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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Able Dementia

I just received a note from someone with special understanding of the Able Danger sitch. (Suddenly, everyone on the net has only one or two degrees of separation from Tony Shaffer.) The correspondent asked not to be quoted or identified, so I'll speak only in very general terms.

Basically, you'll receive much the same info if you go to Intel Dump, which relays a message from Shaffer himself. The bottom line: The identification of Atta was squelched by SOCOM lawyers.

As Shaffer tells it:

First - yes - The lawyers involved in this (and similar projects) did interpret the 9-11 terrorists as "US persons" - so while you can second guess them all you want - but that was their "legal" call as wrong as it was and is. Unfortunately, the chain of command at SOCOM went along with them (and this, I expect, will be a topic that will become more clear in the near future).

And lawyers of the era also felt that any intelligence officer viewing open internet information for the purpose of intelligence collection automatically required that any "open source" information obtained be treated as if it was "intelligence information"...does this sound like idiocy to you? It did to me - and we fought it - and I was in meetings at the OSD level, with OSD lawyers, that debated this - and I even briefed the DCI George Tenet on this issue relating to an internet project.

And yes, Virginia - we tried to tell the lawyers that since the data identified Atta and the others as linked to Al Qaeda, we should be able to collect on them based on SecState Albright's declaration of Al Qaeda as transnational terrorist threat to the US...well the lawyers did not agree...go figure...so we could not collect on them - and for political reasons - could not pass them to the FBI...I know because I brokered three meetings between the FBI and SOCOM to allow SOCOM to pass the information to the FBI. And, sadly, SOCOM cancelled them every time...
Do I buy this? Well...

First, note that none of this credibilizes the Republican spin (as heard recently on the O'Reilly and Limbaugh shows) that the whole problem comes down to interference by Clinton's Assistant Attorney General Jamie Gorelick. The Department of Defense and the Department of Justice are two separate things. I've yet to hear anyone offer a credible argument that Gorelick went around telling folks at DOD what to do.

The moment Shaffer starts peddling that crap is the moment we will know that he has been handed a disinformation script. So far, he hasn't said that.

At this point, Jon Holdaway's comments on SOCOM are worth noting:

Their attorneys would be normal senior judge advocates, and based on what I've seen of training on intelligence oversight and FBI coordination issues in the Army JAG Corps, these guys most likely didn't know what laws and policies out there actually impinged on intelligence sharing operations.

Investigators also need to look at SOCOM leadership, including GEN Schoomaker. If they kept the rest of the Army and DOD in the dark on Able Danger and the results of their investigation, preventing effective FBI coordination, then they ought to be identified and questioned as to their reasoning for that decision. And finally, there needs to be a look into what the Army's Information Dominance Center knew about Atta pre-9/11. I know there was an effort after 9/11 to check all databases to make sure this sort of problem didn't occur, but INSCOM may need to check again to see what they put together in support of Able Danger.
Yeah, I too would like to hear what these fellows have to say about all this.

So why doesn't the right ever mention SOCOM, Schoomaker, and the rest? Why do the propagandists insist on bringing Gorelick into the equation?

Because they hate her, not least because she was on the 9/11 Commission.

Lefties who didn't like that commission's work may not understand that righties also disliked that report. The right wanted the commission to say that the 9/11 catastrophe was all Clinton's fault -- because, you know, everything bad must be all Clinton's fault. And they blame Gorelick for "forcing" the commission to stray from this Approved Party Line.

That said, we can assign some credibility to the idea that lawyers -- of whatever stripe -- might have been particularly worried about privacy rights in those days. The hidden subtext of Able Danger's data mining operation is that the whole thing was of dubious illegality. Maybe not by modern standards -- anything goes, these days -- but political realities were different then. At that time, you will recall, the same right-wing zealots who now insist on maintaining the Patriot Act were screaming that the Evil KKKlinton wanted to invade our privacy and round us into concentration camps and force us all to the wear the Mark of the Beast.

Remember those days? Kinda puts things into a different perspective, dunnit?

That said, let's keep in mind some very important facts:

According to Eleanor Hill's September, 2002 report to the Goss/Graham 9/11 investigation, inter-agency communication on terrorism within the intelligence community during the Clinton era was much better than many suppose. For example, in 1997 and 1998, the FBI received word from other agencies of planned attacks similar to the 9/11 disaster. Interagency cooperation foiled the millennium plot.

