Feb 20 2006
I had the honor of being on an Able Danger bloggers conference call tonight with Mark Zaid, attorney for many of the Able Danger whistleblowers. Thanks to Mike at Able Danger Blog for setting this up.
The usual suspects showed up on line:
The bloggers were excellent, Mark Zaid was open and honest, and Mike deserves a lot of kudos for getting this set up. Mark and Tony are looking for donations to help their cause. More on that once something is set up and I can point to it. But if anyone can help find some financial support for these good folks please help. Update: here is the address for donations:
Mark S. Zaid, Esq.
Krieger & Zaid, PLLC
1920 N Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036
Mark Zaid’s status update:
Tuesday’s hearing was the culmination of delayed hearings with Mark covering Tony’s side on whistle blowing, etc. The DIA did try to stop Tony from testifying in uniform. Wednesday’s House hearings were on Able Danger with open and closed sessions. There are some chances for more house hearings, and the DoD Inspector General’s report will be out sometime in May – hopefully it will be unclassified. Mark is submitting a complaint regarding Tony Shaffer’s situation and hopefully that will be out on the blogs in a week or two.
Mark was not in the classified hearings, and apparently neither were any Congressman. Three people stayed for the closed hearing testimony: McKinney, Saxon and Weldon. Zelikow testified but some felt there was nothing classified in his testimony, so the committee may have it reviewed and the unclassified sections made public.
Rory O’Connor asked about Zelikow (9-11 Commission) denying his meeting with Shaffer. Apparently Zelikow’s denial was a miscommunication or confusion by someone else – he has never denied meeting Shaffer.
Senator Specter’s counsel was at the meeting because the FBI has changed their story since his meetings. At the time of Specter’s meetings the FBI submitted statements saying the attempted meetings had happened – since one of their agents has stated as such. Now 2-3 more agents are willing to come forward (per testimony on Wednesday), but the FBI has done a 180 and now say there were no attempted meetings. Go Figure.
Beyond the 3-4 agents and Shaffer, Philpott and his boss Col Worthington were the ones to attend the meetings for SOCOM, and there may even be some documentation showing the meetings being scheduled. Why the FBI is denying this is beyond me. The FBI have not been to any hearings and no affidavits have been generated, just submitted reports.
The one lawyer in SOCOM Tony Shaffer suspected as being the source of the cancellations has denied this to Shaffer and Shaffer believes now the source of the cancellations came from some place else, unknown.
Pierre asked Mark why there was resistance in Congress and the media. Mark responded no one knows, no one can figure it out, but embarrassment – at least at DIA – is one factor (me: but that w0uld not explain, necessarily, the data purges and cancelled meetings in 2000). Bill Huntington is a name that keeps appearing as someone to watch in DIA.
Capt Ed Morrissey asked if Able Danger was getting impacted by the NSA story, if that could be causing cold feet or upheavals to investigate by Congress. Mark Zaid he had not heard that at all, but he was talking about communications with folks around NSA who might not really know.
Mark did remind us that the significance of Atta was not appreciated at the time. He was 3 ‘tiers’ down from the Blind Sheikh Rahman of WTC I fame. The question always is what would have happened if Atta’s name had made it to the terrorist watch list since he entered the country under his real name. In my opinion – nothing. The FISA Court was still in the way of acting.
Bluto asked why was there a lack of interest in the press. Again, Zaid commented he was not sure but there was some folks doggedly following it: Tony Snow from Fox, Lou Dobbs from CNN, they got a lot of time from Chris Mathews at MSNBC.
There were lots of other questions which I did not catch (from QT Monster and Mark Coffey to name a few).
In summary I think Mark is missing an opportunity. The best record of events exists in the blogs, hopefully mine being one of those sources. While there were suggestions to expand the events around the USS Cole, my feeling is you the best that will come of this is clearing the Cole’s Captain’s name – but it will not light a fire under the press or Congress. Stories need to ‘unfold’ into interesting areas.
And while I knowingly wince at the mention of Able Danger being slowed by bearucrats tossing out Orion’s much better commercial SW for a less capable in-house version, thus limiting or delaying the application of this technology, and the sympathy I have learning MITRE is the company that came in and (again) competed with industry to provide a lesser, more expensive solution – this inside baseball is not going to move the story. MITRE always slows down progress and always tries to recreate commercial capabilities. No shock there.
What this story needs is some revelations that solidify the possibility Able Danger, if left alone, had a very good chance of stopping 9-11. The story that will bring in the press and the Congress is the scandal of a CYA effort by skittish political appointees that ended up deleting national security data that could have stopped 9-11.
All other stories are of incompetence, or a pre 9-11 mindset. This one would be of arrogance and stupidity. There would be little room to give these people a break. Prior to 9-11 many tried to warn us and many, without malice or even negligence, did not see the threat that big. But deleting data to cover up a report on China – that is a different story.
If true. It may not be true and this may not be much of a story beyond government still works the way it always did.
When I see them, here will be the links to others covering the conference call: