Thursday, August 11, 2005

9/11 Commission: Oh, Yeah, NOW We Remember

On the heals of a New York Times story revealing that the 9/11 commission knew of, but ignored, the Able Danger/Atta angle, the always-excellent MinuteMan is now convinced, as AJStrata was from the beginning, that the Able Danger story represents a monumental intelligence foul-up:
...At this point we ought to await a description of the one hour condensed briefing that, per Weldon, was given to Gen. Hugh Shelton in January 2001 - that would seem to represent a clear, contemporaneous version of the Able Danger product. It is still dimly possible that the Able Danger briefing given to the 9/11 Commission conflated the initial effort with some post-9/11 updating, and that the original Able Danger briefing either had no names, or too many names to have been useful. Very dimly possible.

But assuming for a moment that Weldon is holding aces, how monumental an intelligence debacle is this, and who will be blamed? The obvious whipping boys of summer would be Clinton/Berger/Gorelick, for fostering an overly legalistic approach to the War on Terror; Bush/Tenet/Rice for failing to draw this information from the system in the summer of 2001, when we were at a high terrorist threat level and Tenet's hair was on fire; and Gen. Hugh Shelton and the Pentagon. Gen. Shelton (ret.) was Chairman of the JCS in Jan 2001 - if he heard and downplayed the Able Danger briefing then, he and the Pentagon might prefer to see it buried now.

As to how significant an error this was - obviously, after the fact Mohammed Atta was very important. Although I assume Able Danger did not offer any specific projections about hijacking planes, if Atta had been put under closer surveillance, the 9/11 plot might have been disrupted. Still, a point to ponder - was Atta noted by Able Danger as a key Al Qaeda figure even in 2001, or was he just one name among fifty, or five hundred?

I suspect that Congressional hearings into this will be forthcoming.

While the Democrats play with the pretend scandal of the publicity hound Joe Wilson and his wife, a truly deadly scandal may have played out under the watch of the last Democratic President. More to come, no doubt...

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