I nailed Able Danger – because I had seen it all before. I am a maverick in how I approach problems. I do things few if any dare to do use new technology. Not because I am more gifted or smart, simply because I am less concerned about ‘image’. Here is how I described what Able Danger probably was last August:
I do contract work for the government and many times have I had to go into meetings, boards of reviews, commissions, with these people and try and to explain they have missed something or gone down the wrong path It is not easy and never pleasant. It is simple human nature to not want to hear you are wrong or in error, and so is not limited to govies. But it can be accentuated in these people because they weild so much decision power, and they really cannot afford to be seen as wrong.
So I can envision this upstart, prototype data mining methodology being given the evil eye by the old guard. Why do you think the FBI and FAA computer systems belong in museums representing 1990 technology? Able Danger was a demonstration effort to show the power of data mining, therefore it was not supposed to actually be â€˜operationalâ€™ – a conceptual state a system must attain through process and paperwork, not simply capability to produce results.
Able Danger was probably lucky because Atta and his gang were very clumsy and nearly caught many times. They were easy to mine out of the static of information. But AQ adjusts as we adjust, and the utility of data mining is going to dissipate – all pro-active measures relent to new counter measures. So we had our golden shot with this methodology and we blew it.
I doubt anyone who mistakenly decided to ignore Atta feels good about this. But that does not give them the excuse to cover up their actions and hide this information. And it doesnâ€™t give the 9-11 commission any alibi for dismissing it out of hand – which I no doubt believe is what happened. Enough excuses and enough worrying about which partyâ€™s image is going to get hurt. Get to the bottom of this and let the chipâ€™s fall where they may.
Then go read Shaffer’s statement (which rings as true as everyday I have worked for the Feds) and see how the infighting erupted, the empires were threatened, the old guard tried to steal, bribe or take down the upstart. See the petty fuedal system which is the Federal Government at work too many times.