Able Danger, The Intelligence Data Mining Program That Went Ignored
“Mr. Speaker, I rise because information has come to my attention over the past several months that is very disturbing. I have learned that, in fact, one of our Federal agencies had, in fact, identified the major New York cell of Mohamed Atta prior to 9/11; and I have learned, Mr. Speaker, that in September 2000, that Federal agency actually was prepared to bring the FBI in and prepared to work with the FBI to take down the cell that Mohamed Atta was involved in in New York City, along with two of the other terrorists. I have also learned, Mr. Speaker, that when that recommendation was discussed within that Federal agency, the lawyers in the administration at that time said, you cannot pursue contact with the FBI against that cell. Mohamed Atta is in the U.S. on a green card, and we are fearful of the fallout from the Waco incident. So we did not allow that Federal agency to proceed.”
(Curt Weldon speaking before the House regarding Able Danger (6–27–2005)
The intelligence had started to trickle from the faxes in 1995. CIA cables from the field office in Jalalabad, Pakistan, regarding the group known as Al Qaeda. This relatively unknown Islamic organization had a temporary headquarters located in Sudan, with it’s emir Osama Bin Laden and his deputy, Egyptian cleric, Ayman al-Zawahiri at his side. The CIA had monitored the movements of Bin Laden, with some exclaiming as early as 1992. The FBI were just becoming aware of his name in the Joint Terrorism Task Force office in New York. The National Security Agency (NSA) had become the only agency, at the time, to closely monitor Bin Laden while he was in Afghanistan as they had bugged his satellite phone, thanks in part to an earlier FBI sting regarding an associate purchasing the device in Long Island, New York. The State Department had wanted to implement a covert military operation, which would begin tracking Al Qaeda’s footsteps, not just abroad, but also inside the United States.
By 1996, The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) started a virtual station which was constructed to monitor Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, along with it’s affiliates. The station was at first just beginning to find employees, which would task a select few from the counter-terrorism unit as well as having other agencies involved, to a limit however. The CIA’s own deputy director of station, Michael Scheuer, was rather “problematic” and known in the agency to revile competing agencies who were affiliated with counter-terrorism. With an Al Qaeda hub located in Sana’a, Yemen, owned by an associate to Osama Bin Laden and a fellow “mujahid” from Afghanistan in 1979, Ahmed al-Hada was the forefront of the intelligence community. The home in Yemen, was bugged by the CIA and NSA, the FBI’s own counter-intelligence unit, I-49, was left out of the loop. The NSA however had the commanding lead on intelligence, for they had transcripts of all calls, incoming and outgoing, while the CIA simply had a listening device in the home and could only transcribe outgoing calls. The CIA was the agency in charge of the Ahmed al-Hada monitoring operation, since it was outside the jurisdiction of the NSA as well as the FBI.
After the U.S Embassy Bombings in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, Bin Laden’s name was once again was mentioned. This time coming from the arrest of a former U.S Green Beret who also had links to Bin Laden, and once trained members of the Al Farouq Mosque in Brooklyn. His name is Ali Mohammed. Mohamed relayed to New York prosecutors about his intricate knowledge about radical terrorists inside the country. The Al Qaeda organization had contacts inside the United States, in cities such as Arizona, Oklahoma, Detroit and New York City. The information was profound, and Mohamed quickly was ushered into the Witness Protection Program (WITSEC) with his sentencing for his involvement in the 1998 East Africa Bombings suspended. Meanwhile word was out, Mohamed was also a “triple spy” not just for Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri but also to another Egyptian radical cleric, Omar Abdel Rahman as well as the CIA and FBI. It was an embarrassing charge for the CIA. But the link between Rahman, Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda affiliates were starting to become clearer in the lens of the intelligence community.
Pentagon officials however, wanted to understand more intricately how Al Qaeda operated. Since one of their affiliates, Ali Mohamed, had simply penetrated not just the special forces, Green Berets, but also by manipulating the intelligence branches of the U.S Government in both the CIA and FBI. Or were they simply allowing him to think they did?
General Peter Schoomaker, Chief of Staff for the Army, and General Hugh Shelton, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff together constructed a high priority, covert operation which would begin using special operational team members to begin a thorough, electronic monitoring investigation into global terrorist organizations. The idea started in the Summer of 1999, although very few within the Pentagon would notice. According to the testimony of Mark Zaid, a lawyer who represents one of Able Dangers operatives, Anthony Shaffer, the operation code named “Able Danger” was not known until approximately the Summer of 2000 as it operated under the auspices of the U.S. Army, and particularly through the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and the Land Information Warfare Center (LIWA), which supports the Intelligence and Security Command. Able Danger was devised as an operation which was to develop sensitive information in the transnational terrorism field which involved the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) & the (DIA). The information did not come from government databases, nor was the information classified. It was an open source collection database, the operation, however was covert.
