Able Danger

Able Danger

Able Danger was a classified military planning effort under the command of the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). It was created as a result of a directive from the Joint Chiefs of Staff in early October 1999 by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Hugh Shelton, to develop an Information Operations Campaign Plan against transnational terrorism, "specifically al-Qaeda."


The program used data mining techniques to associate open source information with classified information in an attempt to make associations between individual members of terrorist groups as part of its original "intelligence preparation of the battlespace". The objective of this particular project was to ascertain whether the data mining techniques and open source material were effective tools in determining terrorist activities, and if the resultant data could be used to create operational plans that could be executed in a timely fashion to interrupt, capture and/or destroy terrorists or their cells. [An example of a chart produced as output by the project's data mining and visualization suite is called the [ 3.21.00 Chart] . (DIAC Link Chart declassified 3.21.00, produced on March 21, 2000, and reproduced on author Peter Lance's website for his book Triple Cross Another barely readable sample chart was published by the Defense Department's Inspector General's Office on page 14 of the [ Able Danger Investigation Report] .] [Patience Wait has reported that a follow-on project appears to have been funded and implemented by the Intelligence Community and was originally named Able Providence. [ Data Mining Offensive in the Works] - Patience Wait - GCN Magazine, 10/10/2005]

According to statements by Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and those of four others, Able Danger had identified the September 11, 2001, attacks leader Mohamed Atta, and three of the 9/11 plot's other 19 hijackers, as possible members of an al Qaeda cell linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. This theory was heavily investigated and researched by Republican Representative Curt Weldon, vice chairman of the House Armed Services and House Homeland Security committees. In December 2006, an investigation by the US Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that those assertions could not be confirmed. It stated that they were unable to find supporting evidence regarding "one of the most disturbing claims about the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes." This report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee copied, nearly verbatim, the DoD IG's September 2006 report on Able Danger. The public coverage of the release of these reports left out the fact that the DoD IG report concluded that while Army pre-9/11 data bases were found to contain the name "Atta" in context of a potential terrorism threat, it was not ABLE DANGER related due to the name being found in an Army database; the DoD IG report failing to mention the fact that the Army database in question was the source database for the SOCOM ABLE DANGER team, p.10.] .

Assertion that Able Danger identified 9/11 hijackers

The existence of Able Danger, and its purported early identification of the 9/11 terrorists, was first disclosed publicly on June 19, 2005, in an article

It should be noted that IG report is disputed by Lt. Col. Shaffer and other Able Danger team members, some of whom were never interviewed by the IG's office nor the 9/11 commission. Congressman Weldon also claims the report was a hurried, botched up investigation that was intended to close the books on the subject rather than report on the actual facts.

Broeckers/Hauss described in their last German book [] the existence of two Attas, two Jarrahs [] , two Hanjours and al-Shehhis. Evidence in data, handwritten documents, INS-Report, description of faces and much more. []

For example this lead was never followed: "Normen Pentolino, operations manager at the Hollywood store, said two cashiers told FBI agents they might have recognized Atta, but weren't certain. Sources inside the store said Atta may have held a BJ's membership card for more than two years."Two years - counted from 9/11 backwards. Not "last year" or so ... []

Post 9/11 chart

Curt Weldon gave a speech to the Heritage Foundation "post" 9/11 in 2002 with a chart showing how Mohamed Atta was connected to other 9/11 hijackers. This "post 9/11" information is being incorrectly thought of as "pre 9/11" information by the people interviewed. People who remember a meeting with a chart showing Atta are remembering the Heritage Foundation meeting or other "post" 9/11 meetings in which Weldon "did" display a chart showing Atta. [,8599,1093694,00.html]


Kevin Drum, writing for "The Washington Monthly" notes that reports of the precise date at which the information was allegedly passed to the FBI vary considerably. It is most unlikely that Able Danger would have identified a terrorist called "Mohamed Atta" before May 2000.

Since 9/11, of course, we have retrieved every scrap of information ever known about Mohamed Atta, so we know what information would have been available to the Able Danger data mining operation. And what we know is that Mohamed Atta sent his first email to friends in the U.S. in March 2000 and received his first U.S. visa on May 18, 2000. Moreover, that was the first time he had ever gone by the name "Mohamed Atta." His full name is "Mohamed Mohamed el-Amir Awad el-Sayed Atta," and prior to 2000 he went by "Mohamed el-Amir."


