A recent AIM Report documented how Congressman Curt Weldon has come under assault by elements of the intelligence community and the media following release of his book, Countdown To Terror: The Top-Secret Information That Could Prevent The Next Terrorist Attack On America?and How the CIA Has Ignored It. Among other revelations, the book exposes how the CIA has ignored Iranian terrorist plots against America.
Rep. Weldon has developed a reputation as a high-ranking Congressman willing to expose intelligence failures. But when he tries to hold government officials accountable for these failures, he comes under strong attack from their supporters in the media.
A curious reaction has greeted Weldon’s revelation that a military intelligence unit, Able Danger, had identified several of the 9/11 hijackers in the U.S. a year before the 9/11 terrorist attacks were carried out. Weldon charges that nothing was done with the information by Clinton Administration officials in the Department of Defense who could have exposed and possibly stopped the plot. They didn’t pass on the information to the FBI. About 3000 lives could have been saved.
Weldon’s charges made headlines, and 9/11 commission members and staffers were caught in an embarrassing series of statements about what they knew, or were told, about these essential facts. It’s clear somebody dropped the ball, although some reporters still insist that Weldon’s charges are unsubstantiated.
Weldon wants to clear up the matter. He has asked two critical questions:
(1) What lawyers in the Department of Defense made the decision in late 2000 not to pass the information from Able Danger to the FBI?
(2) Why did the 9-11 Commission staff not find it necessary to pass this information to the Commissioners, and why did the 9-11 Commission staff not request full documentation of Able Danger from the team member that volunteered the information?
The media didn’t pay attention at the time, but Weldon, the vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, presented a Special Order in June on something called Able Danger. Special Orders are those speeches you see people give on CSPAN in the evenings, when seemingly no one else is there, and few are watching at home. But that doesn’t mean the information is not momentous. The New York Times finally picked up on it on August 8, noting that a data-mining secret team of Army intelligence operatives code named Able Danger had identified the main al-Qaeda cell in the U.S., headed by Mohammed Atta, the leader of the 19 9/11 terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Upon discovery of the cell, the Able Danger team reported to their superiors and urged them to contact the FBI to “take out the cell,” according to Weldon. The team was created to gather intelligence on al-Qaeda networks around the world, by a directive from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Henry Shelton. They presented the information one year before 9/11, with a large chart and photos of the terrorists, to the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command headquarters. But nothing was done. The reason given was that Atta and the others were in possession of proper green cards, and thus, apparently, immune from any law enforcement action.
Jamie Gorelick, a 911 commissioner and former assistant attorney general under President Clinton, had worked directly on matters related to the investigation. She was the author of the 1995 Guidelines and procedures that imposed strict barriers, more than the law required, between law enforcement and the intelligence communities, making it that much more difficult for the two to exchange information. Could those rules have been responsible for the information about Atta failing to make it to proper law enforcement authorities?
What’s more, could this have something to do with the Sandy Berger case? President Clinton’s National Security Adviser, pled guilty to a misdemeanor earlier this year. Berger finally went before a judge in April and acknowledged that he intentionally destroyed copies of classified documents from the National Archives and cut them up with scissors. He admitted that he deliberately destroyed three copies of the same document having to do with terror threats, then lied to the Archives staff when asked about them. He had come there, ostensibly, to find materials to help prepare for his and others’ appearances before the 911 commission’s investigation. Instead, he was clearly there to destroy information and documents that he knew could be harmful to himself and/or former president Clinton.
Right in the middle of all this, Clinton was a guest on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. But Blitzer didn’t ask Clinton anything about this, such as, “Did you know about Able Danger?” Instead, when Wolf tried to get him to say the war in Iraq was a mistake, and had little to do with the war on terror, Clinton said:
“I would agree with that. I don’t think?I never thought it had much to do with the war on terror, except that we were looking to see if there were biological and chemical agents there?But it was clearly not going to have anything to do with al Qaeda. They had never been involved before and that was where our focus, I thought, should have been.”
That would have been a good opportunity for Wolf to then ask Clinton why, in his administration’s 1998 indictment of bin Laden, it said the following:
“…Al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the government of Iraq.”
News that there was a failure to communicate between law enforcement and the intelligence agencies on matters related to 9/11 is nothing new. But Weldon’s information was stunning nevertheless.
It must also be questioned what would have happened if the FBI had been informed. After all, the Rowley memo and the Phoenix memo originated from within the FBI and disclosed the activities of other al Qaeda terrorists. But the information wasn’t acted on by FBI headquarters.
Fortunately, Congressman Curt Weldon is one member of Congress who is still demanding accountability. The media should support, not attack, him. He’s trying to save us from another terrorist attack.