Able Danger however was General Schoomaker’s concept. Schoomaker was a “visionary” in the field of counter-terrorism, and knew of the emerging threat regarding Al Qaeda. He wanted to use original human intelligence (HUMINT) ideals to coincide with the military's top thinkers, which were a combination of intelligence officers, military planners and strategists along with covert operators to facilitate on the ground “detective” work in HUMINT as well as using Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) to data mine any and all information regarding radical fundamentalists in the Middle East. General Shelton would lead the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in the Able Danger Operation. Able Danger would not interfere or coincide with the CIA’s Alec Station when it came to developing information.
Those selected in Able Danger were the best and brightest in regards to data mining. They were the following:
- Navy Captain Scott Phillpott (Able Danger team leader)
- US Army Lt. Col. Anthony E. Shaffer (Defense Intelligence Agency)
- Erik Kleinsmith (Army Major and the Chief of Intelligence of the Land Information Warfare Activity)
- James D. Smith (Defense contractor from Orion Scientific Systems)
- Dr. Eileen Preisser (Dual PhD, analytical lead, from the Land Information Warfare Activity)
Shaffer would later accompany CIA representatives from Alec Station at SOCOM headquarters located at the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where incidentally Ali Mohamed trained at. Shaffer would entertain the idea of Able Danger which resulted in the vehement disagreement to CIA liaison officers listening. Shaffer would later recall the response which was later repeated in his sworn testimony in 2005 before the Senate Select Committee.
“I clearly understand the difference,” the CIA rep told him, according to Shaffer. “I clearly understand. We’re going after the leadership. You guys are going after the body. But, it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is, CIA will never give you the best infonnation from ‘Alex Base’ or anywhere else. CIA will never provide that to you because if you were· successful in your effort to target Al Qaeda, you will steal our thunder. Therefore, we will not support this.”
Shaffer explained during the meeting that the data mining software would be provided by private contractors, including Raytheon Company, of Waltham, MA, and Orion Scientific (now part of SRA International. Inc., based in Fairfax, VA) which helped execute the sophisticated data mining software packages. Shaffer was an obvious choice to become part of the Able Danger operation.
Anthony Shaffer had deployed to Germany to conduct counter-terrorism operations in 1985 as part of REFORGER and worked in New York City as part of Army’s anti‐terrorism efforts during OPSAIL 1986 — the re‐opening of the Statue of Liberty. He also worked to monitor Soviet military officers visiting the United States during the INF Treaty missile eliminations, as well as a reserve tour with Army Foreign Counterintelligence Activity (FCA). Shaffer would also do a 5 month tour as a Defense Intelligence Agency officer in 2003. Lt. Col. Shaffer has commanded and directed several key operational intelligence organizations.
One of those units involved in his intelligence operations was a Special Mission Task Force named, STRATUS IVY, that conducted direct support to the Department of Defense (DoD) compartmental activities (OSD, SOCOM, JSOC, Army) which was focused on offensive information operations. During his two successful, undercover, combat tours he participated in the search for senior Al Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan. It was here that Shaffer’s commanding officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Pat Hughes (1999–2001), would allow Shaffer and his STRATUS IVY Unit to take charge on their creative ideas which would then develop them into realistic intelligence operations. Hughes would become the ardent believer into the unit’s mission which was to use “cutting edge ideas” into black operations. STRATUS IVY would provide both concierge and operational support to the Able Danger mission, which is still classified to this day.
Shaffer’s selection was from General Schoomaker himself, in which during a briefing between the two in September 1999, Schoomaker indulged Shaffer with a high level covert mission. Schoomaker would allow Shaffer’s unit, STRATUS IVY, to “help out on a special project. The next day, according to Shaffer, he was then briefed by Lieutenant Commander Scott Phillpott on what that “special mission” was, it was Able Danger. Shaffer’s conversation with Phillpott led him to believe that this was indeed the “ultimate covert operation”. Shaffer immediately told SOCOM officials to start looking into the U.S Army’s Land Information Warfare Activity (LIWA) and it’s Information Dominance Center (IDC) for potential use and assistance in Able Danger. After meeting with Captain Phillpot, SOCOM decided to partner with LIWA-IDC. The partnership would produce valuable results in time. Philpott would meet with Schoomaker and Shelton In January 2000, there he would brief them on LIWA’s capabilities in regards to Able Danger. After the meeting, LIWA would become the full intelligence/analytical partner. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were highly impressed with LIWA’a intelligence data mining.
According to statements made by Anthony Shaffer as well other members of the Able Danger team, they had identified 2 of 3 active Al Qaeda cells in which some were operating inside the United States. The two cells included (Blind Sheikh) Omar Abdel Rahman (Egyptian Islamic Jihad) and Mohamed Atta with three others, Ziad Jarrah, Marwan al-Shehhi, Hani Hanjour (Hamburg Cell, Al Qaeda). The LIWA Program used data mining techniques to link open source information along with classified information while attempting to make connections among individuals members of terrorist organizations to go along with human intelligence from Arab businesses and storefronts nearby known terrorist cities. Mass amounts of data were collected including personal data from Al Qaeda internet forums and chat rooms as well as financial records and phone calls. In fact one of the charts was provided by Jacob L. Boesen, who was working as a contract analysts from Orion Scientific, to National Security Adviser Jim Steinberg.
