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September 9, 2005
Able Danger Foxtrot IV: Weldon's Timeline

UPI continued its reporting on Able Danger and the response to it by the Pentagon in a wire report that saw little media replay. Stratasphere and Just One Minute must have their antennae finely tuned to have discovered this at M&C, and while the report does not do much to move the story forward, it provides a couple of interesting details.

First, Rep. Curt Weldon wants to know why the Pentagon destroyed the material relating to Able Danger. Up to last week, we had not determined with any certainty than the material no longer exists but that the Pentagon couldn't find it. The Pentagon finally acknowledged that it had shredded the data as part of a normal process used for classified material that had no further use, but Weldon says he doesn't buy that:

The congressman who first made public claims that a secret Pentagon data mining project linked the Sept. 11 attacks ringleader to al-Qaida more than a year before the attacks took place says he does not believe the military`s account of how the results of the project`s work came to be destroyed.

'I seriously have my doubts that it was routine,' Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Penn., told United Press International.

Last week, Pentagon officials told a hastily arranged briefing for reporters that much data generated by the project -- code-named Able Danger -- was destroyed in accordance with standard operating procedure for handling material that might contain the names of Americans.

Weldon said he had asked the Pentagon for the certificates of destruction that military officials must complete when classified data is destroyed.

He said that there had been 'a second elimination of data in 2003,' in addition to the destruction acknowledged last week.

Weldon said that a hearing next week before the Senate Judiciary Committee would hear testimony from the individual who destroyed the data.

'For some reason, the bureaucracy in the Pentagon -- I mean the civilian bureaucracy -- didn`t want this to get out,' he said.

It sounds strange to me that the Pentagon insisted on destroying any data that could help track al-Qaeda cells in the aftermath of 9/11. Typically the data that gets destroyed has lost any value at all to the military or national-security system, but contains or would reveal methodologies that cannot get exposed if declassified. The latter may have been a consideration in deciding to destroy the material, but clearly the information still had an application for intelligence operations work. The Patriot Act made it much easier to coordinate with law-enforcement agencies in order to put this information to good use. So why destroy it?

Also, Col. Tony Shaffer in his GSN interview makes it clear that he had a set of the documentation in his possession as late as February 2004, when the Army accused him of misappropriation over $67 in cellphone charges and temporarily suspended his clearance. By the time he regained his clearance more than a month later, the material had gone missing. That came after his meeting with Zelikow and the Commission, not before.

In another part of the UPI report, Shaffer tells the reporter about his meeting with the Commission staffers in October 2003, and insists that he mentioned Mohammed Atta by name. An anonymous staffer disputes this:

A three-page statement from the commission`s successor body, the 9-11 Public Discourse Project, says that a memorandum for the file prepared at the time by the staff 'does not record any mention of Mohamed Atta or any of the other future hijackers, or any suggestion that their identities were known to anyone at (the Department of Defense) before Sept. 11.'

Former commission staffers -- who asked for anonymity citing the sensitive nature of the subject matter or the rules imposed by current employers -- said it was inconceivable that any member of the staff at the Bagram meeting would have heard Atta`s name, or the names of any other hijackers, and not remembered it.

'That was exactly what we were looking for!' said one.

'I told them that we, Able Danger, had identified two of the three cells that carried out the Sept. 11 attacks,' Shaffer said. 'At the end (of the presentation) I mentioned Atta.'

Shaffer says he 'sort of dropped (the name) in' at the end of the meeting, and his account of the difference in recollections is conciliatory, 'If they want to say they didn`t hear it, fair enough. But I know what I said. I said we had two of the three cells.'

Shaffer too has a contemporaneous note of the meeting -- talking points he says he prepared for his presentation, and which he has provided to several committees on Capitol Hill.

He declined to provide UPI with a copy, but he did say that Atta was not named in them.

Tom Maguire says that this response from Shaffer constitutes a climb-down for Shaffer, but I disagree. Shaffer never claimed that his talking points had the name 'Atta' in them, only that he told them the name. In the GSN interview, he said it made quite an impact, while here after the UPI reporter apparently confronted him with the quote from the anonymous staffer -- who the UPI report doesn't clearly indicate even attended the meeting in question -- Shaffer replies that maybe they just didn't hear him, but he knows what he said. That sounds more to me like someone who gets very careful about calling people liars in public than a climb-down.

And perhaps the UPI could get more specific about this anonymous staffer and whether that person attended the meeting in Afghanistan at all. So far, three people attached to the Able Danger project have come forward publicly, two at the risk of ruining their military careers, to tell their story. The Pentagon has found three other sources that corroborate Shaffer, Captain Scott Phillpott, and civilian contractor J. D. Smith. The 9/11 Commission and the names of its staffers are a matter of public record. At this stage, why would they hide behind anonymity?

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 9, 2005 5:26 AM

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» Able Danger, Recent Document Destruction, 09/08/05 from The Strata-Sphere
Some interesting Able Danger news slid through the mountain of Katrina stories today. Rep Weldon claims some of the Able Danger documents were recently destroyed in 2003, around the time of the 9-11 commission investigation. This is well after the d... [Read More]

Tracked on September 9, 2005 7:10 AM

» A Note on Document Destruction from Voice of the Taciturn
Now for some boring insight on how the document destruction process actually works . . . [Read More]

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» The cover-up continues from The Bad Hedgehog
Hey- he couldn't get ALL the memos stuffed down his pants FromCaptain's Quarters. It seems Sandy socks Berger had a little bit of help from the Pentagon when it came to shredding those incriminating ABLE DANGER documents:First, Rep. Curt Weldon [Read More]

Tracked on September 9, 2005 10:12 PM

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