Published August 19, 2005
WASHINGTON – The military intelligence official who first spoke publicly about Able Danger (search), the pre-Sept. 11 task force looking for terror threats to the United States, went to Capitol Hill Thursday to brief staffers who work for Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
A congressional source told FOX News that hearings could be in the cards this fall over Able Danger's findings and its omission from the Sept. 11 commission's report issued last year. Neither Specter's office nor Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, who made the explosive allegations, would confirm a plan for hearings.
"I think I can safely say that anyone who is involved in this project will do anything we can to [go to] the appropriate venue [to] present all the truth that we are aware of in the appropriate time and place," Shaffer told FOX News.
The former chairman of the Sept. 11 commission said in a telephone interview that he believes the onus is on the Pentagon to do a speedy evaluation of the claims by Shaffer and others that lead hijacker Mohamed Atta (search) and three other hijackers had been identified one year before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
"The files are in the possession of the Defense Department, so really nobody else besides the administration can get to the bottom of it ... if there exists a file on Able Danger," said Chairman Tom Kean.
While making no judgment on the veracity of the claims, former commissioner Tim Roemer said inconsistencies are appearing between the story and the facts that the commission knows.
For one, Roemer asked how Able Danger got a photo of Atta in 2000 for its alleged chart of terrorists when he had not yet applied for a U.S. visa.
"If Atta's name is mentioned, you send off a host of fire alarms, neon lights, people's hair gets on fire and you're going to find out what that's all about. But you also need evidence, you can't just say here's my recollection of something I thought I saw in a notebook. You've got to say, 'Here is the chart,'" Roemer said.
Able Danger was not included in the final commission report because three separate commission requests did not yield Pentagon documents that could confirm that a military unit had identified any of the future hijackers, Kean said.
"We'll be mad as hell frankly if stuff was withheld from us. That would be terrible. So I, you know, until we have the answer from the administration, I don't think anybody is in a position to say something is true or not true," Kean said.
But Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., said the commission is passing the buck.
"I'm not going to let them blame the Pentagon because the military officers that offered to brief them offered on two different occasions," he said.
Kean said the commission had initially been promised a statement from the Defense Department last week. Military officials are investigating the Atta allegations and combing through documents. Kean said congressional hearings could be helpful, but little can move forward until the Pentagon issues its findings.