“Using computers, the unit collects huge amounts of data in a technique called “data mining.” They get information from such sources as al-Qaeda Internet chat rooms, news accounts, web sites, and financial records. Using sophisticated software, they compare this with government records such as visa applications by foreign tourists, to find any correlations and depict these visually.”
In December 1999 Shaffer and the Able Danger team announced that Al Qaeda had a presence inside the U.S. and that it’s infrastructure is much broader than originally ascertained. Thus information was then slowly constructed by the Able Danger team as an organizational chart of Al Qaeda’s known leadership and it’s connections to known affiliates in the Middle East, SE Asia and the United States.
By February 2000, Captain Phillpot would organize a high level meeting with General Schoomaker and General Shelton on the production of Able Danger thus far. Using the chart made by LIWA, SOCOM lawyers would review the data from Able Danger. All the information relating to Mohamed Atta and the other terrorists that were identified by the Able Danger team as working and living inside the United States, or having connections to other U.S persons, had become identified as being “off limits” due primarily to “U.S person’s status”. According to the personal testimony of Scott Phillpot before the Senate Select Committee in 2005, SOCOM lawyers had restricted Able Danger from review, use or exploitation of the information collected by the team, due to the “U.S Person’s Policy” in the planning effort.
"What I did not know, Mr. Speaker, up until June of this year, was
that that a secret program called Able Danger actually identified the Brooklyn cell of al-Qaeda in January and February of 2000, over 1 year before 9/11 every happened. In addition, I learned that not only did we identify the Brooklyn cell of al Qaeda, but we identified Mohamed Atta as one of the members of that Brooklyn cell along with three other terrorists who were the leadership of the 9/11 attack.(Curt Weldon, Congressional Record: October 19, 2005)
By March 2000, the operation had begun to come under harsh critiques from competing entities. Shaffer had been invited to attend a meeting which involved Major General Peter J. Lambert, Deputy Director for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Operations, Joint Staff J32 and Jerry Clark Senior Executive Service, Defense Intelligence Agency. Clark asks Shaffer about what has been happening with Able Danger and the data-mining program thus far. At the very end of Shaffer’s briefing, Clark would comment that Shaffer “seemed to know much about Able Danger,” to which Shaffer explained that he had been working with SOCOM out of Tampa, Florida as a reservist. When the SOCOM officers had left the room, Clark would give some guidance to members of the DIA office, most importantly, Clark gave his full attention to the DIA Senior Executive in charge of Information Technology, in which he told him to “slow down the process of providing both infrastructure (data pipes) and data to the SOCOM effort as Clark did not see the need to share the DIA’s best resources out of courtesy.
It was becoming rather crystal clear to Shaffer, his own Defense Intelligence Agency, his own military unit which helped him obtain a spot in Able Danger, was now becoming uncooperative and did not want to share or provide support necessary to preclude SOCOM getting productively ahead of the DIA’s analytical effort of Al Qaeda’s targets and affiliates. Shaffer thought himself as “naive” to think that every U.S intelligence and military agency would be on the same page to help eliminate these radical factions. Shaffer’s problems would be displayed once again this time by April 2000, while meeting with Chief of the Transnational Warfare Directorate Art Zuelike. During the meeting, Zuelike would assuredly exclaim that Shaffer’s STRATUS IVY unit give up primacy on the role with Able Danger and instead subordinate with his Transnational Counter-terrorism Division (TWC), in which had been previously briefed earlier that day about Able Danger. Shaffer flatly refused the request. Zuelike would become disengaged with Able Danger in totality, and began replicating his own security unit which had similarities to Able Danger and began spying on SOCOM in Garland, Texas.
Weeks later, 20 suspects would be singled out from the data-mining program. Some of them who would later be involved in the 9/11 plot.
One area under suspicion, which involved a Florida mosque attended by Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, the Al Hijrah mosque, is managed by Gulshair Shukrijumah in Miramar, Broward County, Florida. Atta and several other hijackers live near the mosque and train at nearby Opa-Locka airport. After 9/11, the FBI will visit the mosque and ask Shukrijumah and his wife if they recognize the hijackers and if their son, Adnan, knew Atta or had mentioned trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Meanwhile it was later found out that Shukrijumah would be assisted financially from the Saudi embassy in Washington D.C.
In March 2000 however federal agents would confiscate all available information regarding the Able Danger operation from the Orion Scientific Systems office, which was the company in charge of data collection for the operation. All available charts, that involved terrorist cells and individuals were confiscated. These charts would later be destroyed later in 2004.
Major Eric Kleinsmith, chief of intelligence for the Land Information Warfare Activity (LIWA) unit, is ordered to destroy data and documents related to a military intelligence program set up to gather information about al-Qaeda. The program, called Able Danger, has identified Mohamed Atta and three other future hijackers as potential threats. According to Kleinsmith, by April 2000 it has collected “an immense amount of data for analysis that allowed us to map al-Qaeda as a worldwide threat with a surprisingly significant presence within the United States.”
