8/24/2005

Kevin Drum: MORE ABLE DANGER WEIRDNESS

KD's post is pretty good but my favorite quote is in the comments -- law:

So, there you have it. Atta first meets bin Laden in November-December 2000, doesn't commit to the Planes Operation until December/January, and this ultraefficient Pentagon operation knows what he's going to do maybe sooner than he does



one way or another I think it's going to turn out to be pretty interesting. I'm just not sure yet which way it's going to be interesting.

The latest comes from the New York Times, which interviewed Capt. Scott Phillpott, a member of the Able Danger team:

"My story is consistent," said Captain Phillpott, who managed the program for the Pentagon's Special Operations Command. "Atta was identified by Able Danger by January-February of 2000."

Now, this is just plain odd. As I mentioned a few days ago, Mohamed Atta's full name was "Mohamed Mohamed el-Amir Awad el-Sayed Atta," and prior to 2000 he went by "Mohamed el-Amir." The first reference to "Mohamed Atta" that we know of was in his March 2000 emails to American flight schools, but it's very unlikely that Able Danger had access to those. The first reference to "Mohamed Atta" that would have been accessible to American authorities was on his visa application, in May 2000.

So how did Able Danger learn about Mohamed el-Amir (or Mohamed Atta) in January 2000? The Times article provides this clue:

Representative [Curt] Weldon also arranged an interview with a former employee of a defense contractor who said he had helped create a chart in 2000 for the intelligence program that included Mr. Atta's photograph and name.

The former contractor, James D. Smith, said that Mr. Atta's name and photograph were obtained through a private researcher in California who was paid to gather the information from contacts in the Middle East.

This is even weirder. A private researcher who gathered information from "contacts in the Middle East"? This could actually explain the naming confusion, since a researcher with subject matter expertise might very well figure out that Mohamed el-Amir and Mohamed Atta were the same person.

But none of this is data mining, which is what we've been told Able Danger was. It's plain old human intelligence. If a private researcher gathered information about, say, Egyptian nationals who visited Afghanistan in 1999, it's quite possible he would have come up with el-Amir/Atta's name. But a person like this wouldn't be working for the small and experimental Able Danger project, he'd be working for an intelligence agency.

So we're still left with an intriguing question: who first came up with Mohamed Atta's name? Did Able Danger use intelligence assets of its own, or did this researcher work for someone else? If so, who? And what did they do with the information?

Obviously, we're in wild speculation mode here. Take it all with a big grain of salt.

----------------------------

Comments

It looks as if this is the "James D. Smith" in question.

http://www.iccbss.org/2004/author-bios/smith.html


In which case, he's not a private researcher with "subject matter expertise" -- he's a professional DOD data miner.
Posted by: The Confidence Man

As cited below, Atta didn't even decide to do the "Planes Operation" until about December 1999, yet Capt. Phillpott says they had him nailed as a danger to the U.S. within about six weeks of that decision.

In the [NYT story] it says,

"The officer, Scott J. Phillpott, said in a statement on Monday that he could not discuss details of the military program, which was called Able Danger, but confirmed that its analysts had identified the Sept. 11 ringleader, Mohamed Atta, by name by early 2000....'Atta was identified by Able Danger by January-February of 2000."

The 911 Commission report reads: "In the early summer of 2000, the Hamburg group arrived in the United States to begin flight training. Marwan al Shehhi came on May 29, arriving in Newark on a flight from Brussels. He went to New York City and waited there for Mohamed Atta to join him. On June 2, Atta traveled to the Czech Republic by bus from Germany and then flew from Prague to Newark the next day....Jarrah, Atta, and Shehhi, having progressed in their training, all took foreign trips during the holiday period of 2000-2001...Atta traveled to Germany in early January 2001 for a progress meeting with Ramzi Binalshibh...The allegation that Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in April 2001 originates from the reporting of a single source of the Czech intelligence service....[and is refuted by buckets of other evidence]." www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report_Ch7.htm

From the Commission Report: "Bin Ladin reportedly discussed the planes operation with KSM and Atef in a series of meetings in the spring of 1999 at the al Matar complex near Kandahar....Atta, Binalshibh, Shehhi, and Jarrah eventually prepared themselves to translate their extremist beliefs into action. By late 1999, they were ready to abandon their student lives in Germany in favor of violent jihad....Atta and Jarrah left Hamburg during the last week of November 1999, bound for Karachi." www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report_Ch5.htm

So, there you have it. Atta first meets bin Laden in November-December 2000, doesn't commit to the Planes Operation until December/January, and this ultraefficient Pentagon operation knows what he's going to do maybe sooner than he does
Posted by: js


The Washington Monthly:

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home