Did the FBI Ignore 9/11 Warnings?
This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," August 18, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Welcome back to a special edition of "Hannity & Colmes." I'm Alan Colmes. Sean reporting live tonight from Sunland Park, New Mexico, on the outskirts of El Paso.
And coming up next, we'll take you over the border to Mexico City to show you the danger lurking everyday on the streets of Mexico's capital.
But first, an army intelligence officer says that a secret military counterterrorist unit called Able Danger identified four of the 9/11 (search) hijackers, including ringleader Mohammed Atta (search), a year before the 9/11 attacks. Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer says he tried to warn the FBI, but Pentagon lawyers stopped him.
This information was not included in the report released by the 9/11 Commission (search), and the commission denies that Atta's name or the name of other hijackers came up in interviews with Shaffer. Joining us now is Able Danger team member, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer.
Lieutenant Colonel, explain to me, how is it they deny it? They also — staff members, like executive director Phil Zelikow, say, despite your statements, they were not told the names of these hijackers, as you claim?
LT. COL. ANTHONY SHAFFER, ABLE DANGER TEAM MEMBER: Well, I don't know how they can overlook that, because the fact is this: They were told not once but twice by a fellow officer, a Navy captain, later on in 2004.
In my October discussion with him, I did not discuss the names of the terrorists. I'm not saying that. I never said that. I did talk about the fact that we found three cells through the use of some advanced technology, two to three cells which conducted 9/11 attacks, to include Atta.
Now, that was the only name I remembered. You have to understand, I was in Afghanistan deployed. I didn't have my documents with me. I didn't have the background. So during this discussion, it was using some notes that I put together myself, based on my memory as talking points, and I discussed the fact that Able Danger (search) was able to use data mining techniques, that were at the time cutting-edge, to merge out of this information data.
COLMES: A lot of people think this is an attack on the 9/11 report. What I saw — I went back and read chapter eight, which — some of the things it said in chapter eight, which is where I think we should be focused, for example, early May of 2001 — and I'll put it on the screen — a walk-in to the FBI claimed there was a plan to launch attacks on cities, including New York.
May 16th, report that a phone call to the U.S. embassy warned that bin Laden (search) supporters were planning an attack on the United States using explosives. The next day, the first item on the CSG's agenda was that very thing from the day before. June 25th, Clarke — that's, of course, Richard Clarke (search) — warning Rice and Deputy Hadley that six separate intelligence reports showed Al Qaeda (search) personnel warning of an attack.
And of course, the briefing of August 6th saying bin Laden determined to strike. This administration had all of that information, and that was in the 9/11 report, and that is much more significant, in my view.
SHAFFER: Well, I'm not arguing the point about the significance. The issue that we've been dealing with is the fact that we had an element of special operations command focused on conducting offensive operations against bin Laden at least two years before 9/11.
Now, I think that's a good, new story. The fact is, we had significant problems which were not addressed in the 9/11 Commission report, which talked to the very essence of why the report was written.
The problems within infrastructure, with personnel, with being able to get information passed to the FBI. One of the issues we've been faced with is the fact that the information we had was, we believed, unique, and we did try to pass it to the FBI through legal methods. And we were not able to do that on a timely basis. As a matter of fact, we weren't able to do it at all before 9/11.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Hey, Colonel Shaffer, Sean Hannity here. Let me just go through...
SHAFFER: Hey, sir.
HANNITY: ... because we don't have a lot of time. But you guys at Able Danger identified that Atta was here. You identified some other co-conspirators of 9/11 were here one year prior, correct?
SHAFFER: Right. Yes, that's correct. Yes. And that was the...
HANNITY: And you tried to warn your superiors?
SHAFFER: Well, that was the key. Now, the special operations command, the operations officer of that unit, of Able Danger, brought it to my attention that the lawyers had said, "We can't do anything with this stuff. We need to pass it to the FBI." It was my job then, as part of my unit's responsibility to support Able Danger, was to broker that relationship. That's where things broke down. I set up...
HANNITY: And you were almost held insubordinate because you were jumping up and down and saying this was a big danger, and you had to have a two-star general tell you to be quiet, correct?
SHAFFER: That is correct, sir. He was very adamant. I went through and gave him my logic of why this was important, the fact Al Qaeda was a major target, and we should be engaged in this. And I was directed several times to the point of where he had to remind me that he was a general and I was not, or else I would be essentially fired.
HANNITY: So there's two big questions here. Question number one is, who stopped the investigation and this important information from getting to the proper authorities to investigate these guys, one?
And number two, the 9/11 Commission had known about this. And in the last week, they've given at least five or six different accounts that I can tell about what you had told them. Explain that.
SHAFFER: Well, on the account thing, I don't understand it, because I've reread, and read, and reread their 12 August account. Their paragraph describing my meeting with them is not even in the ballpark with what happened.
Again, I have talking points that I prepared before the meeting. I used those talking points to talk of. I talked about another human operation, as well as outlining and, in a time line fashion, the whole Able Danger story. And none of those points are even addressed in their statement.
So I don't understand how they could be, like, so far, you know, off what I told them, based on the fact that I do have my talking points from that meeting.
COLMES: Well, we continue to follow this dispute. We thank you very much, Colonel, for being with us tonight.
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