Monday, October 23, 2006

Able Danger whitewash attempt

Cryptome has the Department of Defense whitewash report on Able Danger.  The quick summary:

“The investigation addressed nine specific allegations raised in the media and by various Members of Congress. We did not substantiate those allegations. The evidence did not support assertions that Able Danger identified the September 11, 2001, terrorists nearly a year before the attack, that Able Danger team members were prohibited from sharing information with law enforcement authorities, or that DoD officials reprised against LTC Shaffer for his disclosures regarding Able Danger.”

So it’s all good.  The big problem they had was that a number of separate, independent witnesses all confirmed that Mohammed Atta was on one of their big charts, in a prominent enough position to be remembered years later by all.  The whitewash team handles this at part ‘IV. FINDINGS AND ANALYSIS, A. Did the Able Danger team identify Mohammed Atta and other 9/11 terrorists before September 11, 2001?’

The first witness, ‘CAPT XXXXXX’, they wore down with repeated interviews, the normal technique seen in conspiracy debunking (you keep being interviewed, with pressure in between, until you give the ‘right’ answer).  They used a prop mock-up of the original chart – it has to be a mock-up as the original has, of course, disappeared – to convince him that he couldn’t have seen what he unequivocally testified he had seen.

They use Commander (CDR) XXXXXX, U.S. Navy, who served as CAPT XXXXXX's executive officer from March 2002 to March 2003 aboard the USS Estocin, to confirm that the mock-up chart is the chart that CAPT XXXXXX showed him.  He is "90 percent" certain and "real sure" that the charts were the same, despite the fact he hadn’t seen the original chart for years.  He also, however, confirms that CAPT XXXXXX had mentioned Atta.

Mr. XXXXXX, Assistant for Strategic Initiative, Special Operations and Combating Terrorism, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, stated that:

“. . . both [LTC] Tony Shaffer and [CAPT] XXXXXX alluded to the fact - alluded to the fact - that prior to 9/11, there were linkages to some of the 9/11 participants that came back to the United States at a time when, for example, Mohammed Atta might have been in the United States. . .. I recall is that they alluded to the fact that three of the 9/11 hijackers had showed up in the Able Danger data base.”

This seems conclusive to me, but they parry it by stating:

“Mr. XXXXXX was confident, however, that there was no mention of a ‘Brooklyn’ or ‘Brooklyn, NY’ cell.”

Of course, the Brooklyn aspect is just one part of the whistleblower allegations, and the fact they did not mention that part of the allegations to him in no way changes the fact that his evidence is that they said they saw three 9/11 hijackers on the chart made for Able Danger before September 11.

The whitewashers then bring in a ringer, someone with a position in the Pentagon who can be counted on to confirm the Official Story:

“GEN Norton A. Schwartz, U.S. Air Force, currently, Commander, U.S. Transportation Command, and then-Director of Operations for the Joint Staff, testified that in late 2003 or early 2004, CAPT XXXXXX presented to him a PowerPoint briefing related to data mining. CAPT XXXXXX provided us a copy of the presentation, entitled "Strategic Planning Initiative." The three objectives of the briefing were listed on a slide as: ‘Demonstrate a Strategic Planning approach,’ ‘Demonstrate a complete Horizontal Fusion strategy for all-source information,’ and ‘Request a Mission.’

The briefing contained slides depicting various analytical tools used by the Able Danger mission team and examples of computerized visual displays, but made no mention of having identified Mohammed Atta or other terrorists prior to 9/11. GEN Schwartz confirmed that CAPT XXXXXX did not mention he had identified Mohammed Atta during the brief. However, CAPT XXXXXX disputed GEN Schwartz' recollection, telling us, ‘Atta was mentioned as a punctuation at the end of the brief. I told him how close we had gotten to catching the bad guys of 9/11.’”

The whitewashers go on to create the implication that CAPT XXXXXX created the Atta link to attempt to sell the data mining concept as a weapon against terrorism.

The whitewashers have even more trouble with Dr. XXXXXX, who also saw the charts:

“In our first interview Dr. XXXXXX initially testified that Mohammed Atta was ‘highlighted’ on the Orion chart and associated with wealthy individuals and religious leaders. She specifically identified the Brooklyn cell as being distinct from the area in which Mohammed Atta was located. Dr. XXXXXX stated, 
And it [the chart] also associated him [Mohammed Atta] with some wealthy Middle Eastern players and some religious holy men from the region we would be interested in. I also believe that that chart had on it, to the best of my memory, several other cells, one of them being the Brooklyn cell that I had been looking at for a long time.