The pressure from the U.S Army to pull out over the legal ramifications by monitoring “U.S Persons” was felt by the Able Danger team by May 2000. Gen. Schoomaker would sent a pertinent email to Eric Shinseki, Chief of Staff U.S Army assuring him of the benefits for sticking with the program. However Shineski would not return a response, LIWA/IDC would become concerned about the issues posed from SOCOM lawyers. Leading the charge to shut down all assistance was Tom Taylor, head of the U.S Army Lawyers Committee. The signal was announced, the United States Army would no longer aid Shaffer and the Able Danger team due to the legal ramifications of monitoring the terrorist suspects, for they were legally U.S persons. Shaffer knew he would lose one of the team members in Eileen Presser with this announcement. Shaffer immediately confronts Major General Robert W. Noonan Jr, Commander of Army Intelligence & Security Command (INSCOM). Shaffer requests that Presser continue to be involved with STRATUS IVY, Shaffer’s unit, so they can continue on with Able Danger. The request was denied however. Noonan told Shaffer that he wouldn’t find Presser to be of much value and that he implied Shaffer was trying to steal his capabilities.
Captain Scott Phillpott briefs General Peter Schoomaker, head of Special Operations Command (SOCOM), that Able Danger has uncovered information of increased al-Qaeda “activity” in Aden Harbor, Yemen. Shaffer, plus two other officials familiar with Able Danger later tell the New York Post that this warning was gleaned through a search of Bin Laden’s business ties. Shaffer later recalls, “Yemen was elevated by Able Danger to be one of the top three hot spots for al-Qaeda in the entire world.” This warning, plus another possibly connected warning from Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst Kie Fallis.
Able Danger operations would cease data collection in November 2000 but would move into an operational body. Shaffer would set up conferences with the FBI Counter-terrorism Unit from Washington D.C, but each and every time the proposed meets would be abruptly cancelled by SOCOM lawyers. The reason? SOCOM told Colonel Robert Worthington U.S. Air Force, the Director of Able Danger, June 2000-January 2001, the unit was not permitted to share any data with FBI officials due to “fear of potential blowback” should the FBI use the information and do something wrong with it. It was simple…..SOCOM was worried about another “Waco incident” The critical counter-terrorism information collected by the unit was never transferred to the FBI, at a time just a mere 7 months before the September 11th 2001 attacks. Some of the data included was regarding Mohamed Atta and the New York & Washington D.C cells.
Shaffer will later blame the retirement of Gen. Pete Schoomaker in October 2000 and his replacement by Gen. Charles Holland as a major reason for the shut down of the data mining effort. He says, “Gen. Holland, in my judgment, did not understand the concept, and ordered the effort to terminate its activities in Garland, Texas, and for the personnel to return to Tampa, Florida, the location of SOCOM headquarters.” Over the next few months, Holland will direct Able Danger to change into the Special Operations Joint Integration Center (SOJIC). According to Shaffer, “the teeth and operational focus are now removed and the capability to do the complex data mining and mission planning support (leadership support) is eliminated,” effectively ending Able Danger.
Meanwhile military lawyers involved with the Able Danger operation would restrict Able Danger team members, including Shaffer from sharing 9/11 hijacker information with the FBI. They also related to the operational staff not to pursue Mohamed Atta at all. By May 2001, Shaffer was all but shut out by the U.S Army and SOCOM from extending any assistance from his STRATUS IVY unit to help with the Able Danger unit. In a fit of sheer desperation, Scott Philpott calls Shaffer, the call lasts only a few minutes. Philpott knowing of Shaffer’s predicament, unabashedly asks Shaffer to bring his Able Danger options that they had come up with to Washington D.C, so that Philpott can make use of one of STRATUS IVY’s facilities to continue work. Shaffer winces, tells Philpott that “he would love nothing more than to loan him his facility, and worth options alongside him. But his DIA chain of command has ceased all support to him and the project”.
Shaffer would try to help Philpott by asking DIA Colonel Mary Moffitt in a close door meeting, if he could help assist Scott Philpott and work options with him regarding Able Danger. Moffitt tells Shaffer that she is shocked by the request, and even tells Shaffer that he should not be telling her about Able Danger in the first place. she reprimands Shaffer and even exclaims that Shaffer is being “insubordinate”. Almost immediately after Shaffer leaves the meeting in her office, she sends out emails to DIA staff about removing Shaffer from the STRATUS IVY Unit. She also asks that Shaffer be transferred to serve as a “desk officer” to oversee HUMINT operations in Latin America. There were many within the DIA that disliked Shaffer’s controlling attitude, and had personal vendettas against him. The DIA had very much a “sectarian” feel to it, plus they also didn’t very much like the fact that his operation with Able Danger was kept so secret that they thought he had become the “golden child” of the DIA.
