The New York Timesreports that members of a classified military intelligence programcalled Able Danger contacted the FBI in 2000 with detailedinformation about a terrorist cell that involved theringleader of the 911 terrorist attacks, Mohammed Atta.
Lawyers at the Special Operations Command of the DefenseDepartment refused to allow Lt. Colonel Anthony Shaffer totransmit the crucial information to the FBI. The reasongiven was that they “feared controversy” if Able Danger wasrevealed to be monitoring people who were legally present inthe United States.
The 911 Commission, which was in possession of thisinformation, stated in its report that American intelligenceagencies had not identified Atta prior to the September 11attack. A commission spokesman would not respond to theTimes’ attempts to gain clarification.
This is now the fourth known major intelligence failureregarding 911. Recently, it was revealed the the FAAreported 52 specific threats prior to 911, to the effectthat terrorists were planning to fly planes into tallbuildings in the US, some of them specfically mentioning theWorld Trade Center. Condoleeza Rice, who was the President’sNational Security Adviser at the time, testified before thecommission that the Administration was surprised that theTrade Center had been attacked, and that there had been noprior warning.
At the time of her testimony, the FAA reports wereclassified. They were only released after the election.Whether or not the classification of the reports was legalremains an unaddressed question, but certainly Ms. Rice musthave known of them prior to her testimony before Congress.
In 2002, FBI Legal Counsel Colleen Rowley made internationalheadlines by detailing how the FBI could have prevented the911 disaster, and internal FBI documents reveal that crucialinformation sent by an agent in Minnesota concerning theactivities of Mohammed Atta was ignored.
Now a new report by Justice Department Inspector GeneralGlenn A. Finestates that the FBI missed at least fivechances to detect the presence of two of the suicidehijackers — Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar — afterthey first entered the United States in early 2000.
One of the things that led to the creation of the Departmentof Homeland Security was Rowley’s testimony about FBIfailures and her recommendation that a special agency beevolved to engage in anti-terrorist activities in the US.
Instead, the Department of Homeland Security is a large,cumbersome organization that oversees some intelligenceactivity, while the National Intelligence Director isresponsible for co-ordination between various intelligenceagencies.
The system is slow and inefficient. Only recently has theDepartment of Homeland Security begun to install monitorsalong US borders and in ports that would detect nuclearweapons. It has been obvious since September 12, 2001, thatthis was imperative. Instead, the Administration has draggedits heels for nearly five years, meaning that terroristshave had more than ample time to bring such materials intothe country.
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