So we still don't know the real reason why SOCOM did not share the data on Atta with the FBI. If the CIA and FBI could get together (and they did)...if the NSA and FBI could get together (and they did)...why not DIA and FBI?

In Raw Story, Mideast expert Nafeez Ahmed notes...

The explanation was disingenuous. "Mohammed Atta and his terrorist cohorts were clearly and factually established as Al-Qaeda functionaries of a foreign government [Taliban of Afghanistan] with Al-Qaeda itself being a Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (DFTO)", noted Sean Osborne of the US Army's Program Executive Office - Command, Control, Communications Tactical (PEOC3T) within the Special Project Office (SPO).

"Designated terrorists do not receive and retain 'green card' status, and any card so previously attained would have to be considered a priori fraudulent, null and void," Osborne stated.

In fact, there are 13 exceptions within Executive Order 12333 allowing intelligence-collection on US Persons and bona-fide green card-holders, including for Counterintelligence purposes, allowing for collection of against individuals reasonably suspected of involvement in international terrorism, as well as their associates....

But all this is academic. Mohamed Atta was never a green-card holder. Worse still, he never had a valid entry visa.
As noted earlier, Shaffer's reply to all this is a simple "the lawyers did not agree." But is that all there is to it?

Let's stop asking "Why didn't the government catch Atta?" Let's ask "Why was tape placed over Atta's face at a time when the millennium plot was foiled? Why protect him and not Ressam?"

By the way, we have yet to see the right-wingers address two other key points:

1. How are we supposed to blame Clinton while absolving Bush? The same data on Atta was available after W took office.

2. If we take the Able Danger story at face value, then the Bush-era investigation into 9/11 -- the most important investigation ever -- was a screw-up. Or maybe something worse than a screw-up. Able Danger apparently identified Atta in 1999. Bush's FBI said he entered the country in June of 2000, and they stuck to that story even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Why?

And why don't the rightists ask "Why?"?
Comments:
I addressed SOCOMs legal eagles yesterday morning in your comments - but who knows.....maybe
you don't read your comments.
Or maybe you wanted someone more than an anon telling you that it was SOCOMs legal advisors who killed the meeting.....

And......if you dig deep in all the articles....you will find it was SOCOM's legal advisors that said "hands off."


Anyway- I have only been able to ID one lawyer out of SOCOM so far. I want to know why these journalists are too cowardly to ask the most obvious question- who- name names...?
Well, we all have something to fear with the neocons in control-but their control is slipping.
Keep up the good work.
 
quick stupid question:

what does SOCOM stand for?

thanks
 
SOCOM = Special Ops Command
 
I was going to ask the same thing about SOCOM (what it stands for), which someone finally explained -- please, if you're going to use alphabet soup, provide the meanings for all us idiots who aren't in the know like you apparently are! :^>

P.S.: What the hell is a Special Ops Command???
 
A couple of data points for you:

1) Able Danger was never a sure thing:
one of the drawbacks of data mining: It produces thousands of false positives.

Eric Umansky: Thousands of False Positives on Able Danger ?

The NYT’s Philip Shenon, who has done some of the Able Danger reporting, was interviewed Friday on WNYC. There host Mike Pesca raised the false positives question. Here’s what Shenon said:

“I understand from others at the Pentagon that one of the problems here is that Able Danger came up with names not just of Atta and three others, it came up with a tremendous number of names of very decent American citizens.”

That sounds like a whole lot more than the “60″ the Times suggested…Friday (i.e. same day as the radio interview). Are Shenon and Jehl on the same page?

Shenon’s comment matches with my personal experience: As I said in my blog, data mining brings up a lot of false positives -on the hundreds with the relatively low volume of data I worked. Thousands of false positives is very plausible with the gobs of data that Able Danger must have dealt with
.
Using Data Mining to Find Terrorists: False positives
Those limitations are not only the musings of yours truly, but have also been raised by data mining experts such as Herb Edelstein , an internationally recognized expert in data mining, data warehousing and CRM, consulting to both computer vendors and users. A popular speaker and teacher, he is also a co-founder of The Data Warehousing Institute

