Deborah Orin, in today’s New York Post, takes a look at the revelation this week that elite military unit known as "Able Danger" were on the trail of 9-11 terrorist Mohammed Atta over a year before 9-11. This information mysteriously did not make it into the Commission’s final report. Orin (correctly, in my view) speculates on the reasons why:
IT’S starting to look as if the 9/11 Commission turned a blind eye to key questions that could embarrass one of its own members — Clinton-era Justice Department honcho Jamie Gorelick.
This week brought the stunning revelation that elite military spies pinpointed Mohammed Atta and three other hijackers as a terror cell more than a year before 9/11 — but were barred from alerting lawmen to try to lock them up.
A prime reason why that warning never came is that Gorelick — as top deputy to then-Attorney General Janet Reno — issued a 1995 order creating a "wall" that blocked intelligence on terrorists from being shared with law enforcement.
Commission staffers at first denied knowing about the elite military unit known as Able Danger, but later admitted they were briefed — twice — and Atta was specifically named. Still, it was conveniently left out of the 9/11 report.
It gets worse. Gorelick’s defenders might argue that hindsight is 20-20. But that excuse doesn’t work in this case, because she was warned way back then — when the see-no-evil wall was created.
That warning came right from the front line in the War on Terror — from Manhattan U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, who headed up key terror probes like the prosecutions for the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.
White — herself a Clinton appointee — wrote directly to Reno that the wall was a big mistake.
Make sure to read the whole thing.
I’ve long thought that the 9-11 report had quite a few holes in it (if you read Brendan Miniter’s book Losing Bin Laden, you’ll know what I mean), but none as big as this one. Some of our friends on the left viewed the 9-11 report as the be all and end all of the matter, and concluded that it vindicated Clinton and implicated President Bush. This latest revelation only leads to more questions than answers, among them: why was this information left out of the final report in the first place? Did this have anything to do with the documents Sandy Berger stuffed down his pants? Had this "wall" between intelligence agencies not been so high, could the 9-11 attacks have been prevented? Orin argues that it was possible:
At the time that the first White memo surfaced, it was a hypothetical question — the wall could have prevented intelligence from getting through to stop 9/11 if there had been any intelligence.
But now that the 9/11 staff acknowledges there was intelligence about an Atta cell more than a year before the terror attacks, it’s fair to ask if the attacks might have been stopped were it not for the Reno-Gorelick wall.
The CIA may have failed to detect the hijackers, but it appears that military intelligence did better. Maybe the real problem wasn’t an intelligence failure — as the 9/11 Commission concluded — but, rather, the Reno-Gorelick wall.
The latest revelations show that skeptics like Sens. Jon Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Christopher Bond (R-Mo.) were right to demand that Gorelick testify publicly about the wall — a demand that the 9/11 Commission flatly rejected last year.
Indeed. Of course, unfortunately we will never know if the 9-11 attacks could have been prevented. But this new revelation is just one more sad note in a long line of policy blunders that occured during the Clinton adminstration with respect to its own war on terror, a war that was ‘fought’ via campaigns of half measures, missed connections, and politically correct policies that hindered our intelligence agencies ability to fight the war on terror and emboldened our enemy to grow. And grow they did.
Ace of Spades quotes Phinn (who I presume is a reader of Ace’s blog, or a blogger himself), who has summarized (in my view) the Able Danger story neatly:
I think the Able Danger story is going to be the biggest of the year.
A. A SOCOM unit, run by Gen. Shelton himself, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, identifies Atta and the Brooklyn cell as a threat as early as 1999. (It doesn’t hurt that the unit has a cool sounding name, too.)
B. A year before 9/11, they recommend that that the FBI close down the cell. (Who was president a year before 9/11 again?)
C. DOD lawyers (lawyers!) overrule this recommendation, and refuse to allow the Able Danger guys to pass this information on to the FBI, because Atta has a legal immigration status, and they are worried about political fallout after Waco. They put Post-It notes over Atta’s face so that all reference to him is kept secret (a nice touch, dont’ you think?).
D. The 9/11 Commission chose to omit any reference to it or investigate. This is inexcusible, regardless of how accurate the story is. It clearly deserves to be addressed and the facts explored, to be proved or disproved.
Read more speculation about this at Captain Ed’s and Just One Minute.
Update: Linking up with La Shawn’s Blogospheric Conditions post – she’s posting links to some good reads this morning. Check it out!
Afternoon update: Michelle Malkin discusses the danger enablers.