However, later in that interview, when asked by an investigator where Mohammed Atta was in relation to the Brooklyn cell, Dr. XXXXXX responded, ‘I believe he would have been part of the Brooklyn cell.’ Dr. XXXXXX was unable to recall with certainty how many other people were depicted in the Brooklyn cell and stated, ‘I can't say with any. . . . Four or five.’ She recalled the photograph of Mohammed Atta was ‘very unclear,’ ‘granular,’ and ‘grainy’ while the quality of the other pictures was ‘pretty good.’”

Again with the quibbling over Brooklyn, without impugning the key point that Atta had been identified.  The repeated interview technique wears down her certainty, but they never manage to shake the fact that Atta had been identified in the charts.

Now its gets interesting:

“Dr. XXXXXX testified that on September 25, 2001, Representative Curt Weldon possessed a copy of the Orion chart, which included a picture of Mohammed Atta, that she had provided to CAPT XXXXXX in January 2000. She stated she was in Representative Weldon's office and they were preparing to go to the White House to meet with I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, then-Chief of Staff and Assistant for National Security Affairs to Vice President Richard B. Cheney. Before they left the office, Dr. XXXXXX asserted, Representative Weldon retrieved the chart from a closet where he had kept other charts. In response to our question, ‘Do you recall [Representative Weldon] having a chart with Mohammed Atta's picture or name on it?’, Dr. XXXXXX responded, ‘And Atta's picture, I believe, to the best of my memory, I saw it in the upper left-hand corner in that chart.’

Dr. XXXXXX testified the chart was brought to Mr. Libby's office and there were other people in the room. She remembered the people included Representatives Christopher H. Shays and Dan Burton; Mr. Thomas J. Ridge, then-Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, Office of Homeland Security, and future-Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; and ‘some of Ridge's kind of deputies in this new department they were setting up.’ There were other people in the office that she did not recognize. Dr. XXXXXX testified, ‘I'm going through my mind, and what I have when I walked into Scooter Libby's front reception area, and I unwrapped a lot of charts,’ but she could not recall whether she presented the chart depicting Mohammed Atta while in Mr. Libby's office.

Dr. XXXXXX testified that she departed Mr. Libby's office with Representatives Weldon and Shays and went to the office of Mr. Stephen J. Hadley, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and then-Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor. Dr. XXXXXX testified that she had a ‘60 percent’ confidence level that the chart with Mohammed Atta's photograph was shown to Mr. Hadley. Regarding whether the chart contained a photograph of Mohammed Atta, Dr. XXXXXX stated,
And the reason I have a higher confidence level is I saw the picture of the World Trade Center and what I thought was the World Trade Center and what I thought were the two embassy bombings on it, which to me was the trigger that reminded me of this chart.

Dr. XXXXXX added, however, that she did not see the picture of Mohammed Atta on the chart. She stated ‘I didn't see it that day. However, from my memory of that chart, I knew that it would have had to have been here.’

Representative Weldon wrote about the September 25,2001, meeting with Mr. Hadley in his book Countdown to Terror, which was published in June 2005. At page 18 he wrote,
On September 25, 2001, just 2 weeks after 9/11, I met in the White House with Stephen Hadley, the deputy national security adviser to the President. I presented him with a 2' x 3' chart I had been given in the aftermath of 9/11. The chart was developed in 1999, as part of a Defense Department initiative dubbed ‘Able Danger.’ It diagrammed the affiliations of al Qaeda and showed Mohammed Atta and the infamous Brooklyn cell. Hadley's response was ‘I have to show this to the big man.’”

The whitewashers then purport to impugn this massively damaging testimony by quibbling over whether it was she or Weldon who brought the chart!  I note that they might have solved the mystery of the missing chart by simply asking Stephen Hadley for it, but I guess that would be too easy.

The whitewashers then attempt to deal with LTC Shaffer, the whistleblower with the clearest testimony about Atta and the Brooklyn cell.  More quibbling over details, but no substantive rebuttal of his evidence.

Then they deal with Mr. XXXXXX who was employed by Orion, the chart making company, from October 1999 to August 2000:

“Mr. XXXXXX told us that he delivered a chart that included Mohammed Atta's photograph to LIWA in January or February 2000. He recalled that the chart was produced in response to a request from LIWA in which Orion was tasked to perform a study related to the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. He characterized the tasking as ‘a study of Omar Abdul Rahman . . . and what other personnel may be associated with his particular cell or groups up in New York City.’  While Mr. XXXXXX could not recall the precise request from LIWA, he provided, ‘The way I remember it, it was 'give us ties and associates of the New York City, what happened in New York City, the people known to cause the New York City issue [referring to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing].'’”


