8/20/2005

Drum: Comments on Weldon / Able Danger

Regarding Four in 9/11 Plot Are Called Tied to Qaeda in '00:

I have to say, without specifically criticizing your journalism, that this article gives off the distinct odor of the farm.

The most troubling thing is the level of anonymity. A "small, highly classified military intelligence unit" "established by the Special Operations Command in 1999, under a classified directive issued by [JCS Chair] Hugh Shelton" which a spokesman for Special Operations Command has no knowledge of and of which the Pentagon failed to apprise the 9/11 Commission sounds a whole lot like an illegal, rogue operation or the figment of someone's imagination.

The latter seems more likely, since you say that 9/11 Commissioners deny being briefed about a significant aspect of what "a former ntelligence official" claims to have briefed them. On the other hand, if the JCS is creating without explicit presidential authorization operations that end up dabbling in domestic espionage, that would be a very big story that I am sure every civil libertarian in the country would like to know more about.

It's also troubling that credence is given to such shadowy findings. Data mining techniques are so exquisitely reliable that they are routinely used to put me on mailing lists for both Franklin Graham crusades and The Skeptical Inquirer. The military is in general even clumsier than private enterprise in using them, as many Iraqi families know all too well. In this case, the "military intelligence unit" identified a "Brooklyn cell" with no identifiable connection to Brooklyn.

Did they correctly identify Atta but incorrectly identify many other people? False positives could have made their reviewers skeptical. You mention that a CIA source said that one of the Iranians they sourced to was completely unreliable. Could this Iranian source be Manuchar Ghorbanifar and could the rest of this military intelligence unit's data have been so questionable that it was dismissed?

Coming out so long after the fact, this sounds like an after-the-fact fable concocted to shift credit or blame.

Finally, there's a question about exactly how classified this information is. If Curt Weldon knows about it, it can't be very highly classified. This is a guy whose career reached its zenith when he went up against the Pagan motorcycle gang. He (or his staff) spell the Grand Ayatollah's name "Homeni," but thinks he knows that the election in which Iranians rejected a famously corrupt politician in favor of a guy who (is or pretends to be) upright was fraudulent. Not that spelling is important except as a possible signal of total lack of familiarity with a topic. In Weldon's case, that seems to be exactly what it is (maybe he meant "hominy.")

Maybe this story is true, maybe not. But it looks a whole lot more like congressional hotdogging. It certainly doesn't seem to me to have enough basic corroboration to run.

Sincerely,

[JS]
[Personal comment. Not for publication or quotation.]
Posted by: js on August 14, 2005

Weldon: "Stephen Hadley ate my homework."
Posted by: S.Anderson on August 15, 2005

The Washington Monthly

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