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August 17, 2005

Intel Officer Stands By Story: Able Danger Info Blocked

Thrice, as a matter of fact. I love saying that. Thrice. It just feels so satisfying.

military intelligence team repeatedly contacted the F.B.I. in 2000 to warn about the existence of an American-based terrorist cell that included the ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a veteran Army intelligence officer who said he had now decided to risk his career by discussing the information publicly.

The officer, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, said military lawyers later blocked the team from sharing any of its information with the bureau.

Colonel Shaffer said in an interview on Monday night that the small, highly classified intelligence program, known as Able Danger, had identified the terrorist ringleader, Mohamed Atta, and three other future hijackers by name by mid-2000, and tried to arrange a meeting that summer with agents of the Washington field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to share its information.

But he said military lawyers forced members of the intelligence program to cancel three scheduled meetings with the F.B.I. at the last minute, which left the bureau without information that Colonel Shaffer said might have led to Mr. Atta and the other terrorists while the Sept. 11 attacks were still being planned.

"I was at the point of near insubordination over the fact that this was something important, that this was something that should have been pursued," Colonel Shaffer said of his efforts to get the evidence from the intelligence program to the F.B.I. in 2000 and early 2001.

He said he learned later that lawyers associated with the Special Operations Command of the Defense Department had canceled the F.B.I. meetings because they feared controversy if Able Danger was portrayed as a military operation that had violated the privacy of civilians who were legally in the United States.

"It was because of the chain of command saying we're not going to pass on information - if something goes wrong, we'll get blamed," he said.

The Defense Department did not dispute the account from Colonel Shaffer, a 42-year-old native of Kansas City, Mo., who is the first military officer associated with the program to acknowledge his role publicly.

Jim Geraghty of TKS is invaluable, of course, but honestly, in the words of Margaret Thatcher, this is no time to go all wobbly.

The intelligence officer and Able Danger team-member who's come forward -- a Lt. Col. Schaeffer -- gave CNN an interview and suggested the 9/11 Commission didn't seem very interested in getting the documents from the DOD; or at least they weren't interested enough to submit their request to the agency actually running Able Danger:

S. O'BRIEN: But I was essentially asking you if they were lying, which is sort of a yes or no answer there.

SHAFFER: I can't β€” I'm just letting you know what I β€” what I said. I said, specifically, that we, as through the Able Danger process, discovered two of the three cells which conducted 9/11, to include Atta. Now β€” and I β€” that was, to me, significant, in that they actually pulled me aside after the meeting and said, "Please come talk to us and give us more details."

Now, back to the information that DOD passed to them. DOD passed two containers, approximately briefcase-sized containers over to them in the February-March time frame of '04. That is not one-twentieth of the information which was available out there on Able Danger and the project.

And plus, they asked DIA for it. It was not a DIA project. And I think they asked the wrong questions of DOD in some cases. And I know for a fact right not DOD is trying to get to the bottom of this.

State Department Warned Clinton Too: When even the milquetoast ninnies at State are warning you, it's probably a good idea to listen:

State Department analysts warned the Clinton administration in July 1996 that Osama bin Laden's move to Afghanistan would give him an even more dangerous haven as he sought to expand radical Islam "well beyond the Middle East," but the government chose not to deter the move, newly declassified documents show.

In what would prove a prescient warning, the State Department intelligence analysts said in a top-secret assessment on Mr. bin Laden that summer that "his prolonged stay in Afghanistan - where hundreds of 'Arab mujahedeen' receive terrorist training and key extremist leaders often congregate - could prove more dangerous to U.S. interests in the long run than his three-year liaison with Khartoum," in Sudan.

BONUS! Judicial Watch got a hold of this document through a FOIA request.

As per the NY Times stylebook, when Judicial Watch nettles the Bush Administration, they're just a public-policy watchdog.

But, as usual, when they go after the Clintons or Democrats, they're a

conservative legal advocacy group

Dang, they're clever. They've made themselves impossible to parodize.


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