8/24/2005

NY Times, Fox News falsely reported that second official confirmed Shaffers's account ... [Media Matters]

NY Times, Fox News falsely reported that second military official backed up Shaffer's Able Danger claim


In separate August 23 reports, The New York Times and Fox News falsely reported that a second military official backed up a claim by Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer that military intelligence unit Able Danger identified lead 9-11 hijacker Mohammed Atta prior to the September 11, 2001, attacks. In fact, rather than providing backup for Shaffer's claims, Navy Capt. Scott Phillpott was one of Shaffer's two original sources.

In an article titled "Second Officer Says 9/11 Leader Was Named Before Attacks," Times reporter Philip Shenon wrote that Shaffer's account is "now backed up" by Phillpott, who "has become the second military officer to come forward publicly to say that a secret intelligence program tagged the ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks as a possible terrorist more than a year before the attacks." Similarly, on Fox News' Fox News Live, anchor Jon Scott reported that Phillpott "has come forward to back up claims" that Atta was identified in early 2000, while national correspondent Catherine Herridge asked: "If the documents [proving Atta was identified] are never found, will we reach a point when enough people have gone public to say it happened that perhaps the documents may ultimately not be that significant?"

But as The Washington Post reported on August 19, Shaffer has acknowledged that Phillpott and a civilian official "told him after the attacks that Atta and other hijackers" had been identified on an Able Danger chart in 2000, and Shaffer was "relying on the[ir] word."

Further, there is significant doubt as to whether the unnamed civilian official -- identified by the Post as a "civilian employee of the former Land Information Warfare Activity at Fort Belvoir [Virginia]" -- actually supports Shaffer's stated account. Appearing on the August 22 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, 9-11 Commission member and former senator Slade Gorton (R-WA) noted that an internal Pentagon investigation -- which a Pentagon official said "has been both broad and deep" -- has thus far found no evidence that Atta was identified by Able Danger in early 2000. Gorton suggested that, because the Pentagon investigation has yet to find any evidence supporting Shaffer's account, "as of today" the civilian official, "does not corroborate what he has to say":


NY Times, Fox News falsely reported that second ... [Media Matters]

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