Although the Able Danger computer records were erased, to date, no electronic or paper document has showed that any connection was made to Atta "before" 9/11. No emails to or from the Able Danger team make any references to Atta, nor do any paper documents between the team and any other DoD teams or offices. No notes taken at any pre 9/11 meetings between the DoD and FBI, or interoffice DoD meetings, show any mention of Atta or a terrorist cell in New York.

Congressional hearings

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter held a hearing on September 21, 2005, looking into the facts about Able Danger. However, Lt. Col Shaffer and the other four members of Able Danger were ordered not to testify by the Department of Defense. Senator Specter decided to go forward with the hearings hoping "to produce a change of heart by the Department of Defense."

Senator Specter wondered if the Posse Comitatus Act may have been the reason Defense Department attorneys would not allow Able Danger to turn over information to the FBI. The Posse Comitatus Act prevents the military from being engaged in law enforcement activities, including gathering information on U.S. persons, despite the aliens were not specifically United States citizens. Speaking on behalf of Lt. Col Shaffer, attorney Mark Zaid testified "Those within Able Danger were confident they weren't compiling information on US persons. They were potentially people connected to US persons." []

Zaid also strongly asserted on behalf of his clients,

"Let me emphasize two specific items for clarification purposes because they have been distorted and invited undue criticism from some.

At no time did Able Danger identify Mohammed Atta as being physically present in the United States.

No information obtained at the time would have led anyone to believe criminal activity had taken place or that any specific terrorist activities were being planned. Again, the identification of the four 9/11 hijackers was simply through associational activities. Those associations could have been completely innocuous or nefarious. It was impossible to tell which, and the unclassified work of Able Danger was not designed to address that question."]

He further added that

"unfortunately we are not aware of the continuing existence of any chart containing Mohammed Atta’s name or photograph. The copies that would have been in the possession of the U.S. Army were apparently destroyed by March 2001. The copies within Lt Col Shaffer’s files were destroyed by the DIA in approximately Spring 2004. The destruction of these files is an important element to this story and I encourage the Committee to investigate it further. It would appear, particularly given the Defense Department’s outright refusal to allow those involved with Able Danger to testify today, that an obstructionist attitude exists. The question for this Committee is to investigate how far that position extends and why."

The Department of Defense did indeed investigate Zaid's claims, and their report is discussed below.

Former Army Major Erik Kleinsmith, former head of the Pentagon's Land Warfare Analysis Department, testified that he was instructed to destroy data and documents related to Able Danger in May and June 2000. The instruction came from a top Pentagon lawyer. He testified, "I go to bed every night and other members of our team do as well [thinking] that if [Able Danger] had not been shut down that we would have at least been able to prevent something or assist the United States in some way. Could we have prevented 9/11? I could never speculate to that extent."

ubsequent investigations

On February 14, 2006, Congressmen Curt Weldon charged that contrary to testimony, not all the data on Able Danger had been destroyed. Weldon claimed to be in contact with people in the government still able to do data-mining who got 13 hits on Mohamed Atta. Weldon also claimed that Able Danger information was found in Pentagon files as recently as two weeks ago and that a general was present when the files were taken from the cabinet. Able Danger will be the subject of hearings by the Armed Services Committee on February 15, 2006. []

On September 21, 2006, "The Washington Post" reported that a Defense Department investigation into Able Danger found that Able Danger did not identify Mohamed Atta or any other hijacker before the September 11 attacks, and that a widely discussed chart was "a sample document passed to the military as an example of how to organize large amounts of data," and was created after 9/11. Congressman Weldon disputed the inspectors claims, stating "I am appalled that the DoD IG would expect the American people to actually consider this a full and thorough investigation," Weldon said in an e-mailed statement. "I question their motives and the content of the report, and I reject the conclusions they have drawn." []

In December 2006, a sixteen-month investigation by the US Senate Intelligence Committee concluded "Able Danger did not identify Mohammed Atta or any other 9/11 hijacker at any time prior to Sept. 11, 2001," and dismissed other assertions that have fueled 9/11 conspiracy theories. The Senate panel of investigators said there was no evidence DoD lawyers stopped analysts from sharing findings with the FBI before the attacks. No Able Danger information was improperly destroyed by Pentagon lawyers. Analysts had created charts that included pictures of then-known Al Qaeda operatives, but none including Atta. A follow-up chart made after the attacks did show Atta. The Senate Committee said its findings were consistent with those of the DoD inspector general, released in September 2006.cite web
last = Miller
first = Greg
year = 2006
url =,0,3149507.story?coll=la-home-headlines
title = Alarming 9/11 claim is found baseless
work =
publisher = Los Angeles Times
accessdate = 2007-01-04
] [cite web
last =
year = 2006
url =
title = Senators Nix Pre-9/11 Hijacker ID Theory
work =
quote = A lengthy Senate investigation has debunked charges by a Republican congressman that military analysts identified Mohamed Atta and other Sept. 11 hijackers before the attacks, according to a committee aide familiar with the report.
publisher =Associated Press
accessdate = 2007-01-04

