9/11 Commission Rejected Able Danger Report
The Sept. 11 commission was warned by a uniformed military officer 10 days before issuing its final report that the account would be incomplete without reference to what he described as a secret military operation that by the summer of 2000 had identified as a potential threat the member of Al Qaeda who would lead the attacks more than a year later, commission officials said on Wednesday.
The officials said that the information had not been included in the report because aspects of the officer’s account had sounded inconsistent with what the commission knew about that Qaeda member, Mohammed Atta, the plot’s leader. But aides to the Republican congressman who has sought to call attention to the military unit that conducted the secret operation said such a conclusion relied too much on specific dates involving Mr. Atta’s travels and not nearly enough on the operation’s broader determination that he was a threat.
The briefing by the military officer is the second known instance in which people on the commission’s staff were told by members of the military team about the secret program, called Able Danger. The meeting, on July 12, 2004, has not been previously disclosed. That it occurred, and that the officer identified Mr. Atta there, were acknowledged by officials of the commission after the congressman, Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, provided information about it. Mr. Weldon has accused the commission of ignoring information that would have forced a rewriting of the history of the Sept. 11 attacks. He has asserted that the Able Danger unit, whose work relied on computer-driven data-mining techniques, sought to call their superiors’ attention to Mr. Atta and three other future hijackers in the summer of 2000. Their work, he says, had identified the men as likely members of a Qaeda cell already in the United States.
In a letter sent Wednesday to members of the commission, Mr. Weldon criticized the panel in scathing terms, saying that its “refusal to investigate Able Danger after being notified of its existence, and its recent efforts to feign ignorance of the project while blaming others for supposedly withholding information on it, brings shame on the commissioners, and is evocative of the worst tendencies in the federal government that the commission worked to expose.”
Quite odd. Ultimately, of course, a commission has to achieve some consensus on what it deems “credible” information; one hopes that they simply did not believe the Able Danger tips passed that threshhold.
The alternative explanation, that they were engaged in some sort of political coverup, is dubious. Not only were the commission members selected (with a couple notable exceptions) for their reputations for integrity but they were picked on a bipartisan basis. To the extent that this information reflected unfavorably on the Clinton administration, one would think several of the Republican members would have been happy to see it come to light.