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September 25, 2005
Hadley Denies Weldon's Claims In An Able Danger Sideshow

Rep. Curt Weldon's credibility may have taken a minor hit in yesterday's Washington Post with a rather passive denial from National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley that Weldon gave Hadley a chart showing Mohammed Atta as a member of al-Qaeda either before or after 9/11. Weldon claimed in his book that he gave Hadley a copy of a chart two weeks after the attacks, produced in 2000 by the Able Danger team showing the Atta connection and explaining the data-mining project to Hadley. According to the Post, Hadley gave this response yesterday:

But a spokesman for Hadley, who has previously declined to comment on Weldon's claims, said yesterday that a search of National Security Council files produced no such documents identifying Atta and that Hadley was not given such a chart by Weldon.

"Mr. Hadley does not recall any chart bearing the name or photo of Mohamed Atta," said the spokesman, Frederick L. Jones II. "NSC staff reviewed the files of Mr. Hadley as well as of all NSC personnel" who might have received such a chart.

"That search has turned up no chart," he said.

Hadley does recall seeing a chart used as an example of "link analysis" -- the technique used by the Able Danger program -- as a counterterrorism tool, but is not sure whether it happened during a Sept. 25, 2001, meeting with Weldon or at another session, Jones said.

First, notice the rather weak wording in the denial. Hadley does not recall seeing any such chart, and the chart doesn't exist in their files. In fact, the Pentagon used this same kind of language initially when pressed for a response after the public revelation of Able Danger. It allows for a non-specific denial which can later fit into further corroboration of Weldon's claims as well as Hadley's. It says very little, other than Hadley doesn't recall it.

Now, one can argue that if an NSA saw such a chart, it should be highly memorable. However, in the first few weeks after 9/11, many theories and hypotheses floated through DC and the media, and it could be that Hadley saw any number of charts and reports with similar kinds of connections. It also could be that Hadley knew about Able Danger (or found out about it later), couldn't discuss it then and had the chart shredded. Using "I don't recall" leaves all sorts of possibilities open without tying one to any specific outcome.

What we do know is that the Pentagon admits it has five witnesses who do specifically recall seeing Mohammed Atta identified as a potential AQ operative well before the 9/11 attacks, as well as three of his fellow hijackers. Four of the five recall his picture being on the chart. Whether Hadley recalls the incident that Weldon describes is a side issue at this point. We need to hear from the Able Danger team themselves to see whether they will testify to that identification, how those connections worked, and why the Pentagon would not allow them to coordinate with the FBI to target Atta prior to the attacks.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 25, 2005 9:29 AM

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