August 16, 2005


Officer Says Pentagon Barred Sharing Pre-9/11 Qaeda Data With F.B.I. (PHILIP SHENON, 8/16/05, NY Times)

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's a mistake at any rate to let this topic get sidetracked onto the specific question of Atta and 9-11--the simple question is why we aren't making full use of basic data-mining techniques even after 9-11. Recall the hysteria surrounding Admiral Poindexter and Total Information Awareness? Hopefully the feds threw him to the wolves and went ahead with the project quietly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 16, 2005 9:04 PM

Who should be forgiving who? Lt. Col. Shaffer says his main concern now is our unsecure southwest border.

Posted by: Jim Yates at August 16, 2005 9:36 PM

Yes, but they entered through Canada.

Posted by: oj at August 16, 2005 9:39 PM

I don't think it's a mistake to press on connecting the dots between Atta/Iraqi intelligence/the state dept./the 9/11 commission and Jamie Gorelick's selection to the commission. I think it's a mistake that more Bloggers aren't piling on with Captains Quarters to get to the bottom of the whole stinking mess, as happened with the TANG memo. We really don't have bigger fish to fry, in my opinion, at the moment.

Posted by: Genecis at August 16, 2005 9:46 PM

9-11 happe4ned and there's a mountain of blame to go around. Why not focus on a tactic that'll be effective at identifying other bad guys?

Posted by: oj at August 16, 2005 9:51 PM

Who are the lawyers who stopped the information from being shared with the FBI? They should be in front of a senate committee explaining what they thought they were doing and who advised this action.

Posted by: erp at August 16, 2005 9:52 PM

Let's do both.

Posted by: Genecis at August 16, 2005 9:59 PM

The real reason this story is explosive is because the policies created by Jamie Gorelick implicate Bill Clinton. And Hillary. She won't like having to explain why 'her' Asst. Atty. General put steps in place that shackled the government in stopping terrorism.

And if the papers Sandy Berger stuffed in his drawers related to Able Danger, then Hillary won't be running for President. She probably won't even run for re-election. And Sandy's sentence probably will get a lot more severe than he expected (it is still in the judge's hand, to be announced in Sept., I believe).

That's why John Podhoretz (among others) is treading very lightly - this is a story that needs to be walked back all the way, with patience and with solid evidence. Because the media won't like the ending one bit.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 16, 2005 10:46 PM

Clinton is gone and he was gone by 9-11--there's no there there.

Posted by: oj at August 16, 2005 10:50 PM

Treason. Treason and plot.

This is part of the post-Watergate Dolchstoss. What the Committee to Re-elect the President had been looking for at the Watergate was evidence that the Democrats had been accepting campaign contributrions from unfriendly foreign powers.

The post-Watergate firewall between foreign and domestic intelligence was supposed to be a warning to both side to keep their hands off such matters in the future. If this sounds extrems, please recall Al Gore's campaign contributions from Chicom Army Intelligence, clumsily laundered through a Bhuddist monastary.

That JAGs should have made an overly cautious interpretation of the firewall is consistent with my memory of how we looked at civilian law generally. What should be done now is to examine how military lawyers had been interpreting and applying the firewall from Watergate to 9-11. I would expect a trail of opinions and memoes that would tell us that what happened in the Atta case was not an isolated phenomenon.

I do not agree that this is, as they say in Chappaquidick, water under the bridge. The history of the Dolchstoss should be known and understood, and our November criminals held accountable.

Posted by: Lou Gots at August 16, 2005 10:55 PM

again, the redoubtable refrain: it was clinton's fault.

interesting, oj, for a guy who so abhors the power of "the state," that you are fine with this particular kind of "centralized planning."

lou, i mostly find you frightening, but your interest in holding "our november criminals" accountable is intriguing.

Posted by: lonbud at August 16, 2005 11:11 PM


Except as it relates to Hillary's political future, you and OJ are right. That's why I wrote my comment the way I did. Clinton is gone, but I would like to have seen Jamie Gorelick testify. The most courageous thing John Ashcroft ever did was pre-empt her when he was before the 9/11 Commission.

The Commission was heavily politicized, and was compromised as well. The left wanted a club to beat over Bush's head, and the right saw that there was no way to compete with the Jersey girls (and Jamie Gorelick).

As Podhoretz wrote tonight, if what Lt. Colonel Shaffer says is true, then our framework for the past 5 years is wrong. I wouldn't waste time on another fruitless finger-pointing exercise, but it is instructive to discover that we might have been less blind than everyone thought (and so desperately wanted to believe).

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 16, 2005 11:43 PM


This what the state exiists for.

Posted by: oj at August 16, 2005 11:56 PM

Orrin likes both the "power of the state" and centralized planning; he has differences with the current culture about where to apply such.


Lou Gots' "November criminals" are totally different from those that you have in mind.

Bush and his cronies DID NOT quash the Able Danger report so as to let 9/11 proceed.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 17, 2005 2:35 AM


i assumed lou and i had different ideas about who our november criminals might be, but i'd still be interested in hearing his take on where/what the crime was.

i haven't intimated at all that bushco quashed the able danger report. as i said before, that appears to have been clinton's fault.

i think erp's idea about hearing from th JAGs who did quash it is a good one.

