Able Danger Foxtrot VII: The Zaid Interview

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to talk at length with Mark Zaid, the attorney for Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, about the status of the Judiciary Committee hearings and other questions regarding the Able Danger story. Mark and I spoke for about an hour, and his outlook on the runaround he and Shaffer have received about talking with Congress forms the basis of my new column at the Daily Standard, “The Able Danger Foxtrot Continues”:

“We’re presumably waiting for them to reschedule,” Zaid said. “Officially, the Defense Department and the DIA are taking the position–at least with me–that Shaffer is not allowed to testify.” That gag order clearly has allowed the momentum of the story to slow in the last few weeks. When asked about the gag order’s origin, Shaffer’s attorney cannot tell for certain who ordered it. “These guys are talking out of both sides of their mouths,” he replied when asked to identify the agency responsible for blocking the testimony. “The first time around, when the hearing on the 21st was scheduled to happen,” he explained, “the Defense Department was calling the shots, and DIA was continually relaying messages from DIA to me.”
That seems to have changed since the cancellation of the first Judiciary hearing. After Zaid informed the DIA that Shaffer had invitations from other Congressional committees to deliver unclassified briefings, the DIA took charge of the clearance issue–and placed hurdle after hurdle in front of the career officer and his attorney, preventing them from sharing Able Danger’s details with the legislators. “The DIA is calling the shots . .
. First, I had Tony call that [a request for permission] in himself,” Zaid said, “and they refused to act on that. Then I submitted it to Congressional Affairs, and they refused to act on that. They say I’m not specific enough.”
“I said that House Judiciary wants to meet with him. Congressman Davis wants to meet with him. The House Committee on Government Reform wants to meet with him,” Zaid continued. “Somehow, it’s not specific enough because I didn’t list the individual staff members.” Zaid wonders why the DIA wants to know about the names of each staff member that may or may not be present during the presentation of an unclassified briefing. “They don’t want him meeting with certain staff members that might be hostile to them? Well, sorry, that’s not the way it works.”

Zaid tends to think that this reflects incompetence rather than a sophisticated attempt to keep testimony about Able Danger from the public. It sounds a bit more suspicious to me, however, especially when one considers which committees have not asked for a briefing on the program — a fact which CQ readers can discover in the column itself.
I will post an entire transcript of the interview later in the week when I get more time. Zaid and I discussed numerous details of the case, including the Atta timeline and other issues that Zaid clarifies during the conversation. In the meantime, if people want to see Shaffer and the other AD team members tell us how they identified the AQ cells a year before the 9/11 attacks and no one seemed to notice it, contact the Senators and Representatives involved to get Zaid some help in getting the DIA and DoD to start cooperating.