Able Danger Round-Up, by Nicholas Levis

What you are allowed to think and what you do think are two different things, aren't they? That's another way of saying that this forum may be NSFW, if your boss is a Republican. A liberal won't fire you for it, but they'll laugh at you in the break room and you may not get promoted. Unless you're an engineer, of course, in which your obsession with facing reality is not actually a career-disabling disability.

Re: Able Danger Round-Up, by Nicholas Levis

Postby admin » Tue Apr 12, 2016 7:40 am

Spies, or students?
by Nathan Guttman
5/13/02

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Were the Israelis just trying to sell their paintings, or agents in a massive espionage ring?

WASHINGTON - It could be the biggest espionage scandal of the century, or the greatest journalistic non-starter in many a decade, but it's clear that the story of the Israeli art students in New York - dozens of alleged spies living in the United States - refuses to die down. Anyone who believes the story says that everything is accurately documented and confirmed, and that only a conspiracy on the part of the U.S. administration - which is desperate to keep the affair quiet, partly out of shame and partly because of its warm relations with Israel - is keeping the affair out of the spotlight of public discussion. Those who repudiate the affair say it is baseless, just another unfounded urban legend that has taken on a life of its own on various marginal Internet sites.

Either way, the story of the Israeli spies is alive and kicking. The most recent mention of the affair came last week in the highly respected Internet magazine, Salon.com, which recapped the main points of the scandal and even added some new details of its own. The official Israeli response was the same as ever: "Nonsense," they say. The outline of the scandal is the same wherever it is published, with the more respectable journals taking more care over the details and relying more on reports and documented evidence, while the more marginal publications pile on spurious details and compare the scandal to the great conspiracies of the past.

According to reports of the scandal, around 120 young Israeli citizens, posing as art students and selling paintings door-to-door, have been arrested and deported from the United States. The door-to-door sale of art works, it is claimed, was a front for a sophisticated spy ring: the students would turn up at homes and offices - especially at buildings housing federal authorities and military bases, and even went to the homes of those employed in these offices. The students attempted to form friendships with federal employees, photograph their offices, tap their phone lines and infiltrate their databases.

It is also claimed that the spy ring kept tabs on Arab targets inside the United States, including Arab Americans who were in contact with the Al-Qaida network. According to some speculations, the Israelis' intelligence work enabled the spy ring to know in advance of the planned terror attack on September 11, without lifting a finger to prevent it.

Beware students selling art

There is one source for all these stories and it is not an unreliable one. The source is the 60-page draft of an internal report by the intelligence division of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The draft was leaked to the media and its existence was confirmed by spokesmen from the DEA and the Justice Department, which is responsible for running the DEA. But confirming that the report exists is not the same as verifying its contents.

According to the report's author, whose identity has never been published, DEA officials identified an increase in the number of incidents in which young Israelis, claiming to be art students, tried to sell them works of art. "It is entirely possible," said the report, "that this is an organized intelligence-gathering activity."

A warning was sent out by the federal anti-espionage office to other federal agencies in March 2001,warning them to be wary of students trying to sell them art works and gain entry to federal facilities. The document records several encounters between DEA officials and Israelis all over the United States. In one incident, the report documents an attempt to gain entry to the Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, where the AWACS spy plane and the B-1 bombers are serviced.

What is really keeping this story alive is the claim of a link between the Israeli "students" and Israeli intelligence. The original report, as well as subsequent media reports, say that many of the young Israelis arrested served in the IDF's Intelligence Corps and were involved in operating electronic bugging equipment; one even said he was the son of a senior Israel Defense Forces officer. It took just one small leap to turn this into a conspiracy, whereby all the Israelis arrested were in the pay of the Mossad.

The report also documents how those arrested in the U.S. were connected to Israeli companies that had provided telephone services for American companies and U.S. federal authorities, while also claiming the Israeli companies should be investigated, in case they had installed "back door" services, which would allow some future operative to access the American companies' systems. The DEA, it is claimed, purchased communications equipment worth some $100 million from Israeli companies five years ago, and that is said to be the reason for the widespread Israeli activity around this agency.

One paranoid official

Even though the claims made by the DEA and the various journals that have delved into the affair sound convincing and well-based, so do the Israeli counter-claims. Firstly, say anonymous Israeli representatives in the United States, it is true that more than 100 young Israelis were arrested in the U.S. following the events of September 11 - all of them for immigration and visa infringements. Most of those arrested were deported after being charged by the U.S. immigration service. The sources also admit that many Israelis are currently working illegally in the U.S., occasionally as door-to-door art salespersons.

As far as Israel is concerned, this is the only explanation for the affair, and anything more is just a fabrication based on the original reports, which in itself is based on the paranoia of one government official. There is also an explanation for the military background of the arrested Israelis: every Israeli has a military background, often in the various intelligence units. But this is not easy to explain to the Americans, who see the Israelis as "former intelligence officers" or "retired officers." As for the supposed connection between the young Israelis and various high-tech companies, all the companies mentioned strongly deny any involvement.

Those who deny that there is a spy ring in action also ask why none of the Israelis arrested was ever charged with espionage-related crimes. Why were their cases handled by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), rather than the FBI, which is responsible for investigating spies? And the main question - why did Israel chose the DEA as its espionage target? Those who back the spy theory say that because the DEA is not usually involved in security matters it is easier to infiltrate, and that the DEA's war on the international drug trade has provided it a wealth of information that could be useful to Israel in a wide range of areas.

But while each side of the argument is sticking to its guns, without either party presenting clear evidence that could clear up the affair once and for all, the media is carrying out its own merry dance around a fascinating spy story - whether it's true or not.

The first mention of a mass arrest of Israeli art students on suspicion of involvement in spying was on Fox News on December 12, 2001. The dramatic report stated that around 60 Israelis had been arrested for immigration offenses, but were suspected of spying against the United States, and added that some of those arrested were members of the Israeli military. The report also stated that some of those arrested had failed lie-detector tests.

Instead of raising a storm, however, Fox's story slowly died away and was only briefly reported in the international press. Three months later, however, the affair came back to life, this time on a French Internet site, Intelligence Online. The story was immediately picked up by Le Monde. This time, the reporters claimed to have the entire DEA report, and the number of people arrested climbed to 120.

At this stage, the American media also woke up to the story. News agencies based their reports of the story on a French Internet site and on the official U.S. reaction. The Justice Department confirmed that it had investigated the alleged connection between Israeli students and anti-American espionage; the DEA confirmed that it had prepared a draft report, but did not say what had become of it; the FBI said that it had not received any complaint relating to spying by Israeli students.

The New York Times, according to sources in Washington, looked into the affair but, having concluded that it lacked a suitable factual base, decided not to write about it. The Washington Post, on the other hand, did publish an article, but cast doubt on the veracity of the affair. Post reporters found that the report was written by a "disgruntled [DEA] employee," who was upset that his claims of Israeli espionage were not being treated seriously.