“Why is there no mention, Mr. Speaker, of a recommendation in September of 2000 to take out Mohammed [sic] Atta’s cell which would have detained three of the terrorists who struck us? We have to ask the question, why have these issues not been brought forth before this day? I had my Chief of Staff call the 9/11 Commission staff and ask the question: Why did you not mention Able Danger in your report? The Deputy Chief of Staff [Christopher Kojm] said, well, we looked at it, but we did not want to go down that direction.
So the question, Mr. Speaker, is why did they not want to go down that direction? Where will that lead us? Who made the decision to tell our military not to pursue Mohamed Atta?”
(Curt Weldon speaking before the House regarding Able Danger (6–27–2005)
September 11th 2001…..the attacks sent shock-waves throughout the world. Shaffer was floored and immediately thought about what the Able Danger information which was ordered destroyed by SOCOM, where in which Army Major Erik Kleinsmith, former head of the Pentagon’s Land Warfare Analysis Department, had to destroy 3 terabytes of data collected by Able Danger during June 2000. Kleinsmith was given the reason to destroy the data was that it went against U.S Army regulations to possess information regarding U.S Persons after 30 days. The order was basically made in a “non threatening” manner. Almost as if being warned. Shaffer’s mind began to race. Could all of the data be erased completely? Was some of it destroyed or all?
Weeks later Shaffer would get a call from former Able Danger team member, Eileen Presser. She tells him that they should meet for coffee, Presser needed to show Shaffer something, but it had to be kept between the two. Presser shows Shaffer a chart, which was a large desk sized chart. On the chart where Presser was pointing at for Shaffer to look had a headline…”Brooklyn Cell”, in the cluster of dime sized faces was a picture of Mohamed Atta. The suspected pilot of American Airlines Flight 11 which crashed into the North Tower of the WTC. Presser also tells Shaffer that this was one of the charts LIWA had produced in January 2000, and that Shaffer had taken it down to Tampa. Shaffer had become sick with himself. Here it was, proof that Able Danger had been on the right track after all.
Days later Shaffer, while jogging, receives a call from Eileen Presser once again.
Presser: “You’ll never believe where i am!”
Shaffer: “Where are you?”
Presser: “I’m sitting by the outer office of Scooter Libby, and im meeting with Curt Weldon and Steven Hadley. I brought the chart and showed them Atta’s face on it along with the rest of the data. I’m going to brief them about the chart and how it was compiled.”
Between November 2001 and July 2003, Shaffer would return to active duty as a Major in the Army and command a HUMINT Unit named Field Operating Base (FOB). Shaffer also attempts to work with Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) to resurrect Able Danger as part of FOB’s Alpha mission. However there was “leaked information” regarding the operation and to bring back Able Danger, the mission was terminated.
October 23rd 2003….Anthony Shaffer meets with Phillip Zelikow and other 9/11 Commission staff members at Bagram Air Force Base, Afghanistan. However, upon hearing Shaffer would openly meet with Commission staff, the Department of Defense would begin trying to silence Shaffer. Testimony lasted approximately an hour and a half with Zelikow asking much of the questions to Shaffer. With lawyers from the Army at Shaffer’s side, Shaffer was allowed to divulge the top level secrets of Able Danger to Zelikow. When the meeting was finished, Zelikow whisked Shaffer to the side, and gave him his card and told Shaffer…”What you said here today was important. Please contact me when you return to the United States so we can further this dialogue.” Shaffer does return back home in Maryland, when he does he calls back Zelikow. A staffer answers and responds….
“Oh yes, we remember talking to you, let me talk to Dr. Zelikow to find out when he wants to see you again.”
Shaffer was give a run around, with the staffer exclaiming that if Shaffer could call at a later date, we can work something out in the future. Ten days later, with no response, Shaffer calls the number again…..this time the staffer’s tone was much different. The staffer tells Shaffer….
”They have found all the information they need on Able Danger, so there would be no need for me to come in and speak to them.”
Shaffer was shocked at the dismissive attitude shown by Commission staff. He then stores all the Able Danger documents to the third floor of the DIA’s facility in Clarendon, Virginia, in hopes that the 9/11 Commission will finally get to see them in full. He would also provide a copy of his written testimony to Congressman Chris Shay’s (Connecticut) subcommittee on National Security as a background to detail how DoD officials had revoked Shaffer’s security clearance, and how top officials at the DIA tried to discredit and silence Shaffer from any further future testimony regarding the Able Danger program.
However life was just beginning to become a daily routine of volatility, and it came slowly…..beginning with the Department of Defense officials who still were quite critical of Shaffer meeting with 9/11 Commission staffers and talk about the highly sensitive Able Danger program. Shaffer had volunteered to return with the U.S Army Ranger outfit in Afghanistan, in which he was instead given a written negative counseling with Mike Anderson (U.S Army) telling him he was not allowed to return to a combat zone. He was also denied re-entry to the Rangers Unit in Afghanistan. He was also constantly threatened with disciplinary action if he did not wear at any point the Army uniform. This was rather demeaning in it’s own right, they were treating him like a recruit, and not the 20 years combat veteran.
