9/22/2005

Pentagon blocks testimony by intelligence official on Able Danger - Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The
Pentagon blocked an intelligence official from testifying to Congress on his claim that a secret military intelligence program identified Mohammed Atta as an al-Qaeda operative a year before the September 11, 2001 attacks.
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Two members of the team, Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer and civilian contractor James Smith, attended the hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee but had their lawyer, Mark Zaid, answer questions for them.

Zaid told the committee he had received letters from the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon general counsel's office specifically prohibiting Shaffer from testifying.

Asked why, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the Pentagon had offered to provide the Judiciary Committee a classified briefing in closed session.

"And as I understand it, the Judiciary Committee preferred to have an open hearing on a classified matter, and therefore the department declined to participate in an open hearing on a classified matter," Rumsfeld said.

The issue has reopened a longstanding controversy over the failure of US intelligence agencies to share information that could have prevented the September 11 attack.

Zaid said Shaffer and Smith were prepared to testify that Able Danger, a secret data mining project, had prepared charts in 2000 that named Mohammed Atta, the ringleader of the September 11 hijackers, as a member of an al-Qaeda cell.

He said the Defense Intelligence Agency destroyed files of documents related to Able Danger that Shaffer, who had been the DIA's liaison with Able Danger, had in his office as late as spring 2004.

"I don't understand why they would have destroyed any documents, particularly if they were classified, and there was classified information within these boxes," he said.

"The DIA should be required to explain who destroyed the documents and why the destroyed them," he said.

The Pentagon said that its investigation into Able Danger had found no information to corroborate that Atta's name and photograph was on a chart produced by the group.

Pentagon blocks testimony by intelligence official on Able Danger - Yahoo! News

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