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August 29, 2005
Able Danger: Chart Existed In 2002

Newsmax reports that a chart shown at a Heritage Foundation event in May 2002 by Curt Weldon came from the Able Danger program, and that the classified version of it would have shown Atta in the picture (h/t: CQ reader Ginetta):

A third of the way through his May 23, 2002 address on data fusion techniques, the video shows Rep. Weldon unfurling a copy of the now missing document and displaying it to the Heritage audience.

"This is the unclassified chart that was done by the Special Forces Command briefing center one year before 9/11," he explains. "It is the complete architecture of al Qaeda and pan-Islamic extremism. It gives all the linkages. It gives all the capabilities. . . ."

Though Weldon never mentions Able Danger or Atta by name - and the video never zooms in on the chart to the point where Atta's photo is identifiable - it's clear from Weldon comments that the chart is the same one currently being sought.

Actually, that last part may not be completely accurate. Weldon makes clear in the video (which those with Real Player can see at this link) that the chart represents the unclassified data from the "Special Forces" program that generated it. He tells the audience that the classified version, designed for a special briefing for the Joint Chiefs, contained the complete look at al-Qaeda and their connections, one year prior to 9/11.

Weldon also says in this video, at around the 33-minute mark when the chart makes its appearance, that the unit responsible for the chart prepared a three-hour brief for General Hugh Shelton that included recommendations for an attack on five AQ cells identified by this "Special Forces" program (Able Danger was a Special Operations Command program). Weldon's contact, probably Col. Tony Shaffer, told Weldon that the briefing got reduced to a one-hour presentation and did not include any recommendations for action.

Weldon says that he demanded the full three-hour brief after he discovered it. He spoke to General Holland, commander of SOCOM, who agreed to give him what they could, but some of the data remained classified as it held some value for the Afghanistan operation. Even the reduced brief, Weldon says, caused him grave concern that someone had deliberately watered down the brief for Shelton to avoid taking real action. Weldon then forcefully states that 9/11 should have been avoided, and would have been had the intelligence community not "dropped the ball".

None of this makes it into the 9/11 Commission report, of course.

Addendum: What does this mean? I think Weldon didn't know about the Atta connection in 2002; otherwise, as this video makes clear, he would have blown it wide open then. I believe that may have been the portion of the briefing (and the chart) that was withheld at a higher level of clearance. It would make sense that Shaffer would have tried to work through his chain of command, and then through the Commission, before breaking the clearance on the data and bringing it to Weldon. I think Weldon may have sat on it a while, gathering more people willing to talk, until he felt he had enough corroboration for the facts to come out this month.

Clearly, though, Weldon knew that SOCOM had a good idea about what and where Al-Qaeda was far before 9/11 and had opportunities to destroy or disrupt them. A predilection towards inertia would be the most charitable reason to assign the lack of action he describes.

UPDATE: Did Newsmax get this from Laura Rozen and fail to attribute it? It looks that way. Tom Maguire points that out in the comments, as well as provides a link to a floor speech Weldon gave in Congress that is essentially the same as the video, minus the chart.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 29, 2005 6:21 AM

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