Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 14, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

YET MORE ABLE DANGER....As much as it pains me to give props to John Podhoretz and the gang at NRO, big props anyway for belatedly recognizing the likely truth about the recent "Able Danger" affair:

WE MAY OWE THEM A BIG APOLOGY [John Podhoretz]
A day or two ago, I posted a note of caution about the Able Danger scandal, and that note of caution has now turned into a full-fledged symphony -- and some of us on the Right who have been making a big stink about this may have been had.

Yes indeed. Of course, we still have to wait to see if the other Cornerites take his advice, or if this kicks off yet another of the frequent (and entertaining!) JPod-related food fights over at The Corner.

But as long as we're on the subject of Able Danger, I've got another question. The claim that Able Danger specifically identified Mohamed Atta a year before 9/11 has consistently been sourced to a "former defense intelligence official" who has been working closely with Congressman Curt Weldon to push this story into the media. But there's something funny about the details here. Bear with me.

First, here's how the FDIO described what happened to Government Security News:

The intelligence officer recalled carrying documents to the offices of Able Danger, which was being run by the Special Operations Command, headquartered in Tampa, FL. The documents included a photo of Mohammed Atta supplied by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and described Attas relationship with Osama bin Laden.

I'm a little confused about why he was carrying these documents to the Able Danger offices, but set that aside. What are these documents, anyway? The New York Times elaborates:

The former defense intelligence official, who was interviewed twice this week, has repeatedly said that Mr. Atta and four others were identified on a chart presented to the Special Operations Command. The former official said the chart identified about 60 probable members of Al Qaeda.

Ah. The chart. Here's what Laura Rozen had to say about that a few days ago:

I was at a talk Weldon gave at the Heritage foundation back in 2002, where he was making the same claim and showing the same chart of the al Qaeda cells. (Start at around minute 24, minute 31 starts the claim, minute 33:33 is the chart). I even went up afterwards and asked if it would be possible to get a copy of the chart that accompanied his talk and that he's been showing recently, but it proved elusive.

So where's the chart? Why couldn't Laura get a copy of it back in 2002? And why hasn't Weldon shown that original chart to anyone since then?

As for Atta, is it really possible that Weldon put up a gigantic chart in front of a big crowd at a Heritage event for half an hour along with the passionate claim that our intelligence agencies were completely inept for not acting on this information but failed to mention that Mohamed Atta, the most famous terrorist of our time, was named on it? Furthermore, that no one at the event happened to notice Atta's name on the chart?

That's pretty unlikely. Obviously, Atta wasn't on the chart and Weldon didn't mention his name during his presentation. But why? Weldon's FDIO buddy says he distinctly remembers seeing Atta's name on the chart as early as 2000, so why didn't he mention this to Weldon back in 2002? Or 2003? Or 2004? Now, three years later, his memory has miraculously cleared up just in time to produce some dramatic political theater that helps Weldon's publicity campaign for his new book. That's pretty convenient timing, isn't it?

And one more thing. Why can't we get a comment on this from General Charles Holland, who took over Special Operations Command in October 2000? Weldon says that he called "my friend" Holland to arrange for his initial briefing about Able Danger in late 2001, so obviously he knows what that briefing was about. Why can't the Pentagon produce Holland to answer a few questions? He doesn't have to talk about anything classified. Just explain a bit about what Able Danger was, the nature of the information it produced, whether Atta's cell was specifically identified, and what kind of recommendations it made for action. That would help clear things up, wouldn't it?

UPDATE: More about the chart here.

Kevin Drum 2:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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