Even this report was not enough to finally kill off the affair. Two weeks later, the New York Jewish weekly, Forward, published a report connecting the spy affair with the arrest in New Jersey, on September 11, of five Israelis whose behavior was defined as suspicious. The five were employed by a moving company and did not have valid work permits. According to Forward, the FBI concluded that the five were on a spy mission on behalf of the Mossad, and that the moving company was nothing more than a front. This story also died out quietly.

The final round of publications started last week with the publication of the art student affair in Salon.com, which repeated all the known details of the affair. It even added a claim that the spy ring was active in more than 40 cities across the U.S., and included offices belonging to the secret service, the FBI and the U.S. military.

Now the story is coming to life once more, with news agencies and at least one national television station regurgitating all the details. The American public will continue to be divided over the truth behind the so-called spy ring, with some believing that the original DEA report was the work of a problematic employee and others convinced that shadowy government officials are involved in covering up the exposure of one of the largest spy rings ever to operate on American soil.
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Re: Able Danger Round-Up, by Nicholas Levis

Postby admin » Tue Apr 12, 2016 7:41 am

Germans Nab Qaeda Terror Suspect
by CBS
Berlin
Oct. 15, 2004

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(AP) German authorities said Friday they have arrested an al Qaeda suspect wanted by Spain on charges that he helped finance the terror network for years.

Mamoun Darkazanli, 46, a Syrian-German dual national, was taken into custody in Hamburg on Friday on a Spanish warrant and is being held for possible extradition, city judicial spokeswoman Sabine Westphalen told The Associated Press.

Darkazanli was questioned by German police shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States when it emerged that three of the suicide hijackers lived and studied in Hamburg. He was freed for lack of evidence and continued to live in the German port city...

His Hamburg-based trading company was has been labeled a front for terrorism by U.S. President George W. Bush.

Spanish authorities allege that Darkazanli was "one of the key figures of the al Qaeda terror network" and "the permanent contact person and assistant of Osama bin Laden in Germany," Hamburg authorities said in a statement.

He is accused of giving logistical and financial support to the network in Spain, Germany and Britain since 1997, the statement said.

Darkazanli, a Syrian native who has lived in Hamburg for years, faces up to 12 years in prison in Spain if convicted of charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

German authorities arrested him because he was a flight risk, the statement said. It did not elaborate.

Darkazanli did not respond to the charges after his arrest, but said he would contest extradition, the statement said.

Darkazanli is alleged to have been involved in the purchase of a ship for al Qaeda leader bin Laden, handling administrative details and paying bills. He also allegedly traveled to Kosovo in late 2000 on an al Qaeda mission, Hamburg authorities said.

He was among 35 suspects — including bin Laden himself — who were indicted in September 2003 by Baltasar Garzon, a Spanish judge investigating al Qaeda.

The Atta-Darkanzali connection

Darkanzali visited with Mohamed Atta, Marwan Al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah, the same Hamburg mosque. According to Chicago Tribune and german DER STERN, in 1999, CIA officer Thomas Volz was seeking to turn Darkazanli into a spy.
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Re: Able Danger Round-Up, by Nicholas Levis

Postby admin » Tue Apr 12, 2016 8:07 am

CIA tried in 1999 to recruit associate of 9-11 hijackers in Germany
by John Crewdson
Chicago Tribune
Nov. 16, 2002

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HAMBURG, Germany - (KRT) - Nearly two years before the Sept. 11 hijackings, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency began persistent efforts to recruit as an informer a Syrian-born Hamburg businessman with links to al-Qaida and the key hijackers, the Chicago Tribune has learned.

The CIA's attempts to enlist Mamoun Darkazanli were initiated in late 1999, at a time when three of the four Hamburg students who would later pilot the hijacked planes were first learning of the hijacking plot at an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan.

Darkazanli, 44, has acknowledged knowing the three pilots, Mohamed Atta, Marwan Al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah, with whom he attended the same radical Hamburg mosque, Al Quds, and shared several common friends in this city's sizable but insular Muslim community.

No evidence has ever emerged that American intelligence was aware before Sept. 11, 2001, of the al-Qaida plot to hijack U.S. commercial jetliners and crash them into buildings, despite what congressional investigators have described as several potential missed opportunities.

But the disclosure that the CIA was seeking to turn Darkazanli into a spy during the time the initial hijacking plans were being laid represents the earliest and deepest set of U.S. intelligence footprints outside the hijackers' window.

In December 1999 the CIA representative in Hamburg, posing as an American diplomat attached to the U.S. Consulate, appeared at the headquarters of the Hamburg state domestic intelligence agency, the LFV, that is responsible for tracking terrorists and domestic extremists.

According to a source with firsthand knowledge of the events, the CIA representative told his local counterparts that his agency believed Darkazanli had knowledge of an unspecified terrorist plot and could be "turned" against his al-Qaida comrades.

"He said, `Darkazanli knows a lot,' " the source recalled.

Darkazanli's name had first surfaced the year before in the U.S. investigation of al-Qaida's 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people and injured thousands.

One of those later convicted of conspiracy in that case was Osama bin Laden's former personal secretary, a naturalized U.S. citizen named Wadih El-Hage, whom prosecutors accused of personally delivering bin Laden's order for the embassy bombings to al-Qaida operatives in Kenya.

As part of his duties for bin Laden, El-Hage helped fashion a skein of fictitious Sudanese companies that al-Qaida allegedly used as fronts for its terrorist activities. One such company was Anhar Trading, of which El-Hage was managing director, and whose business cards bore the address of the Hamburg flat Darkazanli shares with his German-born wife.

Around the same time, Darkazanli's name had popped up in connection with another alleged al-Qaida figure, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, a 44-year-old Sudanese who is currently in jail in New York awaiting trial in the embassy bombing case.

Salim, who is also accused by federal prosecutors of attempting to help bin Laden obtain enriched uranium for use in a nuclear weapon, was arrested in Munich in September 1998 at the request of the United States.

Investigators learned that Salim, a resident of the United Arab Emirates, held an account at a Hamburg bank. The co-signatory on the account was Mamoun Darkazanli, whose home number had been programmed into Salim's cell phone.

---

The Americans began pressing the Germans to arrest Darkazanli, a naturalized German citizen who moved to Hamburg from Syria in 1982, and extradite him to the United States. The Germans countered that they had no evidence to warrant an arrest.

"Nobody could prove terrorism," one German investigator said. "In general, the American colleagues feel more persons should be arrested. Hundreds! But the problem is you have to prove this is intentional planning of criminal activities."

At the insistence of the United States, the Germans opened an investigation of Darkazanli that included occasional surveillance. One of those involved described how Darkazanli, certain he was being followed, walked down the street while looking backward over his shoulder.

