Monday Morning Intelligence with the New York Times and Kool Aid - The Shaffer interview

This issue of Government Security News has an interview with Ltc. Tony Shaffer, the 'liason' for Team Able Danger.

Since this story began breaking last month, I've been very skeptical, much to the surprise of friends and ex-colleagues. The reasons are many, but I'll break them down to these points:

1. While we know there was a "operation" referred to as "Able Danger", we only know from a handful of witnesses (out of 80), that claim this group fingered Mohammed Atta. Yet to this date, we have no evidence - no chart, no paperwork, memos, NADA.

2. Rep. Weldon is a probably a fine man. But I believe he has had an agenda from day one. Look, the point is, either he is a hero - screaming from the roof tops "We knew, dammit we knew!"

Or he's creating some hellacious pre-publication press for his upcoming book, plus a ploy to get funding for his "pet project", which according to his own speech he glowed over as far back as the spring of '99. Based on what I've seen and especially that June 27th, 2005 floor speech that is so scripted it is unbelievable, I am taking this latter position.

Now back to Shaffer's interview. Quite honestly I don't know how to take this guy. He seems knowledgeble, although at least some people I have talked to who have been around him have less than glowing reviews.

Yet going over this interview, I have to say, he is providing quite a tale, that if true has a lot of interesting angles.

First to the formulation of Able Danger. All along I thought this operation - which according to Shaffer was at the request of now retired Gen. Hugh Shelton, who incidently is now saying, "Able What?" and placed it under Gen. Pete Schoomaker's 'godfathership' - was being run stictly "under the radar" -all while receiving "plussed up" funding from Weldon.

Incidently, Shaffer admits that the purpose of all this brohaha is simply to re-establish a new program called 'Able Providence' - that would no doubt again get some "plussed up" funding by guess who?

Yup, Rep. Weldon.

Here's an interesting out take from Shaffer in comparison to what Weldon had previously said on the floor of the House.

Schaffer is being asked when was he "brought on board" with Able Danger:

When was this?

September of ’99.

The Able Danger program itself was ongoing already?

No, it was just being tasked. It was still being formulated.

Now from Weldon's statement on the House Floor June 27th, 2005.

Here he is referring the data he received on the "Serb" who would be working with the Russians on his trip to Vienna with the Kosovo delegation:

"But at the time, Mr. Speaker, I was chairman of the Defense Research Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee. My job was to oversee the funding, approximately $40 billion of defense research money on new systems and new technologies.

And one of the most striking technologies was the work being done by the Army's Information Dominance Center at Fort Belvoir, formerly known as the LIWA, the Land Information Warfare Assessment Center. I had visited the LIWA several times and was tremendously impressed with not just the ability to provide security for our Army classified systems, but I saw a unique approach to doing well beyond that, data mining, data collaboration, using cutting-edge software tools like Starlight and Spires, able to do profiling.

Having plussed-up funding for this facility after talking to George Tenet, I called my friends at the Army's Information Dominance Center and said, can you do something for me as a favor, off the record? And they said sure, Congressman, whatever you like."

The point is that Able Danger was running well before Tony was brought on board.

Ok, it's parsing, I know. But credibility is important.

But as you go through this interview, and you're like me, you continually ask yourself one question,

"Tony? What is the freaking point?"

Towards the end of the interview, we get it:

" The ultimate goal is what created this whole event to begin with. The intent of Congressman Weldon, and the Army and maybe the leadership was to re-create this [data mining] capability. That’s why this all came up. In the January / February timeframe, we started down the path with Captain Philpott in the lead, saying, “We need to look at how we can recreate the suite of Able Danger capabilities.

That’s when I came into it, because of my knowledge of, and having managed part of the process last time. Army and Navy went to Weldon and said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we had some funding for this?” That’s the key. [Rep.Weldon] asked the hard question, “What happened to the previous iteration of this?” And that’s when the story came out.

I can tell you that both Army and Navy had told us to tell the truth to Congress about what happened. That is a fact. Every time we’ve talked to Army and Navy leadership, they’ve said, “Tell the truth.” And that is what we’ve tried to do here. The only reason that this is now in front of the public is because [Congressman Weldon] had the courage to take that information and to do something with it.

I believe it was his intent to put it into the record on 27 June 2005, just to justify the expense of putting this into the upcoming FY2006 appropriations bill. But that was the ultimate objective here -- to build something called Able Providence."

Go back to Weldon's entire statement. You can see from the get-go that he brags about the capabilities of this program as if it's his own personal "pet project". For instance he talks to Tenant about the Serb, get's a nod, but isn't happy and after first making a direct deposit into their account, he calls over to the LIWA and gets the information he wants (or knew he could get all along). "As a favor".

Am I a little too nit-picky? Perhaps, but consider:

1. Both the Pentagon, DOD state they have NO evidence of a paper trail/email trail/chart trail.

2. General Shelton has no recollection of the program - NONE.

3. General Isler outright denies that he had any run-in with Shaffer as he described.

4. Other data software vendors/contractors mentioned either have no comment or outright deny involvement.

5. General Schoomaker has NO comment on the matter.

Note: A critical point IS General Schoomaker himself. For crying out loud he's the freaking CJSS, He ought to make a comment either way - it might help!

More at Junkyard Blog