The Inspector General's report

On September 18, 2006 the Office of the Deputy Inspector General for Investigations released a report states Shaffer was put on leave, that the crew responsible for removing any classified documents from his office to prevent his taking them home with him found that he did not have any of the Able Danger-related documents trusted to him he claimed he had, and that despite the fact that the Army cleared him of any wrongdoing in the allegations "DIA officials would have taken action to revoke LTC Shaffer's access and clearance regardless of his disclosures to the DIA IG, the 9/11 Commission staff members, Members of Congress, or the media. [ibid., p.11]

The Department of Defense investigation concluded,

"A. The anti-terrorist program, Able Danger, did not identify Mohammed Atta or any other 9/11 terrorists before the 9/11 attack.

"B. 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.

"C. The destruction of Able Danger documentation at LIWA and Garland was appropriate and complied with applicable DoD regulations.

"D. 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." [Ibid., p. 69]

ee also

* 9/11 commission report
* Criticisms of the 9/11 Commission Report
* September 11, 2001 attacks
* Bin Laden Issue Station (The CIA's bin Laden tracking unit, 1996-2005)
* War games in progress on September 11, 2001
* Collapse of the World Trade Center
* 9/11 conspiracy theories



The Immigration and Naturalization Service's Contacts With Two September 11 Terrorists: A Review of the INS's Admissions of Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi, its Processing of their Change of Status Applications, and its Efforts to Track Foreign Students in the United States; May 20, 2002

External links

*cite web
last = Associated Press
year = 2006
url =
title = Senators Nix Pre-9/11 Hijacker ID Theory
work =
publisher = National Public Radio
accessdate = 2007-01-04

* [ Weldon says Able Danger ID'ed Atta 13 times]
* [ Able Danger becomes the central topic of a Mainstream Feature Film staring Elina Lowenshon]
* [ Timeline about Able Danger Program on]
* Hefling,Kimberly (September 21 2005) []
* [ Audio and Transcript of Able Danger Hearing]
* [ A Discussion thread on Able Danger]
* [ United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review document on the ;wall"]
* [,2933,165948,00.html Agent Defends Military Unit's Data on 9/11 Hijackers] "Fox News"
* [ Officer Says Pentagon Barred Sharing Pre-9/11 Qaeda Data With F.B.I.] "New York Times" 16 Aug 05
* [ Attorney Mark Zaid Interview Transcript From the Jerry Doyle Show]
* [ Testimony of attorney Mark Zaid before the US Senate Judiciary Committee]
* [ Shaffer interview on "The Savage Nation"]
* [ Shaffer interview on CNN]
* [ 'Able Danger' and Coordinating Pre-Sept. 11 Intelligence] -- Interview on NPR's Talk of the Nation including Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, Thomas Kean, Harry "Skip" Brandon, and Tom Fitton.
* [ Dangerously Disabled, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jack Kelly (August 21, 2005)]
* [ A Pentagon Whitewash - Able Dangers Hearing Postponed Again (September 28, 2005)]
* [ An Interview with Curt Weldon following hearings of the Senate Judiciary Committee] (Published September 30, 2005)
* [ Republican Congressman Curt Weldon Alleges 9/11 Cover-up by Pentagon on CNN]
* [ Deadly tale of incompetence]
* [ Able Danger Blog follows related news stories and developments]
* [ Excerpts from Curt Weldon press conference on November 9, 2005]
* [ "An Incomplete Investigation"] Op-ed piece by Louis Freeh November 17, 2005
* [ Peter Lance interview on CNN, December 5, 2005]
* [ Peter Lance's 3.21.00 Sample Able Danger Chart]
* [ Able Danger Investigation Report from DoD IG's Office] (see page 14)
* [ Data Mining Offensive in the Works - Patience Wait - GCN Magazine, 10/10/05]
* [ Able Providence, MILNET Briefing, 11/02/2006]
* [ Government Complicity and Intelligence Breakdowns]

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