Data Mining In Depth: TIAin’t

False positives. Given the difficulty of developing good signatures and the small number of terrorists relative to the population of the United States, there are likely to be an enormous number of innocent people identified as potential terrorists (false positives). The more you try to avoid false positives, the more likely you are to miss many true positives. Unlike a direct mail campaign where the cost of a false positive is only a few dollars at worst, the costs in identifying terrorists - in dollars, time and wasted opportunity - are staggering. Suppose we had a collection of algorithms that has a false positive rate of only 0.1 percent - extraordinarily good for a problem of this complexity. That would mean 220,000 false positives! There are not enough investigators to investigate every false positive. Even if there were, the dollar cost would be in the billions, as would the cost of the resulting lawsuits. More importantly, the resources and amount of calendar time expended in these mostly useless investigations would likely leave many true terrorists free. Even if we concentrated only on non-citizens, we would still have more than 20,000 false positives to be vetted.
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/8/17/13256/9461
 
Second data point: DoD wants to get into homeland issues badly. So bad that even Bush friendly Cato Institute raises alarm bells

Deployed in the U.S.A.: The Creeping Militarization of the Home Front

by Gene Healy

Gene Healy is senior editor at the Cato Institute

Deploying troops on the home front is very different from waging war abroad. Soldiers are trained to kill, whereas civilian peace officers are trained to respect constitutional rights and to use force only as a last resort. That fundamental distinction explains why Americans have long resisted the use of standing armies to keep the domestic peace.

Unfortunately, plans are afoot to change that time-honored policy. There have already been temporary troop deployments in the airports and on the Canadian and Mexican borders and calls to make border militarization permanent. The Pentagon has also shown a disturbing interest in high-tech surveillance of American citizens. And key figures in the Bush administration and Congress have considered weakening the Posse Comitatus Act, the federal statute that limits the government’s ability to use the military for domestic police work.

The historical record of military involvement in domestic affairs cautions against a more active military presence in the American homeland. If Congress weakens the legal barriers to using soldiers as cops, substantial collateral damage to civilian life and liberty will likely ensue.
http://cato-subscriptions.org/ ct.html?rtr=on&s=77z,dub9,949,l629,1t18,9zdt,1kws
 
3rd data point Atta never had a Green Card, he actually had several violations of his tourist visa, hence he could have been deported at any time. And the 9/11 commission knew it so that might have been a reason they ignored Able Danger intel.
http://lawnorder.blogspot.com/2005/08/911-commission-statement-atta-and-his.html
Or a 12 page PDF
http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/2004_rpt/staff_statement_1.pdf
 
Can someone provide more information about SOCOM? I understand from an earlier comment from a few days ago that SOCOM stands for "special ops command".

but under what jurisdiction does SOCOM report to? Is this under DoD? what division of the military does SOCOM fall under?

can someone shed some light on the history of SOCOM, how it has been used, why it's secret ops have jurisdiction over FBI/CIA operations or do they?

It's hard to understand the whole Able Danger controversy unless one understands the role of SOCOM especially for the layperson like me who has never worked in the military/fed gov.

thanks
 
Completely understandable you didn't know what SOCOM is- apparently the LA Times didn't even know this-or even the city in Florida that SOCOM is located.
excerpt from LA Times article:

Rumsfeld will speak to soldiers and commanders at the Miami headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command. The Southern Command is one of five regional American military headquarters throughout the globe and oversees the naval base prison at Guantanamo Bay. SoCom, as it is known in military parlance, is responsible for an area encompassing 32 countries and 14.5 million square miles. Rumsfeld also will speak to Miami business leaders today.
http://united-states-of-earth.com/article.asp?MenuID=2295


Southern Command in Miami is known as SouthCom-not SOCOM
www.southcom.mil/home/

Which goes to show ya, these so-called journalists are not all that accurate in what they report.
Another reason to do your own research & investigative journalism!

IN any case, SOCOM pretty much means exactly what it says-it is the command center/headquarters for all "special operations" forces. "Able Danger" was a "special op" so they were dispatched and "controlled" out of SOCOM at MacDill Air Force Base/Tampa.
 
oops- forgot to give you this link for more detailed info on SOCOM.
http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/dod/socom/
 
thank you for the info and the link. I knew I was missing something critical here. any ideas on when the neo-con-bushistas are planning on setting off a small suitcase nuclear device on US soil to throw this country under martial law and thus set in motion a war against Iran?

those responsible would be the same folks in the DoD who were "in" on the 9/11 cruise missile attack on the pentagon. must be cronies of Rumsfeld/Cheney.

I certainly hope and pray and light candles every night that this does not come to pass and that these 3rd reich animals get put back in their cages.
 
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