THE ABLE DANGER HEARING THAT WAS NOT
Dennis L. Cuddy, Ph.D.
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on September 21, 2005 held a public hearing on the Department of Defense classified Project Able Danger, which was designed, before the attacks of 9-11, to identify members of Al Qaeda around the world. Shortly after this hearing, I wrote that the next hearing was scheduled for October 5. However, this second hearing was cancelled, as the Committee went on to other business. I called the Committee and asked when the next hearing would be rescheduled, but was told they had no idea.
This strikes me as reminiscent of the month before 9-11, when the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing indicated Osama bin Laden was "determined to attack in the U.S.," yet nothing was done to prevent the attacks. Here we are now in October 2005, and news reports indicate terrorists could strike now during the month of Ramadan, yet the Senate is going to take its sweet time getting around to finding out who these terrorists are.
During the September 21 hearing, attorney Mark Zaid said that the chart developed before 9-11 with Mohamed Atta's photo on it was extremely important because it contained "several dozen terrorists who may still be out there and planning attacks." The first hearing showed that many people's copies of the chart had been destroyed or lost for some strange reason. U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon testified that he was told Major-General Geoffrey Lambert at U.S. Army SOCOM (Special Operations Command) "was extremely upset when he learned that his (Able Danger) data had been destroyed without his knowledge or consent." The data was destroyed by Able Danger member Army Major Erik Kleinsmith, who said he was ordered to do so by the general counsel of the Army Intelligence and Security Command, Tony Gentry, who said: "Delete this info or you guys will go to jail." Remember, though, that Kleinsmith testified on September 21 that what was destroyed was all the data, charts and other analytical products related to Able Danger "not already passed on to SOCOM."
Major-General Lambert is now retired from the Army and is a consultant with an international corporation known as SAIC. I called his former secretary at Fort Bragg, and she e-mailed the General that I wished to talk to him, but he has not yet called me.
During the September 21, 2005 testimony, Congressman Curt Weldon also indicated that in late September 2001, he took the chart to then-Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, who said "I've got to show this to the man (President Bush)." But according to a WASHINGTON POST column by Dan Eggen on September 24, 2005, Frederick L. Jones II, a spokesman for Hadley, said that "Mr. Hadley does not recall any chart bearing the name or photo of Mohamed Atta. NSC staff have reviewed the files of Mr. Hadley as well as of all NSC personnel" who might have received such a chart. (But) "that search has turned up no chart." Eggen then wrote that Congressman Weldon sticks by his account of the meeting with Hadley.
Could Hadley have forgotten the chart, or might he have given it to President Bush as he indicated he would? In that case, does the President have the chart? Does one of the contractors who developed the chart have a copy? If you developed a document vital to this country's national security, wouldn't you make a copy of it before giving it to a government official? Of course, you would ! What if that person lost or misplaced it, and later asked for another copy? Wouldn't you want to have a copy on hand?
There are many such questions generated by the September 21 hearing that desperately call out for answers, especially when our leaders tell us it's not a matter of "if" but "when" there will be another terrorist attack. Suppose during this Ramadan, terrorists one night launch an attack during a National Football League game with about 70,000 in attendance? Suppose they fly a private Lear jet packed with C-4 explosives into the crowd? Or suppose terrorists' helicopters disguised with white paint and red crosses on them fly low and fast to the same football stadium, and launch rockets filled with C-4 into the crowd? Far more than the 3000 killed on 9-11 would lose their lives.
And what would the U.S. Senate say? They were "fiddling" with other business as Americans burned because the Senators couldn't be bothered with trying quickly to determine who those Al Qaeda members were on the Able Danger chart.
The Senate is not alone in its casual attitude toward terrorism, though, as on October 5, 2005, CIA director Porter Goss said "I will not convene an accountability board to judge the performances of any individual CIA officers" concerning the failures that allowed the attacks of 9-11. Perhaps this is because lower level employees could point the finger at higher-ups. Of course, if there is no sense of responsibility or accountability, then there is no greater incentive to try harder to prevent future attacks.
Not long before the CIA made its announcement, Allan Lengel writing in THE WASHINGTON POST (September 16, 2005) revealed that "four years after the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks, one of the most exhaustive investigations in FBI history has yielded no arrests and is showing signs of growing cold as officials have sharply reduced the number of agents on the case."
Regarding Bush administration failures, I repeatedly have cautioned people about the failure to find WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) in Iraq, as I believe one day we will learn that just before the war with Iraq began, Saddam Hussein secreted his WMD to Syria and elsewhere. Some have questioned why Saddam didn't use these weapons if he had them, but I suspect he calculated the less than large number of deaths they would cause would not be worth justifying American claims about him and his WMD.
