WASHINGTON – An officer who has claimed that a classified military unit identified four Sept. 11 hijackers before the 2001 attacks is facing Pentagon accusations of breaking numerous rules, charges his lawyer suggests are aimed at undermining his credibility.
The alleged infractions by Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer (search), 42, include obtaining a service medal under false pretenses, improperly flashing military identification while drunk and stealing pens, according to military paperwork shown by his attorney to The Associated Press.
Shaffer was one of the first to publicly link Sept. 11 leader Mohamed Atta (search) to the unit code-named Able Danger (search). Shaffer was one of five witnesses the Pentagon ordered not to appear Sept. 21 before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the unit's findings.
The military revoked Shaffer's top security clearance this month, a day before he was supposed to testify to a congressional committee.
Mark Zaid, Shaffer's attorney, said the Pentagon started looking into Shaffer's security clearance about the time in 2003 he met in Afghanistan with staff members of the bipartisan commission that studied the Sept. 11 attacks and told them about Able Danger.
Zaid said he can't prove the Pentagon went after Shaffer because he's a whistleblower, but "all the timing associated with the clearance issue has been suspiciously coincidental."
Citing concerns with the privacy act, Cmdr. Terry Sutherland, a Defense Intelligence Agency (search) spokesman, declined to release any information on Shaffer.
According to papers provided by Zaid, the Defense Intelligence Agency is questioning whether Shaffer deserved a Defense Meritorious Service Medal (search) he was awarded. Shaffer, who is supported by a retired colonel who has praised his work, says those challenging the medal do not have firsthand knowledge of his actions.
Shaffer says he showed his government credentials during two incidents in 1990, when he was drunk, and 1996, when he was pulled over by police. The military says he misused his credentials, but Shaffer says he was not told he should not have used them. He also said he has joined Alcoholics Anonymous and has been sober for 13 years.
As for the pens and other office supplies taken, he blamed that on "youthful indiscretions" more than 20 years ago.
According to the paperwork, the alleged infractions against Shaffer also include:
-- Falsely claiming $341.80 in mileage and tolls fees. He said he filed travel expenses based on what he was told by human resources staff.
-- Obtaining $67.79 in personal cell phone charges. He said the amount was a legitimate expense accrued so he could forward calls.
-- Going over his chain of command to do briefings. Shaffer said he was providing briefings to higher-ups on projects even his direct superiors did not know about, and he received superior review ratings for that time.
-- Showing irresponsibility with $2,012 in credit card debt. He said he paid off the debt, and Zaid said DIA dropped the issue.
Shaffer, now a member of the Army Reserves, has been on administrative leave since March 2004. During the same time, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel on Oct. 1, 2004.
Shaffer has said he tried three times to meet with the FBI to convey the Able Danger unit's findings before Sept. 11, but was ordered not to by military attorneys.
Shaffer's assertions on Able Danger have been supported by Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa. If correct, they would change the timeline as to when authorities first learned of some of the Sept. 11 hijackers.
The Sept. 11 commission has dismissed the claims. The Pentagon has acknowledged some employees recall seeing an intelligence chart identifying Atta as a terrorist before the attacks, but said none have been able to find a copy of it.