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Did DoD Drop the Able Danger Ball?

Looks like bureaucratic incompetence in the Bush Administration is not confined to the State Department, CIA, and FEMA:

In mid-2000, the Department of Defense (DoD) intentionally purged a gargantuan amount of intelligence about al Qaeda — the enemy that had just blown up our embassies in east Africa and was even then scheming to bomb a navy destroyer in Yemen. The materials were generated by the "Able Danger" program, which attempted to map al Qaeda by sophisticated data mining. Although that program was itself highly classified, it drew mostly on open-source (i.e., non-classified) information. According to participants, the effort yielded leads that might have uncovered the 9/11 plot if diligently followed.

Regardless of the ultimate resolution of the controversy over whether Mohamed Atta and three other hijackers were identified by Able Danger long before the attacks, there is no defending the destruction of valuable data. Nonetheless, that's just what DoD is trying to do. And central to this dismaying effort, four years out from 9/11, is the revival — as if it ever really went away — of the spirit (or, better, dispirit) that pervaded the Justice Department in the bad old days of "the wall."

Specifically, to justify what happened in 2000, DoD is today reading regulations that readily permit effective intelligence analysis as if acquiring information and, God forbid, sharing it, are the gravest of sins. I use "reading" with hesitation. For it's hard to understand how anyone literate in the English language could read the governing regulations to say what the Pentagon is reading them to say.

The Able Danger team members who claim to have identified terrorists and to have been thwarted in their efforts to share their information with the FBI are generally well-respected. Yet, top Defense officials publicly cast doubt on their credibility for weeks, insisting that no corroborating documentation had been found despite what was described as an "aggressive" internal investigation.

Finally on September 1, after the number of Able Danger participants supporting the Atta allegation had grown to five, the Pentagon called a news conference, at which a handful of mid-level officials were given the uncomfy task of confessing that much of the documentation generated by the program had actually been destroyed. Intentionally. Over five years ago.

Understand what this entailed. Erik Kleinsmith, a retired army major who was directed to carry out the purge in mid-2000, told the Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing last Wednesday that he and a colleague "were forced to destroy all the data, charts, and other analytical products that we had not already passed on to [the Special Operations Command] related to Able Danger." Congressman Curt Weldon, who has been the prime mover behind the startling Able Danger revelations, elaborated that the breadth of deleted data was 2.5 terabytes — a staggering amount that would fill several rooms.

This is where Dubya's famed loyalty backfires. Any damned fool who destroyed valuable data on Al Qaeda cells in the United States AFTER 9/11 ought to be drawn and quartered.

I thought the Defense Department, perhaps alone in the Bush Administration outside of the Oval Office itself, was well aware that we were at war.

Looks like I was mistaken.


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