Posted by: lonbud at August 17, 2005 2:43 AM

Then my apologies.

I assumed that you had cast Bush and his advisors in that role because of the previous conversations that we've had about 9/11.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 17, 2005 4:53 AM

Unforunately, the databases to which I ahve access at this time do not have links to the journal articles which would tell us what the JAG's had been thinking about the post-Watergate firewall over the years. I know where to look, but I would have to run down to Penn to do it.

As early as the 70's the left could see the cracks in its governing coalition, and made common cause with the enemies of humanity in order to cling to power for a few more years.

It is well than lonbud finds me frightening. As time passes, the nation will view this matter with more and more clarity. History, Helmut Schmidt once said, will be very kind to Ronald Reagan. It will be harsh with our November criminals

Posted by: Lou Gots at August 17, 2005 9:13 AM

Lou is right. I'm not exactly sure who he means by the 'November criminals', but I know that Jamie Gorelick, Sandy Berger, Richard Clarke, Joe Wilson, Tony Lake, Warren Christopher, Madeline Albright, Janet Reno, et al. will be viewed (as time passes) more and more as little Chamberlains or Stanley Baldwins. Bill Clinton may remain above it, or he may not. But his 'advisors' are going to suffer. They fiddled while the fires of terrorism were stoked. If the 9/11 Commission fiddled as well, then they will suffer, too.

Fixing blame is an emotional and political passion. Why does John Kerry still call Vietnam 'Nixon's war'?

On 9/11, there is plenty of blame to go around, but unfortunately for the Democrats, it will fall their way. But had they changed their tune on security (and offense) after 9/11, it might not have. The best they can do now is accept it and adjust accordingly. To continue down the Soros & Moore path is death. Is there any Democrat who has the guts to demand that Howard Dean resign?

Also, the GOP needs to be aware that leading the world over the next 10 years is going to be a very lonely job. Bush seems dogged enough, but are his potential successors? What would a McCain do with Cindy Sheehan (or Dominique De Villepin)? And we're not even talking Joe Biden or Dick Durbin yet.

Posted by: ratbert at August 17, 2005 10:57 AM

What would a McCain do with Cindy Sheehan...

Which is why a President McCain will be another Bush the Elder, and why so many of us object to him. A failure and a prelude to worse. Been there, done that, got the "8 years of Clinton foreign policy" t-shirt to show for it.

But it does make one appreciate why FDR ran for those 3rd and 4th terms.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at August 17, 2005 11:50 AM


McCain would have the standing and the temperament to bitch-slap her. That's problematic in a president, but it would be fun to watch.

Posted by: oj at August 17, 2005 12:03 PM

His reaction to having his own electoral tactics used against him in South Carolina was instructive as to his true character. So I'd think it's more likely for him to "bitch-slap" someone who's nominally on his own side and who offers up mild criticism of a McCain pet policy.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at August 17, 2005 2:47 PM

The war will be his pet policy.

Posted by: oj at August 17, 2005 3:53 PM

McCain's only 'pet' policy will be alternating between bullying and then embracing the media. It won't work for long, unless he builds some sort of firewall with the blogosphere.

Of course, he could ask Chris Matthews to be his press secretary. Or Norah O'Donnell. Or Chris Jansing. Or Dana Bush.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 17, 2005 4:08 PM


Outside of the blogosphere people understand him to be a perfectly stable war hero of impeccable ethics. His firewall is the American people.

Posted by: oj at August 17, 2005 4:19 PM

I understand.

However, I can hear Bob Schieffer (and the rest of the herd) now - "John McCain exploded at a campaign rally today when protestors accused him of ethical problems and of currying favor with the media. The situation was reminiscent of Howard Dean's difficulties in connecting with questioning voters in Iowa four years ago".

From there, it's all downhill, and then the NYT will go digging to see if McCain really did father a black child back in the day. :>)

If you want to be the first brick in his firewall, go ahead. He certainly is preferable to most of the GOP pretenders. But he will struggle more than you think, unless he has a few special moments to seal the deal with Republican voters between now and December 2007.

And this time, skipping Iowa might hurt him (because the media will portray him as the front-runner who ran away).

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 17, 2005 4:41 PM


The press is like a dog--McCain pets it and feeds it, so it's tame. It recognizes a primordial enemy in W so it hates him. It saw weakness in Kerry and Gore so it destroyed them. It met its feral match in Clinton.

Posted by: oj at August 17, 2005 4:46 PM

earth to oj: the press hates bush? never in my lifetime has a president been treated with such kid gloves, been given such a pass. you, sir, are delusional.

Posted by: lonbud at August 18, 2005 3:10 AM


Hate him, just can't lay a glove on him, like Reagan.

Posted by: oj at August 18, 2005 9:11 AM


Well, David Gregory could ask the President: "Why is every word out of your mouth a lie, you f*^%%*#@ lying ignorant chimp?!?"

It wouldn't help him, though. And the President would just smile. And Bob Wright would have to fire him.

No, they hate him worse than Nixon. Because he is a consequential President, and a self-assured man, uncowed by the mighty press corps. Like Reagan.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 18, 2005 10:16 AM