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August 17, 2005
Able Danger: CNN And Shaffer

CNN conducted an interview with Col. Tony Shaffer, the DIA liaison officer to the Able Danger operation who has gone public to tell what he knows about the identification of Mohammed Atta as an al-Qaeda terrorist more than a year before 9/11. TKS points out the transcript and some interesting parts of the interview. Shaffer again drives home the point, this time explicitly, that the Commission's response to the story on August 12th was at least wrong, and probably untruthful:

S. O'BRIEN: And his [Atta] name pops up?

SHAFFER: Well, yes, because terrorists live in the real world. As we recognize from the London bombings, there's a picture of the terrorist in a whitewater rafting trip. They live in the real world just like we do. They plan in the real world. ...

S. O'BRIEN: The 9/11 commissioners says they don't recall Mohamed [sic] Atta's name coming up in their discussion. They also say that his name does not appear in any of the briefings they had before they filed their report.

SHAFFER: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: Are they -- are they -- you say you've talked to them specifically with that name. Are they lying?

SHAFFER: I can't -- I can't answer that question. What I know is that their statement on the 12th of August is wrong.

I never mentioned anything about a human asset network being turned off by the (INAUDIBLE). That's one of their statements that they claim I made. I never said that.

And the other thing they say that I said was that I talked about Able Danger being a project in Afghanistan. I never said that.

So if they got those two points wrong, I don't know what else they got wrong. The only thing they got right, basically, was that -- that there was information about this network that related to the fact that they were interested in it. And they -- Mr. Zelicow's (ph) own admission, the next paragraph of their 12 August statement, says they called back immediately after talking to me, which would mean they heard something that I said which resonated.

The other thing is Mr. Zelicow (ph) himself gave me his card and asked me to contact him upon my return from the deployment. And I did contact him in January of '04. That's where I was essentially blown off.

I called him. They said they wanted to talk to me. I waited a week, called him back. And they said, "No, we don't need to talk to you now."

Shaffer also said that the Commission followed up with the wrong agency, which could explain why they never got the data or documentation Shaffer thought they would receive. The DIA did not run Able Danger directly. Shaffer provided liaison to the project, but it ran under a different command structure. Instead of the cartons of documentation they should have received, the Commission only got two briefcase-sized boxes, which Shaffer estimates amounted to less than 5% of the overall data produced by Able Danger.

Soledad O'Brien asked one other interesting question of Shaffer -- why it took him a year to come forward on Able Danger. The Commission report came out just over a year ago and clearly did not include the information he knew he provided to the staffers. Why wait?

To be totally honest with you, we believed that there may have been a classified annex [to the report]. Not being on the commission, not being -- not working at that level, I had no way of knowing. I had to believe that there must have been some reason that that information was not provided to the public, either by follow-on information -- operations of some sort that related to this or something else.

In other words, Shaffer expected that a secret codicil had been published for high-ranking government officials explaining what he had told the Commission, and presumably other sensitive data as well. It took him a while to determine that never happened, and that the final report had been considered definitive.

Clearly this leaves very little wiggle room now. We have two sources, one public and one anonymous, that both say they told Commission on two occasions about identifying Mohammed Atta as a potential AQ terrorist in the US long before 9/11. Either they lied then, are lying now, or the Commission and their staff have lied. Shaffer's determination to go public and essentially end his career in intelligence ops to tell this story at least strongly indicates a high degree of credibility on his part. The Commission's constantly changing story over the last seven days after the revelation of Able Danger demonstrates the opposite about their credibility.

UPDATE: John Podhoretz' sources vouch for Shaffer's credibility.

UPDATE II: Voice of the Taciturn knows Shaffer and also endorses his credibility:

This story about States late-90s assessment about al-Qaida and LTC Shaffer's revelations have knocked the lid off of a long-simmering pot of disdain I have had for people who don't have the stones to bring up issues when they have a chance to do something about it. Instead they stall and cover and obfuscate and otherwise come up with excusive not to act and nip things in the bud. Boy, wouldn't a strategy to contain or otherwise negate the efforts of UBL in the late 90s been a neat thing to have? ...

Guys like Tony Shaffer (who I am proud to say was a colleague of mine for a time) are NOT the focus of my vitriol. He did what he could without becoming a martyr for a cause no one would have heard of. Truth be told (and few shoot straighter than Tony - don't just take my word for it) he's been suffering for his acts of "near insubordination" for some time. We should all hope that if he falls on his sword now, it won't be in vain.

I have also heard from an inside source that Shaffer has worked in regular intelligence assignments for the DIA (not just liaison) and fully understands the information he tried to bring to the Commission. He's trustworthy and knowledgeable, which so far beats anything the Commission has going for it.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 17, 2005 10:00 AM

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