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August 13, 2005

Not "Historically Significant:" 9/11 Panel Spins Able Danger Omission

Ummm, sure:

The Sept. 11 commission concluded that an intelligence program known as Able Danger "did not turn out to be historically significant," despite hearing a claim that the program had identified the future plot leader Mohammed Atta as a potential terrorist threat more than a year before the 2001 attacks, the commission's former leaders said in a statement on Friday evening.

Seems sort of significant to me.

The statement said a review of testimony and documents had found that the single claim in July 2004 by a Navy officer was the only time the name of Mr. Atta or any other future hijacker was mentioned to the commission as having been known before the hijackings. That account is consistent with statements this week by a commission spokesman, but it contradicts claims by a former defense intelligence official who said he had told the commission staff about Able Danger's work on Mr. Atta during a briefing in Afghanistan in October 2003.

This is horrible spin. First of all, it shouldn't matter even if the name were only mentioned once. The entire purpose of the 9/11 Comission was to determine what went wrong in our intelligence-gathering, and a single mention of Atta being identified as a terrorist in 1999 or 2000 should have prompted a lot of research.

Can you imagine a post-WWII commission being told that an intelligence officer had intercepted a cable saying "We strike Pear Harbor in 12 days," and the commission later saying, "Well, gee, we didn't delve into that any further because we were only told that once."

I'm glad there's a disagreement on this point, because a disagreement provides the impetus for lots of hours of Congressional hearings on this point. And, as small a point as it is, it provides drama, as it becomes a "Who's lying?" deal.

Hey, sometimes you need sizzle with your steak to get the attention of the MSM.

The Sept. 11 commission report made no mention of the unit, disbanded in 2002, and the statement by Mr. Kean and Mr. Hamilton defended that omission, saying the operation had not been significant "set against the larger context of U.S. policy and intelligence efforts" that involved Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

Mr. Kean and Mr. Hamilton also noted that the name and character of Able Danger had not been publicly disclosed when the commission issued its public report in 2004. They said the commission had concluded that the July 2004 testimony by the Navy officer, who said he had seen an Able Danger document in 2000 that described Mr. Atta as connected to a cell in Brooklyn "was not sufficiently reliable" to warrant further investigation, in part because the officer could not supply documentary evidence to prove it.

We'll see how much investigation they actually put into coming up with this conclusion.

More... From TKS and Captain Ed.

Both hit upon something curious. The 9/11 has gone from insisting it never heard of this information at all to now claiming they heard of it but thoughtfully considered it and found it not to be "historically significant."

Which is it, guys?

I suppose the obvious answer is "both," in this sense: the Commissioners never heard of this at all, but their staffers decided it wasn't "historically significant."

Well, I know the bona fides, such as they are, of Kean, Hamilton, et al. I don't know who these staffers are at all, if they're young lawyers fresh out of Georgetown or very experienced intelligence analysts, or a mix of both. And I don't know which of these staffers made these decisions. The information does not appear to have been widely shared.

So, which staffers exactly made the decision to spike this information and shield the Commissioners from it?

The very fact that they decided to spike this information, and conceal it from the Commission, makes me doubt their prudence. And, quite frankly, their motives.

Surely this is big enough that it should have been considered by the actual Commissioners, and either included in or excluded from the report according to their expertise (such as it is).

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posted by Ace at 01:26 PM

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