I also caution people about the failure to link Saddam to 9-11. While Saddam did not order the attacks, Al Qaeda did, and Al Qaeda had earlier allegedly been linked to Iraqis in the Oklahoma City terrorist bombing. Co-conspirator Terry Nichols went to the Philippines and probably learned bomb-making skills from a Manila cell (Abu Sayyaf) to which belonged Al Qaeda's Ramzi Yousef (explosives expert nephew of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9-11 attacks). Nichols worked with Tim McVeigh whose accomplice, John Doe 2, was probably a covert intelligence member of Saddam's Republican Guard brought to the U.S. in 1993-94, after the first Gulf War. Thus, the connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam.
You may ask yourself why President Bush doesn't point to this connection. The answer is that although thousands of Iraqi soldiers were brought to the U.S. by the Clinton administration, the plan to bring them here was approved by former President George H. W. Bush's State Department. Therefore, any involvement by these Iraqis in the Oklahoma City bombing would be a tremendous embarrassment to former President Bush as well as to President Clinton.
Concerning Iraq and its upcoming October 15 vote on the Iraq constitution, the U.S. military brass hit the Sunday morning (October 2) TV network programs joyfully announcing that the Sunnis were registering in large numbers to vote. This, however, could be a desire on the part of the Sunnis to vote AGAINST the constitution, because if two-thirds of the voters in only 3 of the 18 provinces in Iraq reject the constitution, then it is defeated nationally. And since the Sunnis control at least 3 provinces, the constitution could well be rejected. But if it is approved with its inclusion of Islamic law, then women could have fewer rights than they did under Saddam Hussein. Regardless of whether the constitution is approved or rejected, the insurgency will continue for a variety of reasons (e.g., jihad, nationalism, dominance of Shiites and Kurds over Sunnis, etc.).
Author's Notes: At the end of my last article, I mentioned gun confiscation during the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. If you go to the Gun Owners of America website, you can see what the national TV networks never showed, and that is a video of an Oakland, CA, station showing 3 large members of the California Highway Patrol tackling a 115-pound woman in New Orleans and forcing her out of her unflooded house. You can also see a video of an Oklahoma station showing the Oklahoma National Guard in New Orleans handcuffing homeowners, confiscating their guns, and leaving them unprotected against looters and other criminals. Government officials also early in the disaster turned away 500 flat bottom boats in which private citizens had come to New Orleans to rescue people from the flooded areas.
Concerning another current issue, the nomination of Harriet Miers to be a U.S. Supreme Court justice, my choice would have been U.S. Appeals Court justice Edith Jones. What I smell with the choice of Miers is a political strategy of Karl Rove. The Democrats and their media allies are gleeful because of the division among conservatives over the nomination. However, this division, with people like James Dobson, Pat Robertson and Richard Land supporting her, but George Will, Pat Buchanan and William Kristol opposing her, is exactly what Karl Rove wants. I believe his Catch-22 strategy is as follows. If many conservatives' objections to Miers cause Senate Democrats to vote for her and she later votes against abortion and gay rights, conservatives will be pleased and those Senate Democrats voting for her will be in big trouble with Democratic voters in the 2006 and 2008 elections.
But if the Senate Democrats vote against her, President Bush can say this is evidence of Democrats' unreasonable and extreme partisanship because he picked someone (Miers) whom the Senate Democratic leader (Harry Reid) suggested, and she was still defeated. Then he could say since the Democrats had demonstrated they didn't want to work together and select a candidate even acceptable to their own Senate leader, he would now nominate someone very conservative, which would thrill and energize his base. This would lead to a confrontation in the Senate where conservative ideology would triumph with the nominee's approval by a majority.
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Dennis Laurence Cuddy, historian and political analyst, received a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (major in American History, minor in political science). Dr. Cuddy has taught at the university level, has been a political and economic risk analyst for an international consulting firm, and has been a Senior Associate with the U.S. Department of Education.
Cuddy has also testified before members of Congress on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice. Dr. Cuddy has authored or edited twenty books and booklets, and has written hundreds of articles appearing in newspapers around the nation, including The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and USA Today. He has been a guest on numerous radio talk shows in various parts of the country, such as ABC Radio in New York City, and he has also been a guest on the national television programs USA Today and CBS's Nightwatch.
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I also caution people about the failure to link Saddam to 9-11. While Saddam did not order the attacks, Al Qaeda did, and Al Qaeda had earlier allegedly been linked to Iraqis in the Oklahoma City terrorist bombing.