But the investigation did not include more costly and time-consuming electronic surveillance, and a German investigator conceded that, before Sept. 11, his agency considered al-Qaida a lower priority target than Hamburg's radical Turks and neo-Nazis.

By the end of 1999 the Darkazanli investigation had produced little of value. Now the Americans were saying that if the Germans couldn't put Darkazanli behind bars, they wanted to turn him into their informer.

The LFV representatives explained to the CIA man, who had been in his post for less than six months, that German law forbids foreign intelligence services, including those deemed to be "friendly," from conducting operations or recruiting informers inside German borders.

Any attempt to recruit Darkazanli on behalf of the CIA would have to be made by operatives of the LFV. In early 2000, around the time the hijack pilots were returning to Hamburg from Afghanistan, an LFV agent casually approached Darkazanli to ask if he was interested in becoming a spy.

Darkazanli replied that he was just a businessman who knew nothing about al-Qaida or terrorism. When the Germans informed the CIA representative that the approach had failed, the man refused to accept their verdict that Darkazanli was not recruitable.

"He was not happy," one source said. "He kept saying, `It must be possible.' "

When the LFV asked for information it could use to counter Darkazanli's claims that he knew nothing about terrorism or al-Qaida, the CIA demurred. What the LFV got instead was a CIA textbook lecture on the recruiting of agents.

As it happened, at the end of January 2000 Darkazanli had met in Madrid with Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, the accused al-Qaida leader in Spain, who is from Darkazanli's hometown of Aleppo, Syria.

The meeting, monitored by Spanish police who were watching Yarkas, included a number of suspected al-Qaida figures. But if the CIA was aware of the Madrid meeting, it hadn't told the LFV, whose second attempt to recruit Darkazanli fared no better than the first.

By the late summer of 2000, Atta, Al-Shehhi and Jarrah had departed Hamburg for Florida, where they were learning to fly single-engine airplanes.

Left behind in Hamburg, allegedly to handle logistical and administrative chores for the hijacking operation, were Atta's roommates, Said Bahaji, Ramzi Binalshibh and Zakariya Essabar. All have since been charged with conspiracy in the events of Sept. 11.

Darkazanli knew Bahaji, whose wedding he had attended at the Al Quds mosque. A videotape made at the wedding, confiscated by police in a post-Sept. 11 search of Bahaji's apartment, includes a harangue by Binalshibh on the holy war against the "enemies of Islam."

Intensifying its efforts to turn Darkazanli into an informer, a frustrated CIA abandoned the Hamburg LFV and took its case directly to federal German intelligence officials in Berlin.

"Another attempt by the Americans to get somebody to recruit Darkazanli," one source said.

Whether yet another approach was made to Darkazanli by the federal domestic intelligence service, the BFV, could not be determined. Darkazanli did not respond to a registered letter from the Chicago Tribune requesting an interview.

Immediately after Sept. 11, however, American intelligence operatives and FBI agents descended on Hamburg in force. According to a senior German intelligence official, the FBI undertook its own surveillance of Darkazanli.

That surveillance would have been illegal under German law. But with the horror of more than 3,000 deaths at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field dominating the world news, the Germans looked the other way.

"I don't judge it," the senior official said.

Darkazanli's name first surfaced publicly two weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, when the "Mamoun Darkazanli Import-Export Company" appeared on the Bush administration's initial list of individuals and organizations suspected of involvement in terrorism.

The company is evidently defunct. No incorporation records for the company are on file at the Hamburg courthouse, and sources said it had not done enough business over the years to support Darkazanli and his wife.

When the German federal prosecutor, Kay Nehm, announced an investigation into possible money laundering by Darkazanli and his company on behalf of al-Qaida, the news that Darkazanli was in trouble spread quickly through al-Qaida's network.

In Madrid, Spanish police listening in on Imad Yarkas's cell phone overheard a conversation in which Abu Nabil, the leader of a Syrian extremist organization known as the Fighting Vanguard, warned Yarkas that Darkazanli had caught the "flu" that was going around.

To the reporters who flocked to his apartment in well-kept Hamburg neighborhood, Darkazanli admitted having known Mohamed Atta, Marwan Al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah as fellow worshipers at the downtown Al Quds mosque. But Darkazanli declared that he knew nothing about terrorism or the Sept. 11 plot.

The bank account he shared with Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, Darkazanli told the Los Angeles Times, had been opened in March of 1995 to facilitate Salim's attempted purchase of a commercial radio transmitter. Darkazanli said he hadn't seen Salim since the transmitter deal fell through a few months later.

Two days after the Sept. 11 attacks, Darkazanli had been brought in for questioning by the German federal police, and his apartment thoroughly searched. The police, Darkazanli said, had found nothing. His inclusion on the Bush administration's list of designated terrorist entities was just "a big misunderstanding."

A few days after Darkazanli's police interview, detectives questioned Mohamed Haydar Zammar, another Syrian-born Hamburg resident who has since acknowledged encouraging Atta, Al-Shehhi and Jarrah to make their fateful visit to al-Qaida in Afghanistan.

Asked whether he knew Darkazanli, Zammar replied: "Yes, I know him well. He is a friend who I have known for a long time."

Police later learned that it was one of Zammar's brothers, Abdulfattah, who had driven Darkazanli to the Madrid meeting with Spanish al-Qaida leader Yarkas in January 2000.

The absence of documents in Darkazanli's flat was partly explained on Oct. 31, 2001, when a young Serbian immigrant with a record of convictions for burglary walked into the fortresslike headquarters of the Hamburg police.

The man presented astonished detectives with a bag full of documents that appeared to have been taken from Darkazanli's files. After accepting the purloined documents, the police arrested the man for burglary.

According to the burglar's story, he had discovered the documents stashed in a small summer house outside Hamburg that he had broken into. He had first gone with the documents to the U.S. Consulate in Hamburg, where it had been suggested that he take them to the police.

But when police asked the burglar to show them the house where he had found the documents, he couldn't locate it.

"We all thought, `CIA,' " one German investigator said.

---

The CIA representative in Hamburg, who was recalled to Washington in July, declined to comment last week. Since the arrival of his successor, relations with the CIA are described by German intelligence agents as "more collegial."

Darkazanli's lawyer, Andreas Beurskens, said he had advised his client not to speak with the media until the police investigation is complete.

But as the Sept. 11 investigations on both sides of the Atlantic have progressed, more links have emerged between Darkazanli and al-Qaida.

One is the disclosure that Darkazanli received at least $16,000 from Mohamed Kaleb Kalaje Zouaydi, a wealthy Spanish-Syrian arrested in Madrid in April and accused of funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to al-Qaida and other radical Islamic organizations.

Another is the discovery by German investigators that Darkazanli was previously employed by Abdul-Matin Tatari, an Aleppo-born textile exporter in Hamburg whose own links to the Sept. 11 hijackers are under investigation by German police.

