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The Omission Commission

The 9/11 Commission Report failed to make any mention of Iraqi operations in Germany that might have been connected to al Qaeda.

12:00 AM, Aug 17, 2005 • By EDWARD MORRISSEY
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REPRESENTATIVE CURT WELDON dropped a delayed political bombshell with a special-orders speech last June in which he revealed the existence of a data-mining program at the Pentagon named Able Danger, which he claimed had identified Mohammed Atta and three of the other 9/11 hijackers as al Qaeda operatives over a year before the attacks. Almost two months later, an intelligence-community periodical, Government Security News, noted the speech. This caught the attention of New York Times reporter Douglas Jehl, who informed the nation that far from missing the terrorist cell before the 9/11 attacks, military intelligence had identified them with plenty of time to act.

Questions immediately arose about why no law-enforcement agency took action with the information, and why the 9/11 Commission made no mention of Able Danger or the identification of Atta's cell in its final report. The sources for Weldon's revelations insist that the political atmosphere and the attorneys at the Pentagon would not allow the military to share the information with the FBI, believing (1) the existence of the data-mining project would create a political backlash against the Defense Department, and (2) it would violate the policies of the Department of Justice to have coordination between military intelligence and the FBI involving a legal resident in the United States, as they believed Atta to be.

As for why the 9/11 Commission made no mention of Able Danger, the Commission itself seemed completely unable to provide an answer. Weldon's sources claimed that they had briefed the Commission on two separate occasions, in October 2003 and July 2004, just before the release of their final report. The Commission's spokesman, Al Felzenberg, initially scoffed at that claim. He acknowledged that the Commission had learned of the Able Danger program during the October 2003 briefing, but that Atta's name had not come up at all. "They all say that they were not told anything about a Brooklyn cell," Felzenberg said. "They were told about the Pentagon operation. They were not told about the Brooklyn cell. They said that if the briefers had mentioned anything that startling, it would have gotten their attention."

A competing series of revelations--from Time magazine, Curt Weldon's book, the Bergen Record, and even from the Commission itself (just four days after stating that they had no recollection at all of the July 2004 briefing)--has cast a shroud of doubt over everyone's credibility, including Weldon. Moreover, it has given momentum for those who felt that the Commission's final report left a significant part of the story untold. Noting that Able Danger, or any other data-mining program, gets no mention at all but that the Commission recommendations include expanding existing data-mining efforts and providing better coordination among them (pages 388-389), critics have begun searching for other data points left out of the Commission's analysis.

THEY MIGHT START with a few cryptic media reports from March 2001 regarding two arrests made in Germany. The BBC and Reuters both noted the capture of Iraqi intelligence agents in Heidelberg. Both reports gave essentially the same minimal data on March 1:

German state prosecutors said on Thursday federal police had arrested two Iraqis on suspicion of spying.

The two men were detained in Heidelberg, according to a German television report. German officials declined to comment on the report. . . . "They are suspected of carrying out missions for an Iraqi intelligence service in a number of German towns since the beginning of 2001,'' said a spokeswoman for state prosecutor Kay Nehm in Karlsruhe.