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August 18, 2005
Able Danger: More Sources Forthcoming?

Deborah Orin continues her coverage of Able Danger, rivalling that of the cross-town Times which initially broke the story, with an interesting and somewhat contradictory follow-up with the first public source, Col. Tony Shaffer. Shaffer points out that he initially did not know that Able Danger had specifically identified Atta prior to 9/11, but did know that al-Qaeda agents had been identified as such:

Shaffer said Atta's name didn't ring a bell when he learned the hijackers' names after 9/11. But he got "a sinking feeling in my stomach" when the woman Ph.D. in charge of Able Danger's data analysis told him Atta was one of those who had been identified as a likely al Qaeda terrorist by Able Danger.

"My friend the doctor [Ph.D.] who did all the charts and ran the technology showed me the chart and said, 'Look, we had this, we knew them, we knew this.' And it was a sinking feeling, it was like, 'Oh my God, you know. We could have done something.' " ...

He said the unit tried three times to alert the FBI that it had identified al Qaeda cells in the United States but military lawyers nixed it. Shaffer also says he alerted the 9/11 commission in October 2003 about how Able Danger identified Atta but commission staffers blew him off and failed to properly follow up.

Shaffer has predicted that this PhD will come forward publicly in the next few days, just as soon as she gets assurances that she will suffer no retaliation for talking about the program publicly. The other source, the Navy captain who tried to get the Commission to investigate Able Danger in 2004, still wants his name withheld. However, Orin reports that the AP outed him yesterday. His rank and expertise in futuristic naval warfare has been apparently confirmed by the news agency. [CQ will not use his name until/unless he does so publicly himself out of consideration for his current assignment.]

Shaffer also added an interesting detail to the Able Danger story. Several CQ readers have wondered whether the program still exists. Shaffer says that his liaison to the program shut down months before the attack on the order of a "risk-averse" commanding general at DIA. In fact, this general had to order Shaffer to cut all ties with Able Danger, explicitly pulling rank over Shaffer's objections. His files at the DIA on Able Danger have also gone missing from their last known storage location, although the Pentagon has started a search, and files get jockeyed around enough to know that this may well be a simple case of misplacement.

It sounds like at least two more shoes may drop on Able Danger and the information it provided military intelligence. If the other sources involved in the actual data collection and analysis come forward, expect this to blow up even larger at the expense of the 9/11 Commission who ignored it.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 18, 2005 7:40 AM

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