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September 23, 2005
Able Danger Foxtrot VI: The Pentagon Backstep Redux

Earlier today, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced that it had an agreement with the Pentagon to allow the five witnesses to testify in open hearings on the Able Danger project and its identification of the four lead hijackers of the 9/11 attacks. Now the AP reports that the Pentagon may yet block that testimony again, and that the only certainty at this point is continued uncertainty:

On Friday, the Senate committee announced the Pentagon had reversed its position and would allow the five witnesses to testify at a new public hearing scheduled for October 5.

The Pentagon denied anything had changed, despite behind-the-scenes negotiations to reach a solution agreeable to both sides.

"Our position has not changed," Defense spokesman Bryan Whitman told Reuters. "This is a classified program and there are still aspects of it that are not appropriate for an open hearing. And that's what we have told the committee."

Not so, responded William Reynolds, the judiciary committee's director of communications.

"The Pentagon has agreed to make five witnesses available. Although there was no talk at the time when they made that offer, the assumption was that it would be in an open committee hearing," Reynolds said in an interview.

"If the Pentagon has issues with that, they need to let us know," he added.

Arlen Specter has hinted at bringing charges against Pentagon personnel for obstruction of a Congressional investigation, and others in the Senate have talked openly of a DoD cover-up on 9/11. It seems better for the Pentagon to act now to demonstrate openness and cooperation before Specter starts issuing subpoenas not just for the five witnesses he wants, but for people like Shelton and Schoomaker as well.

Several CQ readers point out in comments and e-mail that the Pentagon represents many entities, some of them competing with each other. Of course this is true, but the political leadership handles the relationship with Congress. That starts with Rumsfeld and works its way through his staff. This constant back-and-forth with Congresss shows that the indecision exists in the political section of the DoD. No doubt they have received contradictory data from other factions, but the lack of consistency has to be laid at the feet of the Secretary.

He'd better correct this soon, too. The dance routine has started to look more like a burlesque stall tactic.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 23, 2005 10:09 PM

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