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August 26, 2005
Able Danger: Third Source Steps Up, Gives Even More Details

The third source to go public from the Able Danger team confirms that the secret Army datamining project identified Mohammed Atta as a potential al-Qaeda terrorist in early 2000. J.D. Smith also corroborates Col. Tony Shaffer's account that they told 9/11 Commission staffers about the Atta identification, and fulfilled blogger AJStrata's prediction that the connection came through Omar Abdel Rahman (via Tom Maguire):

J.D. Smith, a defense contractor who claims he worked on the technical side of the unit, code-named "Able Danger", told reporters Friday that he helped gather open-source information (search), reported on government spending and helped generate charts associated with the unit's work. Able Danger was set up in the 1990s to track Al Qaeda activity worldwide.

"I am absolutely positive that he [Atta] was on our chart among other pictures and ties that we were doing mainly based upon [terror] cells in New York City," Smith said. ...

During Friday's roundtable with Smith, he was asked by reporters about Atta, who was using another name during 1999-2000. Smith said the charts Able Danger was using had identified him through a number of name variations, one being "Atta."

Two sources familiar with Able Danger told FOX News that part of its investigative work focused on mosques and the religious ties between known terrorist operatives such as Omar Abdul Rahman (search), who was part of the first World Trade Center bombing plot in 1993.

An independent terrorism analyst pointed out to FOX News that German intelligence had no record of Atta before the Sept. 11 attack; that's significant because Atta headed up the Sept. 11 Al Qaeda cell in Hamburg. The analyst also questioned how Atta could be connected to Rahman, who was in prison by the mid-1990s.

Smith claims that one way the unit came to know Atta was through Rahman. Smith said Able Danger used data mining techniques publicly available information to look at mosques and religious ties and it was, in part, through the investigation of Rahman that Atta's name surfaced.

This further confirmation puts more pressure on the Pentagon to either come up with specific data that discounts this testimony or a better explanation for the disappearance of Able Danger's data. It also ups the ante for the 9/11 Commission staffers, such as Philip Zelikow, to either explain why they didn't pass this information to the Commission itself -- or to publicly identify which Commissioners knew of it and decided not to pursue it.

This doesn't tell us much more than we already knew earlier this week, with the exception of how Atta's name came up in their investigation. This, however, leaves even more questions on the table for the FBI and the Department of Justice. If the Army could go through open-source data and draw lines from the Blind Sheikh to other terrorists, especially in the US, why didn't the FBI try that? After all, Rahman had already been convicted of terrorism, allowing law enforcement and/or intelligence to investigate Rahman to their heart's content. Did the FBI, either in its law enforcement or counterintelligence units, ever try to follow up on Rahman's other contacts after the successful prosecution by Mary Jo White's team? If not, why not?

Here's another point of contact between Rahman and the 9/11 terrorists: Rahman knew Khallad's father (Commission report, page 155); Khallad would later help bomb the USS Cole. The US found out about plots to hijack airlines to force Rahman's release in late 1998 (page 361). Why didn't they check out Rahman's connections then? The report shows that the concern over various plots to free Rahman from US custody continued to at least the end of the Clinton administration -- and yet neither the FBI nor any other agency except Able Danger apparently ever attempted to give serious investigation into Rahman's connections after his prosecution.

The more we find out about Able Danger, the more questions about almost everything we have been told about 9/11 it produces. Clearly this failure ran much deeper than we have been told, and the dismissal of Able Danger from the Commission's narrative looks more and more suspect.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 26, 2005 6:15 PM

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» Able Danger Round Up, 08/26/05 from The Strata-Sphere
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