Police sources say they have expanded the Darkazanli investigation to include his business transactions over the years.

In view of what the expanded investigation was producing, one source said, "the situation for Darkazanli might become more complicated."

Image

DER STERN/NDR about the CIA-Darkanzali Connection

As two german TV-authors Oliver Schröm and Dirk Laabs described for german magazine DER STERN on August, 13th 2003

"...wenn sich (Thomas) Volz erst einmal etwas in den Kopf gesetzt hat, verfolgt er dieses Ziel unerbittlich. Diesmal heißt es, Mamoun Darkazanli "umzudrehen"...

[Google translate: " ... If (Thomas) Volz has once set their mind on something, he pursued this goal relentlessly. This time it is, Mamoun Darkazanli "turning" ...]

NDR/ARD TV (August, 14th 2003):

...CIA und FBI kannten die Drahtzieher. Sie kannten die Ziele. Und sie kannten - und überwachten sogar - einige der Todespiloten. Deutsche Ermittler stießen schon 1998 auf die "Hamburger Zelle", die führenden Köpfe unter den Todespiloten. Die Gruppe, die später die Anschläge vom 11. September mitplant und ausführt, formiert sich unter den Augen deutscher Verfassungsschützer...

[Google translate: ... CIA and FBI knew the masterminds. They knew the goals. And they knew - and supervised even - some of the suicide pilots. German investigators met in 1998 on the " Hamburg cell", the leaders among the suicide pilots. The group, which later became the September 11 attacks mitplant and performs, is forming under the eyes German constitutional protection ...]

Thomas Volz
(from "Edger/Volz: The Oklahoma City-Hamburg connection", by ewing 2001)
Jewish Bulletin news from March 30, 2001 contained some interesting bio about Volz:

In this article, we learn from former Likud-politician Andrzej Kielczynski aka Joseph Barak, that he once "signed a contract with a CIA agent in Tel Aviv in 1985 and passed on data about Israeli intelligence operatives in the United States and elsewhere," including Jonathan Pollard (Photo below).

Now Kielczynski continued with his bizarre story:

"The CIA people at the American Embassy followed my activity for several years and decided I could supply the data they needed," Kielczynski said. "They courted me for a while, then made the offer. I signed the contract in Frankfurt, Germany, with a CIA man from the embassy, Thomas Volz." The Israel Foreign Ministry's diplomatic list for 1984-85 mentions Volz as an undersecretary at the U.S. Embassy...

from Michael Wright:
Why Did CIA Boss George Tenet Commit Perjury on April 14?

"..CIA agent David Edger is also part of this gang. Earlier the chief of surveillance over the Hamburg cell of Al Qaeda, Edger was summoned to Norman by (David) Boren in the summer of 2001, ostensibly to take a visiting professor post. Edger, who was in Chile in 1973 when Allende was being overthrown, is a specialist in infiltration and covert action. USA Today has reported that the CIA was infiltrating Al Qaeda cells...."
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Re: Able Danger Round-Up, by Nicholas Levis

Postby admin » Tue Apr 12, 2016 8:09 am

C.I.A. Was Given Data on Hijacker Long Before 9/11
by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau
February 23, 2004

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WASHINGTON, Feb. 23 (New York Times) American investigators were given the first name and telephone number of one of the Sept. 11 hijackers two and a half years before the attacks on New York and Washington, but the United States appears to have failed to pursue the lead aggressively, American and German officials say.

The information — the earliest known signal that the United States received about any of the hijackers — has now become an important element of an independent commission's investigation into the events of Sept. 11, 2001, officials said Monday. It is considered particularly significant because it may have represented a missed opportunity for American officials to penetrate the Qaeda terror cell in Germany that was at the heart of the plot. And it came roughly 16 months before the hijacker showed up at flight schools in the United States.

In March 1999, German intelligence officials gave the Central Intelligence Agency the first name and telephone number of Marwan al-Shehhi, and asked the Americans to track him.

The name and phone number in the United Arab Emirates had been obtained by the Germans by monitoring the telephone of Mohamed Heidar Zammar, an Islamic militant in Hamburg who was closely linked to the important Qaeda plotters who ultimately mastermined the Sept. 11 attacks, German officials said.

After the Germans passed the information on to the C.I.A., they did not hear from the Americans about the matter until after Sept. 11, a senior German intelligence official said.

"There was no response" at the time, the official said. After receiving the tip, the C.I.A. decided that "Marwan" was probably an associate of Osama bin Laden, but never tracked him down, American officials say.

The Germans considered the information on Mr. Shehhi particularly valuable, and the commission is keenly interested in why it apparently did not lead to greater scrutiny of him.

The information concerning Mr. Shehhi, the man who took over the controls of United Airlines Flight 175, which flew into the south tower of the World Trade Center, came months earlier than well-documented tips about other hijackers, including two who were discovered to have attended a meeting of militants in Malaysia in January 2000.

The independent commission investigating the attacks has received information on the 1999 Shehhi tip, and is actively investigating the issue, said Philip Zelikow, executive director of the commission.

American intelligence officials and others involved with the matter say they are uncertain whether Mr. Shehhi's phone was ever monitored.

An American official said: "The Germans did give us the name `Marwan' and a phone number, but we were unable to come up with anything. It was an unlisted phone number in the U.A.E., which he was known to use."

The incident is of particular importance because Mr. Shehhi was a crucial member of the Qaeda cell in Hamburg at the heart of the Sept. 11 plot. Close surveillance of Mr. Shehhi in 1999 might have led investigators to other plot leaders, including Mohammed Atta, who was Mr. Shehhi's roommate. A native of the United Arab Emirates, Mr. Shehhi moved to Germany in 1996 and was almost inseparable from Mr. Atta in their time there. Both men attended the wedding of a fellow Muslim at a radical mosque in Hamburg in October 1999 — an event considered an important gathering for the Sept. 11 hijacking teams just as the plotting was getting under way. American and European authorities say that Mr. Shehhi was actively involved in the planning and logistics of the Sept. 11 plot.

"The Hamburg cell is very important" to the investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Zelikow said. The intelligence on Mr. Shehhi "is an issue that's obviously of importance to us, and we're investigating it," he added.

Asked whether American intelligence officials gave sufficient attention to the information about Mr. Shehhi, Mr. Zelikow said, "We haven't reached any conclusions."

The joint Congressional inquiry that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks was told about the matter by the C.I.A., but only a small part of the information was declassified and made public in the panel's final report in December 2002, several officials said. The public report mentioned only that the C.I.A. had received Mr. Shehhi's first name, but made no mention that the agency had also obtained his telephone number.

