September 1, 2005

Able Danger: Hearing Will Be Public

Arlen Specter raised the ante yesterday when announcing the scheduling of the hearing he will conduct with the Judiciary Commitee on the Able Danger project. The September 14th hearing into the datamining effort and its identification of Mohammed Atta and three other 9/11 hijackers as potential terrorist threats will be conducted publicly:

The Senate Judiciary Committee announced Wednesday that it was investigating reports from two military officers that a highly classified Pentagon intelligence program identified the Sept. 11 ringleader as a potential terrorist more than a year before the attacks.

The committee's chairman, Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said in an interview that he was scheduling a public hearing on Sept. 14 "to get to the bottom of this" and that the military officers "appear to have credibility."

The senator said his staff had confirmed reports from the two officers that employees of the intelligence program tried to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2000 to discuss the work of the program, known as Able Danger.

Public hearings will allow Shaffer and Phillpott to get an examination that the nation can judge on its own. We can judge the credibility of the career officers, one of whom may have given up any hope for the Admiralty to take his case to the American people. Private contractor J.D. Smith will also take the stand, yet another witness to the results of the program and the identification of the terrorist cell that killed almost 3,000 Americans.

This has put the onus on the Pentagon, which now has to explain how all three men could possibly have lied about Able Danger or how they came to lose all of its relevant documentation. The New York Times reports that the Pentagon continues to hedge its initial skepticism. They now say they will not dispute the recollections of the three witnesses, even though they cannot find any documentation to support their statements. The Pentagon has apparently decided to take their usual spokesman, Larry Di Rita, off the case. Instead, Major Paul Swiergosz reiterated that the military couldn't even find documentation that led to the program's documentation.

I suggest that Senator Specter call the Pentagon counsel at the time of Able Danger as a witness, as well as anyone who handled documentation for the project. Something changed the Pentagon's tenor, something more than the revelation of the names of Phillpott and Smith. Probably the project documentation no longer exists, as it would have been destroyed after the project's cancellation, given the explosive reasons Smith cited for its abrupt end. A review of their counsel notes regarding meetings held between Pentagon lawyers and the Able Danger team regarding the sharing of the data should still remain extant -- and would corroborate a key portion of their testimony.

We will know more in a fortnight, it appears. Set the TiVos for C-SPAN2 and review the material, especially the conclusions of the 9/11 Commission on the Mohammed Atta timeline.


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