Shaffer was reminded about the remarkable disillusionment shown by the top brass from meeting with the Chief of the Pacific Division of Defense HUMINT, Captain Mike Anderson, to which Anderson replied “They are really upset with you this time. They are out to do something to you.” Shaffer wanted to know who “they” were, but Anderson would not tell him who they were. Anderson however gives Shaffer a job in Afghanistan, to lead the Advanced Echelon (ADVON). ADVON being a team deployed in advance of the main element to coordinate requirements. While there he was offered a job by the chief of the Iraq Combat Support Task Force, he was asked if he wanted to serve as operations officer of the Afghanistan and Iraq Combat Support Task Force, Shaffer knew what this also meant, an extenuation of two more years of service. He agreed to take the position. The offer was short lived as word got back in an email, the offer to Shaffer had been removed as that, “something was going on that he could not talk about and said that he would not be extending Shaffer’s active duty either. Exclaiming that he could not tell Shaffer who told him to rebuke the offer, but that top leadership would not allow Shaffer to return.”
Shaffer would end up returning to the United States on March 23rd 2004. But upon his return Shaffer found out that his Top Secret/SCI clearance was suspended. Shaffer went straight to the DIA office where he would hold a meeting with U.S Army brass, where Shaffer was told that DIA’s Inspector General, Mike Kingsley, had “significant allegations” against him which required Shaffer’s security clearance to be suspended. Shaffer was also ordered to be transferred to Headquarters & Headquarters Company (HHC) in Fort Myer, Virginia for the remainder of his active duty period, which was June 1st 2004.
At the end of his active duty period, for the next 3 months Shaffer would be dealing with the Army Trial Defense Services (TDS). The lawyers for Shaffer were completely bemused at the insignificant charges coming from DoD itself. The case given to the Army Judge Advocate General (JAG), in which while holding the DIA Inspector General report only shook his head in contempt at the sheer banality levied against Shaffer. The case was dismissed, but Shaffer would not become privy to what was written in the report nor the charges against him. By the end of the case, Shaffer was give an “honorable discharge”and was given a civilian GS-14 status to DIA. DIA did not invoke Shaffer’s security clearance, to which it continued to remain in suspension. He was also placed on “administrative leave”.
During a chance meeting with United States Marine Corp Brigadier General & Director of Defense HUMINT, Mike Ennis, Shaffer was told about the allegations made in the DIA Inspector General Report, they were the following:
Undue award of the Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Misuse of a government telephone adding up to 67.00 dollars.
Filing a false voucher for 180.00 dollars.
The charges were unremarkable in it’s totality. Petty and lethargic in it’s seriousness. This was simple to Shaffer, the DIA was out to literally destroy his career for freely giving testimony to the 9/11 Commission regarding Able Danger. In that meeting with Ennis, Shaffer exclaimed that Ennis made it clear that he intended to influence Major General Galen B. Jackman, who was Shaffer’s leader while on active duty, to take adverse action against, based on what the DIA IG report had alleged. Shaffer reminded Ennis that all 3 of the charges were thrown out of DSS and resolved in his favor. Ennis also told Shaffer that he had a repeated history of “bad behavior”. Shaffer said that Ennis was not being given the whole story behind the history of why the Army was demonizing him. To which Ennis responded “I don’t want ti hear it!” …thereby ending the meeting. Just a month later, Ennis was true to his word. He got Jackman to sign a letter of reprimand. Because Shaffer was off active duty, his TDS lawyer, advised Shaffer not to accept it. He was allowed to respond to the letter while under investigation from the Human Resource Command (HRC). The response from the HRC was straight and to the point. The reprimand was not an appropriate legal action by the U.S Army. The DIA was still adamant in putting the letter in Shaffer’s official file, and they were successful in doing so.
August 14, 2005….A phone call is made to the office of Pennsylvania Congressman Curt Weldon, the man does not state his name, but does provide them with an incredulous story about how his military unit had identified, thru a data-mining program, Mohamed Atta and 3 other hijackers in 1999. Two years before the attacks. The anonymous caller also said but were prevented from passing this information on to the FBI by government lawyers and that the 9/11 Commission were well aware of the operation and when he tried to set up future meetings to elaborate further on this he was rebuffed and ignored. Weeks later Weldon would receive more calls from this anonymous caller, who began unraveling the operation known as Able Danger. He told Weldon, his name….Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer, of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Weldon wanted to personally hold a meeting with Shaffer and ask him about the Able Danger program.
What Shaffer had not known at the time was that Weldon had already met with Captain Scott Phillpot just days earlier. But Shaffer had intricate knowledge about STRATUS IVY. Shaffer gave Weldon a basic secret level briefing, the same information he gave the 9/11 Commission and Zelikow back in Bagram 2003. In the middle of the briefing, Curt Weldon asks Russ Casso, his chief of staff, to get in contact with 9/11 Commission staff to ask them if they had ever heard about Able Danger. Casso would leave the room and contact Chris Kojim, from the 9/11 Discourse Project.
