8/19/2005

War and Piece: Able Danger vague and murky ways...

it's also disturbing that it's so hard to understand even now that Shaffer has gone public what exactly Able Danger came up with in terms of information on Atta and the other "Brooklyn cell" individuals they allegedly identified. I have talked to three different journalists who have all interviewed Shaffer (two before he went public, a third -- Spencer -- after, and a fourth by email), and this is the case in every single interview, a kind of vagueness about what exactly they found. I asked Zaid about it and he said it had to do with classification issues, that he himself isn't cleared for. But it seems to me that without establishing just what exactly Able Danger came up with that might have been actionable regarding 9/11, the value of Able Danger and the whole question of whether information on its findings were somehow withheld from the commission, etc. will be very difficult to judge.


Update II: A bit more....

Shaffer says that the Able Danger team identified these individuals (previously reported as having included Atta, al-Shehi, al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi) as part of the "Brooklyn cell," but what exactly they had on them, even if they had their names, is still very murky and unclear from this interview. He says he briefed then 9/11 commission executive director Philip Zelikow and commission staff in Afghanistan about Able Danger. But he expressed to Spencer the sense that explaining to the 9/11 commission staff what Able Danger had accomplished was “like showing a wristwatch to a pig.” (Perhaps the vagueness on the details about what Able Danger actually identified may have been an issue in this regard. Calls to the 9/11 Public Discourse Project haven’t been returned yet).

Shaffer says he was trying to broker a connection between SOCOM and the FBI. Shaffer told Spencer that one reason that Able Danger got denied permission to brief the FBI on their findings was that there was a fear not just among Pentagon lawyers but among Special Ops command that if things went badly with any FBI operation to take out the al Qaeda cells they had identified, it would be “another Waco."

Spencer says, “He didn’t blame the DoD lawyers so much, but the command” (for blocking the team from sharing their findings with the FBI). “Not Schoomaker….It rose to the level of a 2-star, 3-star general,” who he didn’t name...

So....Did SOCOM or other military command block dissemination of Able Danger's findings because.....they didn't want it to be uncovered that the US military had been given US person data to mine? Or they didn't see the value of what Able Danger had found? Fear of another Waco? Some other reason?

Update III: The NYT's Philip Shenon interviews Shaffer. As Kevin Drum points out, it seems someone at the Pentagon has some explaining to do.

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