Able Danger: DIA Tracked the Terrorists

Defense Intelligence Agency surveillance of hijackers before 9/11

Able Danger was a Defense Intelligence Agency operation that tracked Mohammed Atta and several other 9/11 conspirators in the years before the attack, revealed by whistleblowers in late 2005.

A compilation of information about Able Danger is at History Commons:

Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, a participant in Able Danger, has a book "Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Ops on the Frontlines of Afghanistan -- and the Path to Victory." The Pentagon forced censorship of parts of it before it was published (since he had a security clearance that allowed for censorship of his writing).

The 9/11 Commission report did not mention Able Danger.

John Judge discussed his conversation with Shaffer at an event in New York City on March 14, 2010:

Enabling Danger (part one)
Posted August 20, 2005

Operation Able Danger

Sept. 11th, 2010. The New York Times, the A.P. and Fox News break the story of how Tony Shaffer's Afghan war memoir: "Operation Dark Heart" is being censored by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) after it had already passed a vetting by U.S. Army reviewers. Fox News national security correspondent Catherine Herridge reported that DIA "Attempted to block key portions of the book that claim "Able Danger" successfully ID'd hijacker Mohammed Atta as a threat to the U.S. before the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks."

What follows is the most complete telling of the Able Danger story in print form: chapters from Peter Lance's 2006 book (updated in 2009) TRIPLE CROSS: How bin Laden's Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets and the FBI. For the first time, the book presents an explanation for why the Pentagon ordered destroyed 2.5 terabytes of al Qaeda related intelligence gathered by the Able Danger data miners.


