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September 15, 2005
Able Danger: More Denial From Commission

Despite the discovery of five eyewitnesses to the Able Danger project who now insist that Mohammed Atta and other 9/11 hijackers got identified as potential al-Qaeda terrorists over a year before the deadly terrorist attacks, the 9/11 Commission has publicly asserted that the program did not produce any such analysis. This came as part of their public response to the performance of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security to Hurrican Katrina (via Strata-Sphere):

Former members of the Sept. 11 commission on Wednesday dismissed assertions that a Pentagon intelligence unit identified lead hijacker Mohamed Atta as an member of al-Qaida long before the 2001 attacks. ...

[Commission co-chair Thomas] Kean said the recollections of the intelligence officers cannot be verified by any document.

"Bluntly, it just didn't happen and that's the conclusion of all 10 of us," said a former commissioner, ex-Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash.

Exactly how the ten commissioners came up with this consensus never gets explained by Kean or Gorton. Thanks to the work of their staffers, none of them ever heard testimony from either Col. Tony Shaffer, the DIA liaison, nor Captain Scott Phillpott, the program's director. Neither did they speak with civilian contractor J. D. Smith, whose work produced the documentation which has since disappeared. They don't even acknowledge that the Pentagon itself, while announcing that they could not find the program's data, did find three more witnesses that corroborate Phillpott, Smith, and Shaffer.

If one had to concoct a scenario which shows the methodology of the 9/11 Commission, it could hardly illuminate it better than this. Without hearing witnesses nor reviewing evidence, the Commission reached a hard and fast conclusion that, not coincidentally, fits within their determined narrative. They give no explanation for their blunt statement of "fact", and present no deliberation. Apparently the discovery of evidence that doesn't fit within their report makes the evidence untrue, no matter how many witnesses come forward to verify it.

To put it bluntly, as Slade Gorton says, the Commission did nothing but put a quasi-official imprimatur on a series of speculations that have collapsed since the discovery of Able Danger and other revelations about what the Commission missed in its investigation. It wrote the report it wanted to write, and ignored evidence and testimony that discredited its conclusions. The board of bureaucrats recommended an expanded bureaucracy while blaming operational personnel for not "connecting the dots", ignoring the fact that the bureaucracy -- aided by one of the Commissioners themselves -- created a Byzantine legal environment which actively suppressed the data-sharing necessary to make the proper analysis.

Now they want to shade their eyes and cover their ears as the evidence they missed or actively ignored comes to light. Let them. It will only demonstrate their lack of investigatory detachment and marriage to their preconceived narratives all the more.

Addendum: It's precisely this kind of unaccountable hackery that should advise against creating even more independent commissions that allow Congress to avoid the political responsibility for doing its own investigations. That's why the Senate's rejection yesterday of a Katrina panel is a step back towards sanity and responsibility. If Congressmen and Senators churn out something on Katrina with as little real value as the 9/11 Commission's Final Report, they should have to face their constituents with that failure ringing in their ears.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 15, 2005 5:50 AM

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