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August 18, 2005
Able Danger: Kean Punts

Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, has once again changed directions on the Able Danger program. As the New York Times reports this morning, the effect of Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer going public with his Able Danger information has forced Kean to punt the entire mess back to the Pentagon, backing away from last Friday's detailed defense of the Commission's dismissal of the intelligence:

The chairman of the Sept. 11 commission called on the Pentagon on Wednesday to move quickly to evaluate the credibility of military officers who have said that a highly classified intelligence program managed to identify the Sept. 11 ringleader more than a year before the 2001 attacks. He said the information was not shared in a reliable form with the panel.

The chairman, Thomas H. Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, offered no judgment about the accuracy of the officers' accounts. But he said in an interview that if the accounts were true, it suggested that detailed information about the intelligence program, known as Able Danger, was withheld from the commission and that the program and its findings should have been mentioned prominently in the panel's final report last year.

"If they identified Atta and any of the other terrorists, of course it was an important program," Mr. Kean said, referring to Mohamed Atta, the Egyptian ringleader of the attacks. "Obviously, if there were materials that weren't given to us, information that wasn't given to us, we're disappointed. It's up to the Pentagon to clear up any misunderstanding."

In a statement last week, Mr. Kean and the vice chairman of the commission, Lee H. Hamilton, said that Able Danger, a computerized data-mining operation run from within the Defense Department's Special Operations Command, "did not turn out to be historically significant, set against the larger context of U.S. policy and intelligence efforts."

But Mr. Kean suggested Wednesday that the statement would need to be revised if information from officers involved in Able Danger proved to be true.

Once again, the Commission dissembles somewhat. Shaffer has explicitly stated, on the record now, that the Commission's staffers did hear that Able Danger identified Mohammed Atta and three of the 9/11 hijackers as early as 15-18 months before the attack. In fact, two different people told them at least once each: Shaffer in October 2003, and an as-yet unidentified Navy captain in July 2004. Shaffer even tried to follow up with the Commission to give them more information in January 2004, but found them uninterested in the evidence.

It's nice to see Kean acknowledge that any data that identified Atta prior to the attacks is self-evidently an important line of investigation to follow. Why didn't anyone believe that before all of this became public?

The Pentagon, meanwhile, has not yet issued any definitive statement on Able Danger. Media outlets and anonymous sources have expected one since last weekend, always speculating that the statement would come out the next day. It appears that the Pentagon also has been taken by surprise and may need more time to unravel Able Danger, or it may just need more time to establish the authorization and funding for such an extensive data-mining program. My guess is that Congress never authorized such a program, and probably neither did the Clinton White House. That will make Able Danger somewhat embarrassing to top brass and may also explain their reluctance to coordinate information between Able Danger and law-enforcement agencies.

No matter. The time for sheepishness and squeamishness has long passed. The Pentagon needs to get the records together and provide them to Congress along with a public statement that confirms or denies Col. Shaffer's account. The Commission, meanwhile, needs to quit issuing statements and let Congress and the White House get to the bottom of their failure, to determine whether it came from incompetence or corruption.

UPDATE: The 9/11 families will not find themselves mollified by Kean's blameshifting:

A coalition of family members known as the Sept. 11 Advocates blasted 9/11 commission leaders Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton for pooh-poohing Able Danger's findings last week as not "historically significant."

"They somehow made a determination that this was not important enough. To me, that says somebody there is not using good judgment. And if I'm questioning the judgment in this one case, what other things might they have missed?" Mindy Kleinberg, a member of the Sept. 11 Advocates, told The Post.

"I don't think you can understate the significance here. You're talking about the four lead hijackers. If we shared information and did surveillance on them, there is no telling what we could have uncovered and what we could have thwarted. I think we do need a new commission, and that's really sad."

That statement from last Friday was nothing more than an empty bluff, a last stand that depended on Able Danger sources remaining anonymous. Col. Shaffer's courage in jeopardizing his career to call this bluff has blown the Commission's credibility away entirely. Not only do we need an investigation into Able Danger and the Commission, but as Ms. Kleinberg suggests, we need to re-investigate 9/11 and the entire Islamofascist war against America, this time from scratch and without preconceived notions revolving around turf protection and election-year politics.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 18, 2005 7:34 AM

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» ABLE DANGER, THE WALL, AND WACO from Right Wing Nut House
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