Kean-Hamilton Statement on ABLE DANGER (pdf Object)

Kean-Hamilton Statement on ABLE DANGER Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, former Chair and Vice Chair of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission),in response to media inquiries about the Commission’s investigation of the ABLE DANGER program, today released the following statement: On October 21, 2003, Philip Zelikow, the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, two senior Commission staff members, and a representative of the executive branch, met at Bagram Base, Afghanistan, with three individuals doing intelligence work for the Department of Defense. One of the men, in recounting information about al Qaeda’s activities in Afghanistan before 9/11, referred to a DOD program known as ABLE DANGER. He said this program was now closed, but urged Commission staff to get the files on this program and review them, as he thought the Commission would find information about al Qaeda and Bin Ladin that had been developed before the 9/11 attack. He also complained that Congress, particularly the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), had effectively ended a human intelligence network he considered valuable. As with their other meetings, Commission staff promptly prepared a memorandum for the record. That memorandum, prepared at the time, does not record any mention of Mohamed Atta or any of the other future hijackers, or any suggestion that their identities were known to anyone at DOD before 9/11. Nor do any of the three Commission staffers who participated in the interview, or the executive branch lawyer, recall hearing any such allegation. While still in Afghanistan, Dr. Zelikow called back to the Commission headquarters in Washington and requested that staff immediately draft a document request seeking information from DOD on ABLE DANGER. The staff had also heard about ABLE DANGER in another context, related to broader military planning involving possible operations against al Qaeda before 9/11.

In November 2003, shortly after the staff delegation had returned to the United States, two document requests related to ABLE DANGER were finalized and sent to DOD. One, sent on November 6, asked, among other things, for any planning order or analogous documents about military operations related to al Qaeda and Afghanistan issued from the beginning of 1998 to September 20, 2001, and any reports, memoranda, or briefings by or for either the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the Commanding General of the U.S. Special Operations Command in connection with such planning, specifically including material related to ABLE DANGER. The other, sent on November 25, treated ABLE DANGER as a possible intelligence program and asked for all documents and files associated with “DIA’s program ‘ABLE DANGER’” from the beginning of 1998 through September 20, 2001. In February 2004, DOD provided documents responding to these requests. Some were turned over to the Commission and remain in Commission files. Others were available for staff review in a DOD reading room. Commission staff reviewed the documents. Four former staff members have again, this week, reviewed those documents turned over to the Commission, which are held in the Commission’s archived files. Staff who reviewed the documents held in the DOD reading room made notes summarizing each of them. Those notes are also in the Commission archives and have also been reviewed this week. The records discuss a set of plans, beginning in 1999, for ABLE DANGER, which involved expanding knowledge about the al Qaeda network. Some documents include diagrams of terrorist networks. None of the documents turned over to the Commission mention Mohamed Atta or any of the other future hijackers. Nor do any of the staff notes on documents reviewed in the DOD reading room indicate that Mohamed Atta or any of the other future hijackers were mentioned in any of those documents. A senior staff member also made verbal inquiries to the HPSCI and CIA staff for any information regarding the ABLE DANGER operation. Neither organization produced any documents about the operation, or displayed any knowledge of it. In 2004, Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA) and his staff contacted the Commission to call the Commission’s attention to the Congressman’s critique of the U.S. intelligence community. No mention was made in these conversations of a claim that Mohamed Atta or any of the other future hijackers had been identified by DOD employees before 9/11.

2005-08-12_pr.pdf (application/pdf Object)


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