Officials involved with the work of the joint Congressional investigation made it clear that the publication of a more complete version of the story was the subject of a declassification dispute with the C.I.A. A former official involved with the Congressional inquiry acknowledged that having a telephone number for one of the hijackers was far more significant than simply having a first name.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the C.I.A., F.B.I. and other government agencies have been heavily criticized for failing to put together fragmentary pieces of information they received from a wide array of sources in order to predict or prevent the terrorist plot. The joint Congressional panel that investigated the attacks concluded that American authorities "missed opportunities to disrupt the Sept. 11 plot by denying entry to or detaining would-be hijackers; to at least try to unravel the plot through surveillance and other investigative work within the United States; and finally, to generate a heightened state of alert and thus harden the homeland against attack."

Until now, the most highly scrutinized failure has related to the C.I.A.'s handling of information about a meeting of extremists in Malaysia in January 2000 that involved two of the men who would become hijackers, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq Alhazmi. Although the C.I.A. identified the two men as suspected extremists, the agency did not request that they be placed on the government's watch lists to keep them out of the United States until late August 2001. By that time, they were both already in the country. In addition, while the two men lived in San Diego, their landlord was an F.B.I. informant, but the bureau did not learn of their terrorist links from the informant.

But unlike the leads to Mr. Midhar and Mr. Alhazmi in San Diego, the earlier information about Mr. Shehhi could have taken investigators to the core of the Qaeda cell at a time when the plot was probably in its formative stages. According to testimony in Germany in December in a criminal case related to the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Shehhi was one of only four members of the Hamburg cell who knew about the attacks beforehand.

Mr. Shehhi and Mr. Atta traveled to Afghanistan in 2000 to train at a Qaeda camp with several other Sept. 11 plotters. And after returning to Germany, Mr. Shehhi made an ominous reference to the World Trade Center to a Hamburg librarian, saying: "There will be thousands of dead. You will all think of me," German authorities said.

Soon after, Mr. Shehhi, Mr. Atta and another plotter, Ziad al-Jarrah, began e-mailing several dozen American flight schools from Germany to inquire about enrollment, and they arrived in the United States later in 2000 to begin flight training.

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Re: Able Danger Round-Up, by Nicholas Levis

Postby admin » Tue Apr 12, 2016 8:10 am

Four in 9/11 Plot Are Called Tied to Qaeda in '00
by Douglas Jehl
NY Times
August 9, 2005

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 - More than a year before the Sept. 11 attacks, a small, highly classified military intelligence unit identified Mohammed Atta and three other future hijackers as likely members of a cell of Al Qaeda operating in the United States, according to a former defense intelligence official and a Republican member of Congress.

In the summer of 2000, the military team, known as Able Danger, prepared a chart that included visa photographs of the four men and recommended to the military's Special Operations Command that the information be shared with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the congressman, Representative Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, and the former intelligence official said Monday.

The recommendation was rejected and the information was not shared, they said, apparently at least in part because Mr. Atta, and the others were in the United States on valid entry visas. Under American law, United States citizens and green-card holders may not be singled out in intelligence-collection operations by the military or intelligence agencies. That protection does not extend to visa holders, but Mr. Weldon and the former intelligence official said it might have reinforced a sense of discomfort common before Sept. 11 about sharing intelligence information with a law enforcement agency.

A former spokesman for the Sept. 11 commission, Al Felzenberg, confirmed that members of its staff, including Philip Zelikow, the executive director, were told about the program on an overseas trip in October 2003 that included stops in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But Mr. Felzenberg said the briefers did not mention Mr. Atta's name.

The report produced by the commission last year does not mention the episode.

Mr. Weldon first spoke publicly about the episode in June, in a little-noticed speech on the House floor and in an interview with The Times-Herald in Norristown, Pa. The matter resurfaced on Monday in a report by GSN: Government Security News, which is published every two weeks and covers domestic-security issues. The GSN report was based on accounts provided by Mr. Weldon and the same former intelligence official, who was interviewed on Monday by The New York Times in Mr. Weldon's office.

In a telephone interview from his home in Pennsylvania, Mr. Weldon said he was basing his assertions on similar ones by at least three other former intelligence officers with direct knowledge of the project, and said that some had first called the episode to his attention shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The account is the first assertion that Mr. Atta, an Egyptian who became the lead hijacker in the plot, was identified by any American government agency as a potential threat before the Sept. 11 attacks. Among the 19 hijackers, only Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi had been identified as potential threats by the Central Intelligence Agency before the summer of 2000, and information about them was not provided to the F.B.I. until the spring of 2001.

Mr. Weldon has long been a champion of the kind of data-mining analysis that was the basis for the work of the Able Danger team.

The former intelligence official spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying he did not want to jeopardize political support and the possible financing for future data-mining operations by speaking publicly. He said the team had been established by the Special Operations Command in 1999, under a classified directive issued by Gen. Hugh Shelton, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to assemble information about Al Qaeda networks around the world.

"Ultimately, Able Danger was going to give decision makers options for taking out Al Qaeda targets," the former defense intelligence official said.

He said that he delivered the chart in summer 2000 to the Special Operations Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla., and said that it had been based on information from unclassified sources and government records, including those of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

"We knew these were bad guys, and we wanted to do something about them," the former intelligence official said.

The unit, which relied heavily on data-mining techniques, was modeled after those first established by Army intelligence at the Land Information Warfare Assessment Center, now known as the Information Dominance Center, at Fort Belvoir, Va., the official said.

Mr. Weldon is an outspoken figure who is a vice chairman of both the House Armed Services Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee. He said he had recognized the significance of the episode only recently, when he contacted members of the military intelligence team as part of research for his book, "Countdown to Terror: The Top-Secret Information That Could Prevent the Next Terrorist Attack on America and How the C.I.A. Has Ignored It."

Mr. Weldon's book prompted one veteran C.I.A. case officer to strongly dispute the reliability of one Iranian source cited in the book, saying the Iranian "was a waste of my time and resources."

Mr. Weldon said that he had discussed the Able Danger episode with Representative Peter Hoekstra, the Michigan Republican who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and that at least two Congressional committees were looking into the episode.

In the interview on Monday, Mr. Weldon said he had been aware of the episode since shortly after the Sept. 11 attack, when members of the team first brought it to his attention. He said he had told Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser, about it in a conversation in September or October 2001, and had been surprised when the Sept. 11 commission report made no mention of the operation.

Col. Samuel Taylor, a spokesman for the military's Special Operations Command, said no one at the command now had any knowledge of the Able Danger program, its mission or its findings. If the program existed, Colonel Taylor said, it was probably a highly classified "special access program" on which only a few military personnel would have been briefed.

During the interview in Mr. Weldon's office, the former defense intelligence official showed a floor-sized chart depicting Al Qaeda networks around the world that he said was a larger, more detailed version similar to the one prepared by the Able Danger team in the summer of 2000.

He said the original chart, like the new one, had included the names and photographs of Mr. Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, as well as Mr. Mihdhar and Mr. Hazmi, who were identified as members of what was described as an American-based "Brooklyn" cell, as one of five such Al Qaeda cells around the world.