whistleblower harassed


February 15, 2006 -- National security whistleblowers testify to planted classified documents and other abuses. Testifying before the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations chaired by Connecticut Republican Rep. Chris Shays, five national security whistleblowers testified yesterday about malfeasance involving senior Bush administration officials.
The most stunning testimony came from Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officer who was involved in a Top Secret data mining operation called Able Danger. Prior to 911, Able Danger identified Mohammed Atta and other members of his hijacking team but were prevented from informing the FBI and other agencies. Pennsylvania Republican Curt Weldon, who is not a member of Shays's subcommittee but was invited to participate in the hearings, said that Shaffer had been the victim of extreme retaliation by DIA and the Pentagon.
Two incidents Shaffer testified about point to malfeasance involving 911 Commission Executive Director Phil Zelikow, a colleague and friend of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
While Shaffer was stationed under cover and using an assumed name in Bagram, Afghanistan in October 2003, he was interviewed by Zelikow about Able Danger. After returning to the United States, Shaffer attempted to talk to Zelikow again. There were no further meetings and Zelikow stated he never met with Shaffer in the past. However, in testimony before Weldon and the House Armed Services Committee today, Shaffer said he is prepared to produce a business card given him by Zelikow in Afghanistan.
After Shaffer and Able Danger became public, Wolf Blitzer blindsided Shaffer during his appearance on Blitzer's "Situation Room." Blitzer told Shaffer that he had "information" that Shaffer was having an affair with a member of Weldon's congressional staff. In a direct answer to Weldon's question and under oath, Shaffer said he had no such relationship with a member of Weldon's staff, female or male.
Shaffer also testified about the planting of classified documents in a package sent by DIA to Shaffer's home. Shaffer said the package contained five classified documents that he was not authorized to receive. In addition to the five documents, the package contained a bag of 20 U.S. government "Skilcraft" pens. The DIA also said that Shaffer was untrustworthy because of an accusation that he took home government pens from the U.S. embassy where his father worked. Shaffer was 13 years old at the time of the alleged "pen theft." [emphasis added]
The planting of classified documents in the homes of whistleblowing national security personnel is a pattern with the neocons in the Bush administration. WMR has reported on the case of former NSA analyst Ken Ford, Jr., who was wrongfully convicted of taking home two boxes of NSA classified documents, which Assistant US Attorney (AUSA) David I. Salem alleged that he was prepared to sell to an unknown foreign diplomat during a rendezvous at Dulles Airport. In fact, the FBI and NSA Security planted one classified document on an FBI confidential informant that was planted in Ford's Waldorf, Maryland home. The government never took photos of the boxes alleged to be in Ford's home nor did they produce security videos of the parking lot and loading dock of the NSA building where Ford worked. Ford faces up to 15 years in prison and a half million dollar fine in sentencing on March 1. Salem has been linked to the same Washington-based neocon networks that include Zelikow and Blitzer.
In August 2001, one month prior to 911, a wrongfully terminated National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) analyst in Charlottesville, Virginia arranged to have some of his NGIC paperwork sent to him at home by NGIC security. However, when a clasped and taped enveloped arrived at his home, there were clear indications that sometime during the passage of the documents through four levels of NGIC management, including NGIC security, something was inserted into the files: a SECRET NOFORN WINTEL document [NOFORN is "no foreign dissemination" and WINTEL is "Warning - Intelligence Sources and Methods Revealed']. The analyst dutifully informed the FBI and the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) at Fort Monroe, Virginia about the incident. However, the analyst was never asked to sign his statement about the incident and there was no follow up by the government.
Army Sergeant Samuel Provance (since demoted to Specialist) testified about the use of torture and sexual abuse on Iraqi prisoners, including minors, at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. Provance was "gagged" by the Pentagon but he testified that there was a cover-up of Abu Ghraib and that children were abused, including the 16-year old son of an imprisoned Iraqi general. The boy was splashed with cold water and then driven around in an open Humvee with his father as a witness. The general, who had not been accused of any crimes, had his will broken as a result of the incident.
Provance's written testimony was redacted by the Department of Defense just prior to his appearance before the Shays subcommittee. The testimony [first page] [second page] refers to the presence in Abu Ghraib of "Middle Eastern" contractors who were not Iraqi but spoke Arabic who were involved in prisoner hooding, placing of women's' underwear on the heads of prisoners, and abuse and sexual humiliation of prisoners, including children. "Middle Eastern" is U.S. government code for Israeli and the presence of Israelis at Abu Ghraib has been confirmed by a number of U.S. military personnel who spoke on the condition of anonymity to WMR.
Tennessee Republican John Duncan said he was particularly concerned about the $44 billion "lost" by the Pentagon in Iraq.
Former NSA intelligence officer Russ Tice, in response to a question from Maryland's Chris Van Hollen, said there was "scuttlebutt" at NSA before the 2004 election that if John Kerry was elected president, there would be consequences as a result of the illegality of some of NSA's surveillance programs authorized by the Bush administration. Dutch Ruppersberger, whose district includes NSA and who serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said he doubted the justification for the NSA domestic surveillance programs.
Former FBI Special Agent Michael German testified that the Tampa Division of the FBI compromised a sensitive counterterrorism investigation. A January 2002 meeting between the leader of a "domestic terrorist organization" and a supporter of an "international terrorist organization," recorded by an FBI "Cooperating Witness." Part of the recorded evidence was later found to have been recorded illegally in violation of Title III wiretap regulations, thereby making it inadmissible in court. German specialized in tracking and infiltrating extreme right-wing, white supremacist/Christian identity movements in the United States.
A list of the members of the current members of the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition lists other members of the intelligence community who were retaliated against. These include John M. Cole, an intelligence operations specialist for the FBI with 18 years in the FBI's Counterintelligence Division. In 1999, Cole discovered "serious issues of mismanagement, gross negligence, waste of government funds, security breaches, cover-ups, and intentional blocking of intelligence that had national security implications." His informed all levels of management, including Director Robert Mueller, of the problems but was ignored. Cole left the FBI in March 2004.
Daniel Hirsch, an FS-01 (GS-15) Foreign Service officer with 26 years of experience with the CIA and State Department, where he served in the Diplomatic Security Service and at the UN, had his security clearance suspended in March 2003. Hirsch was never told why his clearance was suspended.
Michael Levine, a retired supervisory agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) ran afoul of CIA drug smuggling and money laundering during the time of Iran-Contra. WMR has reported that Porter Goss has renewed CIA drug smuggling operations using unsavory agency operatives active in the 1980s. Levine's short biography states, "as an international undercover operative [Levine] witnessed the intentional destruction of undercover investigations targeting major international heroin and cocaine trafficking organizations whom also happened to be CIA assets. Among the actions reported was blowing the cover of an undercover operation -- Operation Trifecta -- that had penetrated the top of a corrupt Mexican government, by Edwin Meese, the then U.S. Attorney General." [Meese is now a top operative of the "Christian" Fellowship Foundation and a fellow traveler of various neo-confederates active in the Bush administration, some of whom are ardent admirers of Abraham Lincoln's assassin John Wilkes Booth].
Shaffer concluded his testimony by stating, "I became a whistleblower not out of choice, but out of necessity. Many of us have a personal commitment to the truth -- and a commitment to defend the country, not simply by stating our loyalty, but by action; by going forward into combat if called upon to do so; by going forward to expose the truth and wrongdoing of government officials who before and after the 9/11 attacks failed to do their job."