Able Danger - Where it all Began

Before Weldon spoke on the House Floor in the infamous June 27th, 2005 speech, Reporter Dan Verton broke the story nearly two years ago. In this article, he tells the story.

"Recent news about the findings of the Able Danger military intelligence unit is not news at all. Your humble correspondent reported on the findings of the unit and the fact that the unit had briefed senior Defense Department officials during the transition phase between the Clinton and Bush administrations more than two years ago.

What is news, however, is the timing of the most recent wave of interest in the unit and the multiple investigations that are now being threatened. Having interviewed Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), the outspoken Republican who for years has championed the cause of terrorism intelligence sharing, on numerous occasions between 2000 and 2003, I can say unequivocally that the vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee informed your humble correspondent in 2002 that officers from the U.S. Special Operations Command had briefed Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Hugh Shelton on their al-Qaeda findings weeks before the Bush administration took office."

He refers then to his article dated back in 2000, where he wrote of Weldon's experience with LIWA (Army's Land Information Warfare Activity at Fort Belvoir, Va), the precursor of NOAH:

"The idea behind the National Operations and Analysis Hub (NOAH) isto create a center that would have a national fusion capability staffed by representatives from more than 33 agencies.

It would integrate all of the databases, networks, imagery and analysesavailable across the government in what Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) describedas "a very controlled environment of classified and unclassified systems."

Continuing the article:

"More than two years later I was covering President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address for Computerworld Magazine. It was then, on January 29, 2003, that I penned a story on the president’s pledge to create a new Terrorist Threat Integration Center. I tapped Weldon for his opinion on the new center and how it might differ from his NOAH concept. During that interview, Weldon spoke out vehemently against the federal government’s inability to share critical intelligence information and went as far as to claim that the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks could have been prevented.

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According to the story Weldon told me during that interview, the U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., had approached LIWA in 2000 for information on its commercial data mining capabilities that it had built with the assistance of a former CIA profiler who was employed as a contractor. With LIWA’s help, the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) built a scaled-down version of the data mining system. It then produced an entire profile of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist organization. Through that profile, SOCOM made detailed recommendations to the Clinton administration in January 2001 — only weeks before the inauguration of President George W. Bush. Those recommendations, according to Weldon, included guidance on which individual al-Qaeda cells to direct military and law enforcement action against to cripple the terror organization.

During our interview, Weldon stated categorically that a detailed briefing had been scheduled with then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Hugh Shelton. However, what was at first scheduled to be a three hour briefing was reduced at the last moment to one hour. And, tragically, the recommendations passed on to the leadership at the Defense Department were never acted upon, said Weldon. He also said that he had briefed then Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge on the findings and the urgent need to improve information sharing."

Ok so this tells us more of what we know. More or less that Weldon was "on fire" for this technology which in the LWIA genesis he oversaw the funding. The article continues to give us more background on how the program operated. But then it drops this bombshell, which explains to me "Why wouldn't the Bush administration NOT let this information out?"

"But to pin the missed opportunity that we now call Able Danger on the Clinton administration is to pin one’s political hopes on the thinnest of margins. Weldon seems to have told anybody who would listen in Washington about the work of LIWA and the missed opportunity stemming from SOCOM’s use of the data mining technology. And he seems to have been on this mission both before and after 9/11.

Much has also been made of the 9/11 Commission’s failure to follow up on the briefings provided by former Able Danger officers to the Commission’s staffers. But nothing has been said of the fact that a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former Secretary of Homeland Security allegedly knew of the SOCOM al-Qaeda findings and, yet, none of that information ever made it to the 9/11 Commission.

What’s worse, the Defense Department has disavowed all knowledge of the SOCOM effort now known as Able Danger. How can something that goes as high as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs disappear into thin air? Wouldn’t something of this magnitude come up during one of the many hundreds of administration transition meetings on national security?

The Able Danger fiasco is an example of the damage that two competing political parties can do to this country. They are filled with ideologues who are bent on destroying their political opponents first and foremost. And they both have foot soldiers in the bureaucracy who provide tacit and, at times, explicit support. The Clinton administration is to blame for hating the incoming administration so much that they would do little or nothing — even in the realm of national security — to assist in the transition. The administration of George W. Bush, on the other hand, dared not ask for help from an administration and party they disdained.

The bottom line is that Able Danger failed because two politicians, backed by two political parties and their bureaucratic foot soldiers, allowed it to fall through the cracks. This latest round of “news,” is nothing more than a Republican hunt for a Democratic scapegoat at a time when the current administration desperately needs to avoid incurring responsibility for more mistakes."

Just too embassrassing for all concerned? What about General Shelton? Why the amnesia? How about Schoomaker, who I've all along said could be the key, if he would just come forward - but he has been silent.

This explains why this isn't likely to go anywhere now or in the future.

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