The official said the link to Brooklyn was meant as a term of art rather than to be interpreted literally, saying that the unit had produced no firm evidence linking the men to the borough of New York City but that a computer analysis seeking to establish patterns in links between the four men had found that "the software put them all together in Brooklyn."

According to the commission report, Mr. Mihdhar and Mr. Hazmi were first identified in late 1999 or 2000 by the C.I.A. as Qaeda members who might be involved in a terrorist operation. They were tracked from Yemen to Malaysia before their trail was lost in Thailand. Neither man was put on a State Department watch list before they flew to Los Angeles in early 2000. The F.B.I. was not warned about them until the spring of 2001, and no efforts to track them were made until August 2001.

Neither Mr. Shehhi nor Mr. Atta was identified by the American intelligence agencies as a potential threat, the commission report said. Mr. Shehhi arrived in Newark on a flight from Brussels on May 29, 2000, and Mr. Atta arrived in Newark from Prague on June 3 that year.

The former intelligence official said the first Able Danger report identified all four men as members of a "Brooklyn" cell, and was produced within two months after Mr. Atta arrived in the United States. The former intelligence official said he was among a group that briefed Mr. Zelikow and at least three other members of the Sept. 11 commission staff about Able Danger when they visited the Afghanistan-Pakistan region in October 2003.

The official said he had explicitly mentioned Mr. Atta as a member of a Qaeda cell in the United States. He said the staff encouraged him to call the commission when he returned to Washington at the end of the year. When he did so, the ex-official said, the calls were not returned.

Mr. Felzenberg, the former Sept. 11 commission spokesman, said on Monday that he had talked with some of the former staff members who participated in the briefing.

"They all say that they were not told anything about a Brooklyn cell," Mr. Felzenberg said. "They were told about the Pentagon operation. They were not told about the Brooklyn cell. They said that if the briefers had mentioned anything that startling, it would have gotten their attention."

As a result of the briefing, he said, the commission staff filed document requests with the Pentagon for information about the program. The Pentagon complied, he said, adding that the staff had not hidden anything from the commissioners.

"The commissioners were certainly told of the document requests and what the findings were," Mr. Felzenberg said.

Philip Shenon and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting for this article.

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Re: Able Danger Round-Up, by Nicholas Levis

Postby admin » Tue Apr 12, 2016 8:11 am

9/11 Commission's Staff Rejected Report on Early Identification of Chief Hijacker
by Douglas Jehl and Philip Shenon
N.Y. Times
August 11, 2005

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 10 - 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."

Al Felzenberg, who served as the commission's chief spokesman, said earlier this week that staff members who were briefed about Able Danger at a first meeting, in October 2003, did not remember hearing anything about Mr. Atta or an American terrorist cell. On Wednesday, however, Mr. Felzenberg said the uniformed officer who briefed two staff members in July 2004 had indeed mentioned Mr. Atta.

Both Mr. Weldon's office and commission officials said they knew the name, rank and service of the officer, but they declined to make that information public.

Mr. Weldon and a former defense intelligence official who was interviewed on Monday have said that the Able Danger team sought but failed in the summer of 2000 to persuade the military's Special Operations Command, in Tampa, Fla., to pass on to the Federal Bureau of Investigation the information they had gathered about Mr. Atta and the three other men. The Pentagon and the Special Operations Command have declined to comment, saying they are still trying to learn more about what may have happened.

Maj. Paul Swiergosz, a Pentagon spokesman, said Wednesday that the military was working with the commission's unofficial follow-up group - the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, which was formed by the panel's members when it was disbanded - to try to clarify what had occurred.

Mr. Felzenberg said the commission's staff remained convinced that the information provided by the military officer in the July 2004 briefing was inaccurate in a significant way.

"He wasn't brushed off," Mr. Felzenberg said of the officer. "I'm not aware of anybody being brushed off. The information that he provided us did not mesh with other conclusions that we were drawing" from the commission's investigation.

Mr. Felzenberg said staff investigators had become wary of the officer because he argued that Able Danger had identified Mr. Atta, an Egyptian, as having been in the United States in late 1999 or early 2000. The investigators knew this was impossible, Mr. Felzenberg said, since travel records confirmed that he had not entered the United States until June 2000.

"There was no way that Atta could have been in the United States at that time, which is why the staff didn't give this tremendous weight when they were writing the report," Mr. Felzenberg said. "This information was not meshing with the other information that we had."

But Russell Caso, Mr. Weldon's chief of staff, said that "while the dates may not have meshed" with the commission's information, the central element of the officer's claim was that "Mohammed Atta was identified as being tied to Al Qaeda and a Brooklyn cell more than a year before the Sept. 11 attacks, and that should have warranted further investigation by the commission."

"Furthermore," Mr. Caso said, "if Mohammed Atta was identified by the Able Danger project, why didn't the Department of Defense provide that information to the F.B.I.?"

Mr. Felzenberg confirmed an account by Mr. Weldon's staff that the briefing, at the commission's offices in Washington, had been conducted by Dietrich L. Snell, one of the panel's lead investigators, and had been attended by a Pentagon employee acting as an observer for the Defense Department; over the commission's protests, the Bush administration had insisted that an administration "minder" attend all the panel's major interviews with executive branch employees. Mr. Snell referred questions to Mr. Felzenberg.

The Sept. 11 commission issued its final report on July 22, 2004. Mr. Felzenberg noted that the interview with the military officer had taken place in the final, hectic days before the commission sent the report to the printers, and said the meeting reflected a willingness by the commission to gather facts, even at the last possible minute.

"Lots of stuff was coming in over the transom," Mr. Felzenberg said. "Lots of stuff was flying around. At the end of the day, when you're writing the report, you have to take facts presented to you." Former Commissioner Spokesperson had this to say about the Commission's leaving Able Danger details out of their report: "Lots of stuff was coming in over the transom," Mr. Felzenberg said. "Lots of stuff was flying around. At the end of the day, when you're writing the report, you have to take facts presented to you."

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Re: Able Danger Round-Up, by Nicholas Levis

Postby admin » Tue Apr 12, 2016 8:12 am

Officer Says Pentagon Barred Sharing Pre-9/11 Qaeda Data With F.B.I.
by Philip Shenon
August 16, 2005

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 - A military intelligence team repeatedly contacted the F.B.I. in 2000 to warn about the existence of an American-based terrorist cell that included the ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a veteran Army intelligence officer who said he had now decided to risk his career by discussing the information publicly. The officer, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, said military lawyers later blocked the team from sharing any of its information with the F.B.I.

Colonel Shaffer said in an interview that the small, highly classified intelligence program known as Able Danger had identified by name the terrorist ringleader, Mohammed Atta, as well three of the other future hijackers by mid-2000, and had tried to arrange a meeting that summer with agents of the F.B.I.'s Washington field office to share the information.

