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DoD Discusses Able Danger Findings

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1, 2005 – The Defense Department today announced its findings after three weeks of investigations into allegations made by two military intelligence officers about the “Able Danger” program.

After doing extensive document searches and interviewing 80 people involved with the Able Danger program, DoD officials have been unable to find the chart alleged to have contained a photo of Sept. 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta, said Pat Downs, a senior policy analyst with the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence.

Through interviews, DoD officials did find three people who recall a chart with either a photo or a reference to Atta, Downs said. The three are in addition to Army Reserve Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Navy Capt. Scott Phillpott, a military intelligence officer with U.S. Special Operations Command, who originally came forward with allegations that Atta had been identified before Sept. 11.

One person who recalled the chart was a SOCOM civilian analyst; one was an analyst with the Land Information Warfare Activity; and one was a contractor, said Thomas Gandy, the Army’s director of counterintelligence and human intelligence.

DoD officials have searched documents from all organizations involved with Able Danger, in addition to all the documents sent to the 9/11 commission, Downs said. They found a chart similar to the one described by the five people, but it did not contain a photo or a reference to Atta, she said.

The interviews were conducted with people who were involved both integrally and peripherally with Able Danger, said Navy Cmdr. Christopher Chope, of SOCOM’s Center for Special Operations. These interviews have not been completed, and some people are being re-interviewed as more information is discovered, Downs said.

There is a possibility that such a chart could have been destroyed, because during Able Danger, strict regulations about destruction of documents containing information about U.S. persons were followed, Gandy said. However, the officials found no indication that legal advice was given to anyone involved with the program to destroy documents, Chope said.

“We have negative indications that was ever the case,” he said.

Able Danger was started in early October 1999, when the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tasked U.S. Special Operations Command to develop a campaign plan against transnational terrorism, specifically al Qaeda, Chope said. It was a 15-month effort in which Special Operations Command worked with different partners, including DoD and the Department of the Army, he said. He stressed that Able Danger was never anything except a planning effort.

“Able Danger was never a special-access program,” he said. “Able Danger was never a military unit. Able Danger was never a targeting effort; it was not a military deception operation. It was merely the name attributed to a 15-month planning effort.”

In January 2001, Special Operations Command submitted the final plan to the joint staff, and Able Danger ended, Chope said. The effort never targeted specific individuals, but was used to determine vulnerabilities and linkages among and within al Qaeda, he said.

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