Daily Kos: Pentagon blocks testimony that Bush could have stopped 9/11

Rumsfeld and James Wollsey put a gag order on the Able Danger witnessess. I wonder why... -- law

topdog04 blogs:

First the Pentagon had never heard of Able Danger, then it was "merely" a planning effort that ran it's course in early 2001, now it is so top secret and vital to national security - more than four years after 9/11 - that no one can testify about it to Congress. From the New York Times:

The Pentagon said today that it had blocked a group of military officers and intelligence analysts from testifying at an open Congressional hearing about a highly classified military intelligence program that, the officers have said, identified a ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks as a potential terrorist more than a year before the attacks.

The announcement came a day before the officers and intelligence analysts had been scheduled to testify about the program, known as Able Danger, at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Pentagon must have realized their testimony would show that Bush stopped efforts against Al Qaeda in early 2001 that could have stopped 9/11.

Bryan Whitman, a Defense Department spokesman, said in a statement that open testimony about the program "would not be appropriate - we have expressed our security concerns and believe it is simply not possible to discuss Able Danger in any great detail in an open public forum." He offered no other detail on the Pentagon's reasoning in blocking the testimony....

Mr. Whitman, the Pentagon spokesman, said that in place of members of the Able Danger team, a senior defense official would be sent to the Wednesday hearing to discuss "what the law and policies are on domestic surveillance and to provide some insights about information-sharing between agencies."

"Not possible to discuss Able Danger in any great detail in an open public forum?" The Pentagon HELD A PRESS CONFERENCE ON IT two weeks ago. The only thing not possible is for the truth to get out about the mistakes of this administration and their culpability in 9/11.

Clearly, the tune changed after they realized Able Danger was an embarassment to them, not the Clinton administration. Listen to Republican Congressman Curt Weldon of all people:

I can tell you, to not have this covered by the 9/11 Commission, to not have it mentioned, for them to say, as they did initially, that it was historically insignificant -- 2.5 terabytes of data about Mohammed Atta and Al Qaida, a three-hour briefing for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is historically insignificant? A briefing that included Richard Schiefren (ph), with Steve Cambone, in March of 2001, five months before 9/11, is historically insignificant? I don't think so....

And so I felt, after seeing what I thought was a ridiculous press conference yesterday and knowing what's going to come up on Wednesday at the Senate hearing -- unless somebody is gagged between now and Wednesday, because I have talked to all the witnesses -- there are some serious questions that need to be answered.

Serious questions like this one:

SHAFFER: We all realized that we had these guys. And then we started asking some questions to ourselves. Why was Able Danger, why was this whole technology piece turned off four months before the 9/11 attacks? In the spring of 2001, it was dismantled, all, completely...

Update: Who was planning to testify before they were gagged?

The list includes:
• Naval Capt. Scott Philpott, an Able Danger team leader, according to the Pentagon, who approached the September 11 commission with what he knew about Atta in 2004.
• Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, the Defense Intelligence Agency employee who acted as liaison with Able Danger team members. Col. Shaffer was the first to come forward with allegations that Pentagon lawyers rebuffed his attempts to coordinate a meeting between Able Danger analysts and the FBI.
• An FBI agent, who, according to Mr. Weldon, will testify under oath that she organized the meetings between the FBI and Able Danger analysts to discuss Atta.
• A Pentagon employee, who will testify that he was ordered to destroy 2.5 terabytes of information Able Danger had compiled, which is roughly equivalent to one-fourth of all the printed material in the Library of Congress. According to Mr. Weldon, this person, as yet unidentified, will also name the officer who gave the order.

The order to block testimony came directly from Rumsfeld. From the transcript of Lt. Col. Shaffer's interview on the Jerry Doyle show, 9/20:

Shaffer: Jerry, DoD mentioned on the first of September, they confirmed everything that we talked about to date. All we were going to do is go in as Captain Philpott, Dr. Eileen Pricer, J.D. Smith and myself. (inaudible) is color in the pieces of this thing. So the fact that DoD now would reverse itself, we can't even begin to figure out why they would do such a thing based on the fact that they've admitted the fact that the program existed and even confirmed the results of the program. So it's a mystery to us as well.

Doyle: Well, when you say DoD, where's this coming from at DoD? Is this instructions to DoD from higher ups? Is this people in DoD who are afraid of what information gets out? I mean who is the person who's making this happen?

Shaffer: What I will tell you is I was told by 2 DoD officials today directly that it is their understanding that the Secretary of Defense directed that we not testify tomorrow. That is my understanding....

Each individual within the group had their own horror story at how we attempted to say, look this is pretty important stuff, global terrorism, you know these guys have killed Americans we should continue this. And we were told to a man and woman, no, sit down, shut up, move on, it's time to forget about it. And this all happened in the spring of 2001 right before the attacks. So I can't tell you what the philosophy was, I can't tell you who actually was behind it, I can just tell you that obviously my observations, the fact that it happened, the fact that we had Atta, we had other information which we tried to pass to the FBI. Plus, Jerry, I don't know if your listeners are aware, Captain Philpott actually told the 9-11 Commission about the fact that Able Danger discovered information regarding the Cole attack. The USS Cole which was attacked in October of 2000. There was information that was Able Danger found that related to Al Qaeda planning an attack. That information unfortunately didn't get anywhere either. So that is another clue that was given to the 9-11 Commission to say, hey, this capability did some stuff, and they chose not to even look at that. ...

UPDATE 5: Well, Rumsfeld's strategy worked. I learned a lot more from Shaffer's radio interview last night, which I quote above, than from any testimony today. They spent most of the time on obvious questions because none of the Senators, even Specter, were familiar enough with the story. Then when they got to the good questions, no one who could testify knew or could only give hearsay. I was also troubled to hear Weldon say Jim Woolsey was involved in "helping" to vet his information which is like the fox guarding the hen house.

I guess I should have expected a lousy hearing, but I took the morning off anyway to watch. Specter was the only Senator to be there the whole two hours plus. Only one Democrat even bothered to show up. Biden was there for the first half hour before he left to meet the King of Jordan. Grassley and Kyl dropped in to make a statement or two then left. Sessions was there for the last hour but kept changing the subject. It was mainly a one man show. Leahy must have been too busy declaring his support for Judge Roberts. On the brightside, Specter promised more hearings. He also made some allusions to this being the most difficult investigation he had faced in 25 years including when he dealt with "the mafia and racketeering" in the past.

Daily Kos: Pentagon blocks testimony that Bush could have stopped 9/11


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