“Regarding the photograph of Mohammed Atta, Mr. XXXXXX testified, ‘It was a very grainy, but it was clear enough that you could make out that stare, his high cheekbones, the very, the very pronounced his eyes. Yeah, definitely Atta.’ He also stated, ‘It was bad. It looked like it had been transmitted over a low line or it was, had been copied multiple times. It was very grainy.’ While Mr. XXXXXX had a clear recollection of Mohammed Atta's photograph, he did not recall whether there was a name attached to the photograph.”


“Mr. XXXXXX testified he had been in possession of this chart and others produced by Orion because he collected charts that were produced for customers but not delivered to them because of quality problems, such as blurred or smudged lines. He stated he originally kept these charts in the trunk of his automobile. He stated that he later moved the charts from his car trunk and placed them under his bed. He recalled that shortly after September 11, 2001, when he first saw photographs identifying Mohammed Atta as one of the terrorists, he recognized him. Mr. XXXXXX testified, ‘Yeah and I'm looking and I said, Jesus, I recognized his picture instantly. . . . Yeah, I went to my chart to compare and I said there he is.’

Mr. XXXXXX stated that after discovering Mohammed Atta's photograph on the chart he told numerous people about his identification of Mohammed Atta and showed them the chart. He stated, ‘I spoke to everybody that would listen to me,’ ‘I talked to quite a few people,’ and ‘I told them we had previously identified this person as a known terrorist.’”

More quibbling ensues, based largely on Mr. XXXXXX’s sensible refusal to turn over to the Pentagon the names of the people he talked to (who wants their friends to be waterboarded!).  They then mention two more witnesses who recalled the name Mohammed Atta from the Able Danger project.

After all this, when you might think they were setting up a conclusive report that Atta had been identified by Able Danger, they concluded:

“. . . the Able Danger team did not identify Mohammed Atta or any of the 9/11 terrorists as possible threats at any time during its existence. Further, witnesses purporting to have seen a chart obtained by the Able Danger team from LIWA but produced by Orion depicting Mohammed Atta and other 9/11 terrorists were in error. Although it is conceivable that the name ‘Mohammed Atta’ or a photograph of Mohammed Atta may have appeared along with thousands of other bits of information examined by the Able Danger team, neither Mohammed Atta nor any other 9/11 terrorist was identified in a manner that would have linked them to al Qaeda or justified more focused information gathering.”

Based on slight inconsistencies in peripheral matters, they basically call all the witnesses liars, despite the fact that their independent testimony backs up the major point that Able Danger had identified Atta prior to September 11.  Their conclusion is so clumsy that I have to wonder whether it was written by people attempting to present the truth in the guise of a whitewash.

The issue is presented as a problem concerning whether Able Danger could have identified the September 11 terrorists in time to stop the tragedy, but, of course, that isn’t the real problem.  The real problem is that the guy using the identity ‘Mohammed Atta’ was leading a terrorist cell in Brooklyn at a time when the original Mohammed Atta, the Egyptian student we are supposed to believe was a radical Muslim leading the attack under the direction of Osama bin Laden, was documented in Hamburg.  I have written:

“. . .  the terrorist Atta can't be the same guy as the student in Hamburg. However, the entire story of September 11 is constructed on that identity. The biography of the Egyptian Atta, how he became radicalized attending a mosque in Hamburg, formed part of the al Qaeda terrorist cell in Hamburg, and then came to America to lead a terrorist attack, depends on the American 'Atta' being the same guy as the Egyptian/Hamburg Atta (by 'Atta', I mean the guy who assumed the Atta identity for his operations in the United States). Able Danger confirms that they are not the same guy, and that we really know nothing about the background of the American 'Atta'. Since we can now see that the FBI story with respect to Atta is a lie, and we have no way of knowing anything about who he really was or what motivated him, we can see that the stories about every other one of the nineteen is similarly flawed. If the FBI can lie about Atta, they can lie about all of them. Suddenly, the connection between al Qaeda and September 11, which depended entirely on the connections to the Hamburg radical Muslim cell, disappears.”

It is not a coincidence that the FBI decided to pick the middle of an election campaign to start a public investigation of Curt Weldon, an investigation for relatively picayune corruption (at least compared to corruption trencherman like Hastert).  Weldon asked too many questions about Able Danger, and has to pay the price.