Monday, August 22, 2005


A statement from Navy Capt. Scott J. Phillpott backs up the word of an Army intelligence officer who claims the military identified Mohamed Atta as a terrorist, more than a year before Atta flew a plane into one of the World Trade Center towers.

According to The New York Times:
Phillpott said in a statement today 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. "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."

His comments came on the same day that the Pentagon's chief spokesman, Lawrence Di Rita, told reporters that the Defense Department had been unable to validate the assertions made by an Army intelligence veteran, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, and now backed up by Captain Phillpott, about the early identification of Mr. Atta.

Colonel Shaffer went public with his assertions last week, saying that analysts in the intelligence project had been overruled by military lawyers when they tried to share the program's findings with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2000 in hope of tracking down terror suspects tied to Al Qaeda.

Mr. Di Rita said in an interview that while the department continued to investigate the assertions, there was no evidence so far that the intelligence unit had come up with such specific information about Mr. Atta and any of the other hijackers.

He said that while Colonel Shaffer and Captain Phillpott were respected military officers whose accounts were taken seriously, "thus far we've not been able to uncover what these people said they saw -- memory is a complicated thing."
Leaving aside the Orwellian tone of Di Rita's last sentence fragment, we're getting queased at the implications of Able Dangergate (hey, someone had to add the "-gate" to this growing scandal):

•By all accounts, Atta entered the United States in June 2000 -- at least four months after being identified by Able Danger as a potential terrorist.

•Atta was tagged as part of a "Brooklyn cell" of operatives. Shaffer has been vague when asked about the supposed cell, telling the Times that "we just knew there were these linkages between him and these other individuals who were in this loose configuration." In New York. Where Atta was not, until Sept. 11, 2001.

•Able Danger did "data mining" and drew intelligence from public and private databases. We'd love to see the database that linked Mohamed Atta to New York -- almost 20 months before he led a suicide mission in New York.

It appears the U.S. had Atta in its sights, but Defense Department lawyers wouldn't let Able Danger share its findings with the FBI. The unasked question: Did Able Danger share its info with other stateside organizations, like the NSA? The NRO? The CIA? Did the intelligence make it to our "friendlies" in Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt?

We suspect it did. So why didn't anyone -- in the Clinton and Bush administrations, or perhaps in the Mossad -- do anything to stop Mohamed Atta?

"For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety."

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