But he said military lawyers forced members of the intelligence program to cancel three scheduled meetings with the F.B.I. at the last minute, which left the bureau without information that Colonel Shaffer said might have led to Mr. Atta and the other terrorists while the Sept. 11 plot was still being planned.

"I was at the point of near insubordination over the fact that this was something important, that this was something that should have been pursued," Colonel Shaffer said of his efforts to get the evidence from the intelligence program to the F.B.I. in 2000 and early 2001.

He said he learned later that lawyers associated with the Defense Department's Special Operations Command had canceled the F.B.I. meetings because they feared controversy if Able Danger was portrayed as a military operation that had violated the privacy of civilians who were legally in the United States. "It was because of the chain of command saying we're not going to pass on information - if something goes wrong, we'll get blamed," he said.

The Defense Department did not dispute the account from Colonel Shaffer, a 42-year-old native of Kansas City, Mo., who is the first military officer associated with the so-called data-mining program to come forward and acknowledge his role.

At the same time, the department said in a statement that it was "working to gain more clarity on this issue" and that "it's too early to comment on findings related to the program identified as Able Danger." The F.B.I. referred calls about Colonel Shaffer to the Pentagon.

The account from Colonel Shaffer, a reservist who is also working part-time for the Pentagon, corroborates much of the information that the Sept. 11 commission has acknowledged that it received about Able Danger last July from a Navy captain who was also involved with the program but whose name has not been made public.

In a statement issued last week, the leaders of the Sept. 11 commission said the panel had concluded that the intelligence program "did not turn out to be historically significant." The statement said that while the commission did learn about Able Danger in 2003 and immediately requested Pentagon files about the program, none of the documents turned over by the Defense Department referred to Mr. Atta or any of the other hijackers.

Colonel Shaffer said that his role in Able Danger was as the program's liaison with the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, and that he was not an intelligence analyst. The interview with Colonel Shaffer on Monday night was arranged for The New York Times and Fox News by Representative Curt Weldon, the Pennsylvania Republican who is vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a champion of data-mining programs like Able Danger.

Colonel Shaffer's lawyer, Mark Zaid, said in an interview that he was concerned that Colonel Shaffer was facing retaliation from the Defense Department - first for having talked to the Sept. 11 commission staff in October 2003 and now for talking with news organizations.

Mr. Zaid said that Colonel Shaffer's security clearance had been suspended last year because of what the lawyer said were a series of "petty allegations" involving $67 in personal charges on a military cellphone. He noted that despite the disciplinary action, Colonel Shaffer had been promoted this year from the rank of major.

Colonel Shaffer said he had decided to allow his name to be used in news accounts in part because of his frustration with the statement issued last week by the commission leaders, Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton.

The commission said in its final report last year that American intelligence agencies had not identified Mr. Atta as a terrorist before Sept. 11, 2001, when he flew an American Airlines jet into one of towers of the World Trade Center in New York.

A commission spokesman did not return repeated phone calls for comment. A Democratic member of the commission, Richard Ben Veniste, the former Watergate prosecutor, said in an interview today that while he could not judge the credibility of the information from Colonel Shaffer and others, the Pentagon needed to "provide a clear and comprehensive explanation regarding what information it had in its possession regarding Mr. Atta."

"And if these assertions are credible," he continued, "the Pentagon would need to explain why it was that the 9/11 commissioners were not provided this information despite request for all information regarding to Able Danger."

Colonel Shaffer said that he had provided information about Able Danger and its identification of Mr. Atta in a private meeting in October 2003 with members of the Sept. 11 commission staff when they visited Afghanistan, where he was then serving. Commission members have disputed that, saying they do not recall hearing Mr. Atta's name during the briefing and that the terrorist's name did not appear in documents about Able Danger that were later turned over by the Pentagon.

"I would implore the 9/11 commission to support a follow-on investigation to ascertain what the real truth is," Colonel Shaffer said in the interview this week. "I do believe the 9/11 commission should have done that job: figuring out what went wrong with Able Danger."

"This was a good news story because, before 9/11, you had an element of the military - our unit - which was actually out looking for Al Qaeda," he continued. "I can't believe the 9/11 commission would somehow believe that the historical value was not relevant."

Colonel Shaffer said that because he was not an intelligence analyst, he was not involved in the details of the procedures used in Able Danger to glean information from terrorist databases. Nor was he aware, he said, which databases had supplied the information that might have led to the name of Mr. Atta or other terrorists so long before the Sept. 11 attacks.

But he said he did know that Able Danger had made use of publicly available information from government immigration agencies, from internet sites and from paid search engines such as Lexis Nexis.

"We didn't that Atta's name was significant" at the time, he said, adding that "we just knew there were these linkages between him and these other individuals who were in this loose configuration" of people who appeared to be tied to an American-based cell of Al Qaeda.

Colonel Shaffer said he assumed that by speaking out publicly this week about Able Danger, he might effectively be ending his military career and limiting his ability to participate in intelligence work in the government. "I'm proud of my operational record and I love what I do," he said. "But there comes a time - and I believe the time for me is now -- to stand for something, to stand for what is right."

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Re: Able Danger Round-Up, by Nicholas Levis

Postby admin » Tue Apr 12, 2016 8:14 am

Second Officer Says 9/11 Leader Was Named Before Attacks
by Philip Shenon
NY Times
August 23, 2005

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 - An active-duty Navy captain has become the second military officer to come forward publicly to say that a secret intelligence program tagged the ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks as a possible terrorist more than a year before the attacks.

The officer, Scott J. Phillpott, said in a statement on Monday 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 were overruled by military lawyers when they tried to share the program's findings with the F.B.I. in 2000 in hopes of tracking down terrorist 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 came 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."

The statement from Captain Phillpott , a 1983 Naval Academy graduate who has served in the Navy for 22 years, was provided to The New York Times and Fox News through the office of Representative Curt Weldon, a Pennsylvania Republican who is vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a longtime proponent of so-called data-mining programs like Able Danger.

Asked if the Defense Department had questioned Captain Phillpott in its two-week-old investigation of Able Danger, another Pentagon spokesman, Maj. Paul Swiergosz, said he did not know.

Representative Weldon also arranged an interview on Monday with a former employee of a defense contractor who said he had helped create a chart in 2000 for the intelligence program that included Mr. Atta's photograph and name.

The former contractor, James D. Smith, said that Mr. Atta's name and photograph were obtained through a private researcher in California who was paid to gather the information from contacts in the Middle East. Mr. Smith said that he had retained a copy of the chart until last year and that it had been posted on his office wall at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. He said it had become stuck to the wall and was impossible to remove when he switched jobs.

In its final report last year, the Sept. 11 commission said that American intelligence agencies were unaware of Mr. Atta until the day of the attacks.

