8/26/2005

'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for August 11 - Hardball with Chris Matthews - MSNBC.com

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY: Coming up, reports that military intelligence identified Mohamed Atta and three other hijackers as al Qaeda members before 9/11. Reaction from a woman who lost her husband in the attack.

HARDBALL returns right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY: Was valuable information that could have averted the 9/11 attacks lost in a bureaucratic maze?

According to Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, Mohamed Atta, ringleader of the 9/11 attacks, was identified as being part of an al Qaeda cell in the United States back in the summer of 2000, more than a year before the attacks. This information came from a secret military operation code-named Able Danger. It was not passed along to the FBI. And it was left out of the report issued by the 9/11 Commission, even though commission staffers were briefed on it.

I‘m joined by Kristen Breitweiser, who lost her husband on 9/11 and was a strong advocate in the creation of the 9/11 Commission that investigated the attacks. We‘re also joined by NBC News counterterrorism analyst Roger Cressey, who was on the National Security Council during the 9/11 attacks.

Welcome to both of you.

Kristen, let me start with you.

The 9/11 Commission is—is holding back in terms of a response yet, as they gather more information from the Defense Intelligence Agency. And one of the points that‘s been made clear by them reportedly is that, when they initially got this information, it didn‘t square with information they had on the whereabouts of Mohamed Atta at that time. And so, it wasn‘t given full credibility.

What is your reaction to all of this, as you‘ve learned about it?

KRISTEN BREITWEISER, 9/11 WIDOW: Certainly, it is a disturbing turn of events. If the information turns out to be accurate, I think that the commission report will be completely discounted, in the sense that this is not an insignificant piece of information.

You were talking about a special-ops team identifying four key hijackers, hijackers that had contacts with the other hijackers while they were in the country. They traveled in and out of the country for the year prior to 9/11. They took practice flights on domestic flights. They attended flight schools. They had contacts with the other hijackers, receiving money transfers from overseas, had contacts with Ramzi Binalshibh, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

This is not an insignificant piece of information. And had they been identified, I would like to know why that information was not passed on to the FBI. Furthermore, I would like to know, if it was not passed to the FBI, who was it passed on to?

GREGORY: Well, you‘ve long suspected that U.S. intelligence was tracking the hijackers, haven‘t you?

BREITWEISER: Yes.

I mean, I think, obviously, if you look at the historical record, it seems odd that they were able to a simulate so much information immediately after the attacks on the hijackers. They were able to get their photos. They swarmed into flight schools within hours of the attacks.

For a group of agencies that were completely inept and in the dark, according to the official story, prior to 9/11 about these hijackers being in this country, being fully embedded, planning this attack, they certainly got their information together within 24 hours of those attacks. And, sadly, since that time, we haven‘t learned much more, except these sorts of revelations, you know, that the CIA knew certainly an awful lot about al-Midhar and al-Hamzi while they were in this country for 18 months prior to 9/11.

And now we‘re finding out that, apparently, the Pentagon knew an awful lot about Mohamed Atta, al-Shehhi, al-Midhar and al-Hamzi.

GREGORY: Roger Cressey, what do you make of all this so far?

ROGER CRESSEY, NBC COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I‘m not prepared to go too far with this just yet. I think, if the story is actually correct, and then what Kristen says is true. But I don‘t think we are there yet.

There are two big issues, David. The first one is, how did Special Operations Command, how were they able to corroborate Atta as an individual as part of an active al Qaeda cell in the United States using open-source data mine? And we do not know of any intelligence reporting that they used at this time.

'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for August 11 - Hardball with Chris Matthews - MSNBC.com

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