Wednesday, August 10, 2005

❄ 9.11 Commission [II]

There’s a claim being made that a US Army intelligence unit (named ‘Able Danger’) had identified, in 2000, four of the 9.11 hijackers as the “only” al-Qaeda cell in the United States, putting their names and visa photographs on a chart ... but failed to make their suspicions known to other US agencies at the time. It’s asserted, further, that when something of this unit was briefed to staff of the 9.11 Commission in 2003 there was no mention of the four names, among them that of Mohammed Atta.

This claim originates with a US Congressman, Curt Weldon (Republican: Pennsylvania) and an unnamed former intelligence officer. Weldon said on the floor of the House of Representatives, 27 June 2005, that

“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 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? Why do we not want to see the answers to the questions I have raised tonight? Who made the decision to tell our military not to pursue Mohamed Atta? Who made the decision that said that we are fearful of the fallout from Waco politically?

“Were those decisions made by lawyers? Were they made by policymakers? Who within the administration in 2000 was responsible for those actions? This body and the American people need to know.”

The Question

Are these claims true? And if true, who was responsible for blocking notification in 2000, and full disclosure to the 9.11 Commission in 2003?


Members of the 9.11 Commission are already on record suggesting that Congressional committees pursue Weldon’s allegations, and that staff go back to the Commission’s records to see just what was briefed to the Commission.

Recall [Post A01] that the Commission is defunct. Today it’s members can only act as private citizens.

The Political Design Problem

Earlier [Post A01] we put the general problem: how can citizens hold government to account for itself? The Weldon claims pose a specific problem: how can facts, perhaps embarrassing facts, about a secret military unit be confirmed or disconfirmed, and their significant implications be brought out so that citizens can judge?


[1] Philip Shenon and Douglas Jehl, “9/11 Panel Members Ask Congress to Learn if Pentagon Withheld Files on Hijackers in 2000”, The New York Times, 10 August 2005.

[2] Congressional Record. 27 June 2005. Remarks of Representative Curt Weldon. Pages H5243-H5250. [Cited paragraphs are at the end of his remarks, on page H5250.] Via

[3] Jacob Goodwin, “Did DoD Lawyers Blow the Chance to Nab Atta?”, Government Security News, August 2005.

[4] Douglas Jehl, “Four in 9/11 Plot Called Tied to Qaeda in ’00,” The New York Times, 9 August 2005.

[Political Design 2005.08.10 Post A04.]


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