Russo: “Chris have are you aware of a covert military project called Able Danger”
Kojim: “Yes we have heard of it.”
Russo: “Why have you guys not put it in the 9/11 Commission Final Report?”
Kojim: “It didn’t fit with the story we wanted to tell”
After the call, Russo would tell Weldon about what he had heard from Kojim. Weldon and Shaffer were left absolutely stunned, face aghast at the complete denial and unanticipated awe at the simple denial of the program itself so that the Commission can tell a manufactured story that they wanted to portray to the public. Weldon would become far more enraged and dedicated to opening a congressional investigation into Able Danger.
Weldon went straight to the Senate Judiciary Committee to help assist in the matter, it involved the matter of U.S Pentagon officials, led by the Defense Intelligence Agency, regarding their prior knowledge about 9/11 hijackers inside the United States known from a data-mining program called Able Danger. On September 21, 2005….The Committee headed by Chairman Arlen Spector heard from members of the Able Danger team. The Committee heard from Curt Weldon first. One of the Committee members, Joe Biden, asks Weldon why the Able Danger program was shut down. Weldon would respond in full.
Weldon: “There were a combination of reasons. They had done a profile of Chinese proliferation in 1999 that John Hamre had asked for. I was aware of that presentation, and because it was massive data mined that had not yet been vetted, a couple of very sensitive names surfaced because they had been affiliated with Stanford University, where many of the students that were doing this very, very specific research, very sensitive to our country’s security, were located, and I think partly because of that, there was a wave of controversy. In fact, in the House, the son of Congressman Sam Johnson was working for the Raytheon Corporation. He went to his father and said, Dad, they are destroying data. Sam went to Dan Burton, who was Chairman of the Government Operations Committee, and Dan Burton subpoenaed documents that had been used in compiling the Chinese proliferation information.
As a result of that, tremendous pressure was placed on the Army, because this was a prototype operation, and they shut down the Able Danger operation. General Schoomaker was so enamored with this capability that he stood up a separate operation in Garland, Texas, at a Raytheon facility, to try to duplicate what had been done in the Army, and that lasted for about a year, maybe slightly longer than a year.So the Special Forces Command understood the significance of this data, and as a result of the Chinese proliferation situation, I am convinced Able Danger was shut down.”
Erik Kleinsmith, who in during his opening statement told the committee about the data-mining program results and how he was ordered to destroy all data pertaining to Able Danger.
Kleinsmith: “I assigned the same core team of analysts that worked the JCAG project, along with Dr. Eileen Preisser as the analytical lead. Four of us conducted data mining analysis on the Al Qaeda terrorist network, coordinating with SOCOM and other organizations throughout that time. In the months that followed, we were able to collect an immense amount of data for analysis that allowed us to map Al Qaeda as a world-wide threat with a surprisingly significant presence within the United States.In approximately April of 2000, from my recollections, our sup- port to Able Danger became severely restricted and ultimately shut down due to intelligence oversight concerns. I was supported vigorously by both the LIWA and the INSCOM chain of commands and we actively worked to overcome this shutdown for the next several months. In the midst of this shutdown, I, along with one of my analysts, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Terri Stephens, were forced to destroy all data, charts, and other analytical products that we had not already passed on to SOCOM-related Able Danger.
This destruction was dictated by and conducted in accordance with the intelligence oversight procedures that we lived by.Ultimately, we were able to restart our support to SOCOM at the end of September of 2000. Additionally, the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole on October 12 brought U.S. CENTCOM to the IDC and who became our primary customer until my departure from active duty on April 1, 2001.”
Mark Zaid, who represented Anthony Shaffer who was not allowed to testify as he was currently suspended. The Judiciary Committee was made fully aware of the Able Danger program’s capabilities and methods in obtaining information regarding two Al Qaeda cells operating inside the United States in 1999. Charts were also provided, which showed the broad contacts of known terrorists that were operating within one another worldwide. The Committee then heard from the Defense Department, who sent William Dugan (Assistant to Defense Secretary for Intelligence Oversight). Spector after listening to Dugan mildly answer the Committees questions regarding the lawful restrictions of U.S person’s being monitored by military covert operations and the legal ramifications, Spector was adamant on getting straight answers from Dugan:
Spector: “Thank you, Senator Sessions. Mr. Dugan, Mohammed Atta was not a U.S. person, was he?
Dugan: “ Based on what I have read in the press since September 11, 2001, I don’t believe he was. He wasn’t a permanent resident alien. He wasn’t a U.S. citizen. He wasn’t in any of the other categories. He wasn’t in the country lawfully. For instance, a student visa or a tourist visa, that is not the same thing as a permanent resident alien.”
Spector: “ Mr. Dugan, you are the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Oversight. Can’t you give us a more definitive answer to a very direct and fundamental and simple question like, was Mohammed Atta a U.S. person?”
