Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Friday, August 19, 2005
Able danger-mice
Is the Able Danger bombshell a bomb? WaPo has this interesting retrack of the story, with the intelligence officer responsible for the dustup now saying his story isn't based on his own recollections, but on those of two other people. Congressman Kurt Weldon, who has been hawking the story that intelligence officials were essentially forbidden in 2000 from passing on "data mining" information that identified 9/11 hijacker Mohammad Atta to the FBI (which the right has seized on to say the Clinton administration -- and not their successors -- are to blame for being asleep at the wheel before the attacks). Interesting that this story didn't make top headline on the WaPo website -- the editors decided instead to big-font yet another MY GOD! JOHN G. ROBERTS IS A REAGANITE CONSERVATIVE!!! barn burner... but I digress ...

Kevin Drum wrote an interesting piece on A.D. for the Washington Monthly website last week, which bears revisiting:
August 11, 2005

ABLE DANGER....Here's a funny thing. Last Friday I got an email from a PR guy for Government Security News telling me about a story they were preparing to publish later that day (link here). The story was about a U.S. Army military intelligence program called "Able Danger" that had supposedly used data mining techniques to identify the al-Qaeda cell run by Mohamed Atta a year before 9/11. Unfortunately, as the story went, nothing was done about it because Defense Department lawyers prevented the Able Danger team from telling the FBI about the Atta cell.

For better or worse, I scanned the email briefly, saw that the primary source of the story was Pennsylvania congressman Curt Weldon, and decided to pass on it. On Tuesday, though, Douglas Jehl of the New York Times ran a piece about Weldon's accusations (here) and then followed it up on Wednesday with another piece (here) that quoted a number of people wondering why this information was only being made public now and why the 9/11 commission hadn't investigated it last year. That's an especially good question, Laura Rozen says (here), because Weldon has been beating the Able Danger drum since at least 2002, when she heard him give a talk about it at the Heritage Foundation.

So who's the culprit? Why didn't the 9/11 Commission investigate this? Weldon's source for his story is a "former defense intelligence officer" who worked closely with the Able Danger program, and he told GSN exactly where he thought the fault lied:

“I personally talked with [Philip] Zelikow [executive director of the 9/11 Commission] about this,” recalled the intelligence officer. “For whatever bizarre reasons, he didn’t pass on the information.”The State Department, where Zelikow now works as a counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said he was traveling and unavailable for comment.
Drum, who admits to being agnostic on the Able Danger tale, points out that Kurt Weldon has made something of a hobby out of the data mining issue, and may have an axe to grind in pushing the Atta in Data story, and he speculated that the whole thing was being plussed up a bit (perhaps by the "bored press corps seeking juicy August stories during the Congressional recess and clinging to anti-war protesters for lack of access to Natalee Holloway's mom... Damn you, Greta Van Susteren...!!!!)

...The new relevations make the plussing up theory a lot more intriguing...
posted by JReid @ 1:50 AM  
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