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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Pentagon: Able Danger couldn't stop 9/11

A Pentagon report rejects the idea that intelligence gathered by a secret military unit could have been used to stop the Sept. 11 hijackings.

The Pentagon inspector general's office said Thursday that a review of records from the unit, known as Able Danger, found no evidence it had identified ringleader Mohamed Atta or any other terrorist who participated in the 2001 attacks.

The report was ordered following the assertion last year that the unit had identified four of the 19 hijackers in 2000. That claim was made by a former intelligence officer who worked on Able Danger, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, and by Rep. Curt Weldon (news, bio, voting record), vice chairman of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees.

Weldon, R-Pa., has said the unit used data-mining to link Atta and three other hijackers to al-Qaida more than a year before the attacks.

The 71-page report, blacked out in parts, also rejected Weldon's claim that the unit wanted information given to the FBI but that Pentagon lawyers would not allow it.

The report acknowledged that one Able Danger member alleged he was prohibited from providing a chart to the FBI in 2000 by a senior Special Operations commander. But, the report said, "the senior official did not recall the incident and we are persuaded that the chart would have been of minimal value to the FBI."

The Pentagon had said some employees recall seeing an intelligence chart identifying Atta as a terrorist before the attacks. The report said those accounts "varied significantly" and witnesses were inconsistent at times in their statements.

Last year, the bipartisan commission that investigated the attacks dispensed with the issue by calling it "not historically significant."

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