Dugan: “ No he wasn’t.”
Needing to get assistance to from an outside source, Weldon with Shaffer’s nod, went to the media and broke the story. That the U.S Government with the Defense Intelligence Agency and Pentagon leading the way to slander and ruin the 20 year plus startling career of Anthony Shaffer. They had revoked his health care benefits, his pension and left him in indefinite suspension (limbo) thus he could not tell his story to any investigating congressional agencies or media about the Able Danger program or his unit STRATUS IVY.
But Weldon, every bit the firebrand as his colleagues would describe him, was not finished. He told Shaffer that the House of Representatives needed to investigate this matter.
Weldon would hold a press conference, and on November 9th 2005 he begins addressing the seated congregation about the nature of the ongoing investigation.
“The Pentagon has acknowledged now, publicly, that they have identified five defense employees who either vividly remember identifying Mohammed Atta prior to 9/11 or seeing his name linked with a Brooklyn cell prior to 9/11.
We have Scott Philpott (ph), a Navy commanding officer, who’s commanded one of our naval warships, an Annapolis graduate, who has come out publicly and risked his entire career to say what he’ll say next Wednesday under oath: that he specifically remembers identifying Mohammed Atta in January and February of 2000, specifically; that he would stake his career on it. And that he was the leader of Able Danger.
We have Lieutenant Colonel Tony Shaffer — who’s outside in the hallway, who I couldn’t bring into the House Gallery because of House rules, but who’s available for you to talk to, outside — who will testify under oath on Wednesday before the Senate that as a DIA liaison to Special Forces Command for Able Danger, he attempted to present information to the FBI on three occasions in September of 2000 about the Brooklyn cell and Mohammed Atta.”
Then on October 19, 2005, Pennsylvania Congressman Curt Weldon would begin a 44 minute statement, that often showed his uncontrollable, passionate plea to prominent House Members about Able Danger and the complete slander of Anthony Shaffer from Pentagon officials. During the fiery speech to members of the House Weldon stated that Pentagon officials needed to be held under a complete investigation from both the Republican and Democratic partys about they were invested in destroying Shaffer’s career. He relates to the committee about Able Danger.
“What troubles me is that I now have learned in the last 4 months that one of the tasks that was being done in 1999 and 2000 was a top-secret program organized at the request of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, carried out by the general in charge of our Special Forces Command, a very elite unit focusing on information regarding al Qaeda. It was a military language effort to allow us to identify the key cells of al Qaeda around the world and to give the military the capability to plan actions against those cells so they could not attack us as they did in 1993 at the Trade Center, at the Khobar Towers, the U.S.S. Cole attack, and the African embassy bombings.”
What I did not know, Mr. Speaker, up until June of this year, was that that secret program called Able Danger actually identified the Brooklyn cell of al Qaeda in January and February of 2000, over 1 year before 9/11 every happened. In addition, I learned that not only did we identify the Brooklyn cell of al Qaeda, but we identified Mohamed Atta as one of the members of that Brooklyn cell along with three other terrorists who were the leadership of the 9/11 attack.
I have also learned, Mr. Speaker, that in September of 2000, again, over 1 year before 9/11, that Able Danger team attempted on three separate occasions to provide information to the FBI about the Brooklyn cell of al Qaeda, and on three separate occasions they were denied by lawyers in the previous administration to transfer that information.”
The media went silent in the months following Weldon’s independent inquiry as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee. On September 18, 2006, the Office of the Deputy Inspector General for Investigations released a report regarding Anthony Shaffer’s suspension and Able Danger program. What the report detailed was not surprising in the least.
The anti-terrorist program, Able Danger, did not identify Mohamed Atta or any other 9/11 terrorists before the 9/11 attack.
Able Danger members were not prohibited from sharing intelligence information with law enforcement authorities or other agencies that could have acted on that information. In fact, Able Danger produced no actionable intelligence information.
The destruction of Able Danger documentation at LIWA and Garland was appropriate and complied with applicable DoD regulations.
The Able Danger program was not terminated prematurely. It concluded after it had achieved its objective and its work products were used in follow-on intelligence gathering efforts at USSOCOM.
It seemed Shaffer would be left to fight alone against the very same entity he volunteered most of his life to, the Defense Department. In 2010, he would help publish a book detailing his account in Afghanistan and Able Danger, “Operation Dark Heart”. In a fit of rage, the department of Defense would purchase the first 9.500 copies of the book at a total cost of $47,000 and burned the copies. But they couldn’t destroy them all, as the book then was vetted and redacted heavily soon afterwards. They would end up acquiescing to Shaffer’s requests of having him released from suspension however. Shaffer today does media commentary and even holds lectures about his experiences.
Just as they would prevent the public from knowing the truth about Able Danger by destroying the copies of Anthony Shaffer’s memoirs, they would also go as far as trying to destroy the man’s career, for simply telling the truth.
A truth, the U.S Government was trying to hide about September 11th 2001 in the first place.