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The full-court press continued on discovering why the Able Danger project did not get any attention or mention from the 9/11 Commission, and the State Department has discovered another memo that the Commission overlooked. Fox News reports that the Senate will consider open hearings on Able Danger as Col. Tony Shaffer traveled to Capitol Hill today to brief their staffers on what he knew about the project:
The military intelligence official who first spoke publicly about Able Danger, the pre-Sept. 11 task force looking for terror threats to the United States, went to Capitol Hill Thursday to brief staffers who work for Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
A congressional source told FOX News that hearings could be in the cards this fall over Able Danger's findings and its omission from the Sept. 11 commission's report issued last year. Neither Specter's office nor Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, who made the explosive allegations, would confirm a plan for hearings.
In the meantime, Commission members still attempt to shift blame for their lack of investigation into Able Danger despite hearing about it from two sources. Thomas Kean and Tim Roemer both point to the Pentagon for not supplying them with documentation, and Roemer also insinuates that they didn't take either source seriously because neither brought their own documentation of the hypersensitive program along with them:
"The files are in the possession of the Defense Department, so really nobody else besides the administration can get to the bottom of it ... if there exists a file on Able Danger," said Chairman Tom Kean. ...
"If Atta's name is mentioned, you send off a host of fire alarms, neon lights, people's hair gets on fire and you're going to find out what that's all about. But you also need evidence, you can't just say here's my recollection of something I thought I saw in a notebook. You've got to say, 'Here is the chart,'" Roemer said.
Having heard this from two separate sources, one would expect that the Commission would insist on getting the data from the Pentagon themselves. When people call in tips to investigators on criminal cases, do police refuse to follow up because they didn't provide video and fingerprint evidence when they called? Kean says that the Commission requested the data three times from the Pentagon and didn't get the documentation they wanted, but that statement should be evaluated in light of the initial denial from Kean and Hamilton last week of any knowledge of Able Danger's existence at all. Also, given the highly partisan nature of the public hearings in the spring of 2004 (and the presidential election), I don't recall any Commissioner that was too shy to say that the administration tried to withhold key information from the panel. In fact, panel members made that allegation repeatedly, especially in demanding public testimony from Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice.
If the Pentagon had been that difficult about delivering documentation at the time, believe me, we would have heard about it.
The State Department also takes center stage again with a new memo showing that the Clinton Administration tried to bargain with the Taliban for Osama bin Laden's expulsion, promising a "different kind of relationship," insinuating diplomatic recognition:
A year before the Sept. 11 attacks, a U.S. diplomat assured a top official of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban regime that international sanctions on that country would be lifted if it expelled Osama bin Laden, newly declassified documents show. ...
"The ambassador added that the U.S. was not against the Taliban, per se," and "was not out to destroy the Taliban," Ambassador William B. Milam wrote in the secret cable to Washington. Milam told the Taliban official, whose name is excised from the declassified document, that bin Laden was the main impediment to better relations between the Taliban and the United States.
"If the U.S. and the Taliban could get past bin Laden, we would have a different kind of relationship," Milam said he told the official.
At the time, Washington had no formal diplomatic relations with Afghanistan because concerns over human rights and other abuses by the militant Islamist Taliban regime.
Due to its oppressive regime and diplomatic incompetence, the Taliban actually had recognition from three nations at the time, all Islamic countries, notably Pakistan. The US opposed the Taliban on a number of criteria -- human-rights abuses, tyranny, and support for terrorism being among them. An offer that implied diplomatic recognition would have been considered extraordinary and may have created a huge headache for the Clinton administration, but could have disrupted 9/11 had it been successful.
Of course, once again the 9/11 Commission's final report makes no mention of this overture. I wonder what we will find tomorrow that the Commission overlooked.
UPDATE: Tom Maguire keeps up with today's developments. Like him, I find the time-based arguments against the Able Danger information rather weak. I also think that the Pentagon's delayed response has more to do with an upcoming admission that they can't find any of the relevant documentation now -- just a hunch.Sphere It View blog reactions
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