Operation Able Danger: the smoking gun of 9/11
The 9/11 Commission was supposed to find out why the United States did not see the 9/11 attacks coming and then make recommendations as to how future terrorist attacks might be prevented.
Apparently, the Commission had at least two hidden agenda: (1) To prove that 9/11 was the result of a failure by the U.S. intelligence community to identify the 9/11 attackers and (2) for the Republican members to point the finger at the Clinton Administration’s eight years of ineptitude regarding terrorism and for the Democrat members to assert that eight months was plenty of time for the Bush Administration to uncover the 9/11 plot and stop it.
So, it should be no surprise that the Commission’s final report pretty much followed the hidden agenda. But now, 47 months after 9/11, we are learning there was no intelligence failure. In the spring of 2000, the CIA discovered and reported that suspected terrorists, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawal al-Hazmi had entered the U.S. By the summer of 2000, the Pentagon’s Operation Able Danger had identified not only Khalid al-Mihdnar and Nawal al-Hazmi but also 9/11 team leader, Mohamed Atta, and his second-in-command, Marwan al-Shehhi
So, if the Pentagon and the CIA had reported on the identities, locations and activities of four of the 19 hijackers over a year before the 9/11 attacks, how come the FBI did not further investigate the four and, hopefully, find the other 15?
The answer is found in two parts (1) The military and the CIA were not authorized to conduct counterintelligence/counter-sabotage operations inside the United States – that function was reserved to the FBI and local law enforcement agencies. (2) Back in March of 1995, Attorney General Janet Reno’s deputy, Ms. Jamie Gorelick, issued an edict separating the FBI’s intelligence operations from its law enforcement operations in a way that prevented FBI intelligence operatives from sharing what they had been told by the CIA and the Pentagon with the FBI’s criminal investigators.
Thus, vital intelligence that might have stopped the 9/11 plotters in their tracks hit “the wall” erected by the Clinton Justice Department and was never made available to FBI investigators.
So, why didn’t the Bush Administration tear down “the wall” beginning on day one? Recall, the Bush Administration took office in January, 2001, and it took months of political fighting with Senate Democrats to get John Ashcroft confirmed as U.S. Attorney General. Then, it took some time for Ashcroft to replace the Clinton appointees with his people and policies. In the interim, the Clinton holdovers continued in place as did many of the policies of former Attorney General Reno and Deputy Attorney General Gorelick. Meanwhile, the clock was ticking and the calendar was moving and the Able Danger Report and the CIA reports on four of the 9/11 hijackers remained stranded behind “the wall.”
During the 9/11 Commission hearings, then Attorney General, John Ashcroft, looked right at 9/11 Commission member, Ms. Jamie Gorelick, and said, “The single greatest structural cause for September 11 was the wall that segregated criminal investigators and intelligence agents.”
Here, in part, is what the Gorelick edict said, “We [the Clinton Administration] believe it is prudent to establish a set of instructions that will more clearly separate the counterintelligence investigation from the more limited, but continued, criminal investigations. These procedures, which go beyond what is legally required [italics mine], will prevent any risk of creating an unwarranted appearance that the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] is being used to avoid procedural safeguards which would apply in a criminal investigation.” (The Bush-Ashcroft Patriot Act took down “the wall,” and fixed other artificial barriers to the investigation of potential terrorists.)
Now, two more questions: (1) Why was “the wall” erected in the first place and (2) Why did the 9/11 Commission Report not make any mention of Operation Able Danger? For those answers, someone needs to check with former 9/11 Commissioner, Ms. Jamie Gorelick.
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist, a featured commentator for USA Today and self-described “recovering lawyer and philosopher,” is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – two thrillers about terrorism directed against the United States.
©2005. William Hamilton.