The leaders of the Sept. 11 commission acknowledged on Aug. 12 that their staff had met with a Navy officer last July, 10 days before releasing the panel's final report, who asserted that a highly classified intelligence operation, Able Danger, had identified "Mohamed Atta to be a member of an Al Qaeda cell located in Brooklyn."

But the statement, which did not identify the officer, said the staff determined that "the officer's account was not sufficiently reliable to warrant revision of the report or further investigation" and that the intelligence operation "did not turn out to be historically significant."

With his comments on Monday, Captain Phillpott acknowledged that he was the officer who had briefed the commission last year. "I will not discuss the issues outside of my chain of command and the Department of Defense," he said. "But my story is consistent. Atta was identified by Able Danger by January-February of 2000. I have nothing else to say."

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Re: Able Danger Round-Up, by Nicholas Levis

Postby admin » Tue Apr 12, 2016 8:15 am

Senate Panel Plans Hearing Into Reports on Terrorist
by Philip Shenon
NY Times
September 1, 2005

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 - The Senate Judiciary Committee announced Wednesday that it was investigating reports from two military officers that a highly classified Pentagon intelligence program identified the Sept. 11 ringleader as a potential terrorist more than a year before the attacks.

The committee's chairman, Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said in an interview that he was scheduling a public hearing on Sept. 14 "to get to the bottom of this" and that the military officers "appear to have credibility."

The senator said his staff had confirmed reports from the two officers that employees of the intelligence program tried to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2000 to discuss the work of the program, known as Able Danger.

The officers, Capt. Scott J. Phillpott of the Navy and Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer of the Army, have said the intelligence program identified the terrorist ringleader, Mohamed Atta, by early 2000. Colonel Shaffer, a reservist, has said three meetings with F.B.I. agents in 2000 to discuss Able Danger were canceled on the order of military lawyers.

Senator Specter's announcement came as the Pentagon said again on Wednesday that while it was not disputing the officers' reports, it could find no documentation to back up what they were saying.

"Not only can we not find documentation, we can't find documents to lead us to the documentation," said Maj. Paul Swiergosz, a Pentagon spokesman.

Other Pentagon officials have suggested that the memories of Captain Phillpott and Colonel Shaffer are flawed and that Mr. Atta could not have been identified before the attacks, a view shared by members of the independent commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks.

But Colonel Shaffer and military officials involved in the intelligence program say it may not be surprising that documents were destroyed, since the project became controversial within the Pentagon because of potential privacy violations.

"I don't know what kind of documentation they'd be looking for," Senator Specter said of Defense Department investigators. "At this point, you have responsible officials at D.O.D. who have made some pretty serious statements and that ought to be investigated."

The existence of the intelligence program is potentially embarrassing to the Pentagon since it would suggest that the Defense Department developed information about the Sept. 11 hijackers long before they attacked in 2001 but did not share the information with law enforcement or intelligence agencies that could have acted on it.

Senator Specter did not provide a witness list for the Sept. 14 hearing, although he suggested that Captain Phillpott and Colonel Shaffer would testify, along with J. D. Smith, a former Pentagon contractor who worked on the program and has backed up the officers' accounts about the identification of Mr. Atta.

The senator said that if Mr. Atta and other Sept. 11 terrorists were identified before the attacks, "it would be a very serious breach not to have that information passed along."

"We ought to get to the bottom of it," Mr. Specter said.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times.
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Re: Able Danger Round-Up, by Nicholas Levis

Postby admin » Tue Apr 12, 2016 8:16 am

Pentagon Finds More Who Recall Atta Intel
by The Associated Press / New York Times
September 2, 2005

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Pentagon officials said Thursday they have found three more people who recall an intelligence chart that identified Sept. 11 mastermind Mohamed Atta as a terrorist one year before the attacks on New York and Washington. But they have been unable to find the chart or other evidence that it existed.

Last month, two military officers, Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and Navy Capt. Scott Philpott, went public with claims that a secret unit code-named Able Danger used data mining -- searching large amounts of data for patterns -- to identify Atta in 2000. Shaffer has said three other Sept. 11 hijackers also were identified.

In recent days Pentagon officials have said they could not yet verify or disprove the assertions by Shaffer and Philpott. On Thursday, four intelligence officials provided the first extensive briefing for reporters on the outcome of their interviews with people associated with Able Danger and their review of documents.

They said they interviewed at least 80 people over a three-week period and found three, besides Philpott and Shaffer, who said they remember seeing a chart that either mentioned Atta by name as an al-Qaida operative or showed his photograph. Four of the five recalled a chart with a pre-9/11 photo of Atta; the other person recalled only a reference to his name.

The intelligence officials said they consider the five people to be credible but their recollections are still unverified.

''To date, we have not identified the chart,'' said Pat Downs, a senior policy analyst in the office of the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. ''We have identified a similar chart but it does not contain the photo of Mohamed Atta or a reference to him or a reference to the other (9/11) hijackers.''

She said more interviews would be conducted, but the search of official documents is finished.

Downs and the other officials said they could not rule out that the chart recalled by Shaffer, Philpott and three others had been destroyed in compliance with regulations pertaining to intelligence information about people inside the United States. They also did not rule out that the five simply had faulty recollections.

Navy Cmdr. Christopher Chope, of the Center for Special Operations at U.S. Special Operations Command, said there were ''negative indications'' that anyone ever ordered the destruction of Able Danger documents, other than the materials that were routinely required to be destroyed under existing regulations.

Shaffer, who is now a civilian employee of the Defense Intelligence Agency, also has publicly asserted that military lawyers stopped the Able Danger staff from sharing the information on Atta with the FBI out of concern about gathering and sharing information on people in the United States legally.

Chope said there is no evidence that military lawyers blocked the sharing of Able Danger information with the FBI.

Chope also said the nature of Able Danger has been misrepresented in some news stories. He said it was created as a result of a directive in early October 1999 by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to U.S. Special Operations Command to develop a campaign plan against transnational terrorism, ''specifically al-Qaida.''

He called it an internal working group with a core of 10 staffers at Special Operations Command. Philpott was the ''team leader,'' he said. ''Able Danger was never a military unit,'' and it never targeted individual terrorists, he said. It went out of existence when the planning effort was finished in January 2001, he said.

Able Danger's purpose was to ''characterize the al-Qaida network,'' Chope said, and determine the terror network's vulnerabilities and linkages at a time when U.S. officials were unaware that al-Qaida members were operating inside the United States.

''The effort was never: Determine which individuals we ought to roll up,'' he said. ''Did Osama bin Laden's name come up? Of course it did.'' But it was not primarily aimed at identifying individual terrorists, he added.

Of the five people who told Pentagon interviewers they recalled a pre-9/11 chart that either named Atta or showed his photograph, two were on the staff of U.S. Special Operations Command: Philpott and an unidentified civilian analyst. Besides Shaffer, the others were an unidentified private contractor and an analyst with the Army's Land Information Warfare Activity, Downs said.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times/Associated Press.
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