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August 27, 2005
Able Danger: Are We Looking In The Right Direction?

CQ reader Ginetta sent me a message earlier today regarding some further Able Danger dots that she had connected. She read Countdown to Crisis by Kenneth Timmerman (a book which I have but have not yet read), a book which focuses on the nascent nuclear threat from Iran. However, after reading about Able Danger here at CQ and the numerous questions it raises about our understanding of al-Qaeda, Ginetta noticed that a passage at the beginning of Chapter 24 might connect Able Danger not just to al-Qaeda but to Iran as well.

Recall that Captain Scott Phillpott went to the 9/11 Commission about a week before Philip Zelikow wrote the report to again inform the staffers about the identification of Mohammed Atta in early 2000, and being turned away. In what seems to be a strange coincidence, Kenneth Timmerman describes a commotion among the Commission staff at exactly the same time. First comes this passage in the prologue:

A treasure trove of documents that 9/11 Commission staffers discovery by chance just one week before the commission report was scheduled for printing in July 2004 bears out the stories I had been hearing from multiple defectors. The clue to the existence of those documents, produced by the CIA and the National Security Agency, was contained in a single dense report, buried beneath a mountain of highly classified intelligence data, where Agency officials obviously hoped it would never be found. The report summarized what the US intelligence community knew about Iran's pre-9/11 connection to Osama bin Laden and is disclosed for the first time in chapter 24 of this book. Because of the arrogance and willful blindness of our nation's top intelligence officers, America's leaders were misled about the threat from Iran before it was too late.

At the beginning of Chapter 24 (page 268), Timmerman paints the picture more clearly:

One week before the 9/11 Commission was scheduled to send its final report to the printers in July 2004, Philip D. Zelikow, the Commission's staff director, gathered members together for an unusual briefing.

Commission staff members had discovered a document from a U.S. intelligence agency that described in detail Iran's ties to al-Qaeda, he said. It had been buried at the bottom of a huge stack of highly classified documents on other subjects that had been delivered to a special high-security reading room in an undisclosed location in Washington, DC.

The document was a summary of raw intelligence reports gathered through intercepts and other means, and was uncovered when staff readers -- on detail from different intelligence agencies -- were turning over rocks before the report went to the printer, just to make sure no worm crawled out. When the chief analyst scanned through the references at the end, he whistled quietly. "There's trouble in River City," he recalls thinking. It footnoted seventy-five distinct source documents, labeled from capital A to sss.

More to come later as I continue to check this out. I have the book open now and will continue to check out this rather unsettling coincidence of timing.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 27, 2005 6:26 PM

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