Skip to main content


Lt. Col Tony Shaffer

This is a lengthy interview with Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer in Government Security News and it explains a lot more in detail about Able Danger.

Shaffer says it was not Schoomaker who stopped Able Danger info on Atta from moving upstairs and he identifies who the "bad guys" were.

It's obvious to me reading this that Shaffer is a loyal soldier and tends to accept what his superiors tell him as being the truth.  As we know with Neo-Cons, this is not a wise assumption.

He identifies General Geoffrey Lambert of J3, Special Ops Command, a level below General Pete Schoomaker, as the one who stopped him from going to the FBI.  He says Schoomaker never heard what was going on.

In addition, General Rod Isler is identified as being the one in early 2001 who told him to stop working with the Able Danger team.

Although it is difficult to say at this point that Isler and Lambert were doing the work of neo-cons, we need to keep investigating this as I believe this interview shows a clear attempt to keep the Atta info moving upward to the FBI and Clinton, and after Bush and Cheney take over the program is unceremoniously axed by Isler for no good reason.

We know that yesterday, William Dugan, an attorney for the Defense Secretary's office, finally admitted that Atta could not be considered a "US Person", and so all the reasoning behind the FBI not being told about Atta was absurdly incorrect.


GSN:
Who was the commander at the time? General Pete Schoomaker?

SHAFFER:
This never got to the commander. This got to the operations officer level and, as I recall, it was General [Geoffrey] Lambert, the J3 special operations command. I believe it was at that level where this decision was stopped.

GSN:
This is below the level of General Schoomaker.

SHAFFER:
I'm confident that General Schoomaker was never told of this.

GSN:
So the information gets blocked, basically because of these legal objections. What's the reaction from you and your Able Danger colleagues? Here you are working hard to get the information together, which you consider very important, and you're being prevented from sharing it with the FBI by the SOCOM lawyers.

SHAFFER:
You have to understand two factors were in play at that time. First off, we did not know Al Qaeda to be the threat it is now. There was no drum beat for us to do something immediately.

...

SHAFFER:
Once the four star [General Schoomaker] went away, it was pretty much like the world closing around us. There was no political will to continue this at that point in time. Plus, my direct leadership: Colonel York and General [Bob] Harding had moved on as well.

Therefore, I had a new chain of command above me. They were very risk adverse. This [Able Danger] operation, as with other operations which were very high risk / high gain, some of which are still ongoing -- seemed to not be appreciated by the incoming leadership.

At one point in time, the then Director of Operations [for the DIA] had me come in and brief him on a series of operations. This was February /March 2001. This general said, "I want you to explain to me every one of your operations in detail." So, I started going through the laundry list of each operation and describing it to him.

From moment one, it was a bad conversation. It was like, "Well, I don't agree. Well, I don't agree. Well, I don't agree." So, he basically was saying all the operational focus that I had been required to focus on by the previous leadership, by Colonel Harding, was not something he wanted to pursue. No matter how much common sense, no matter how much reason I tried to use with him, it seemed to be an emotional issue with him.

GSN:
Did you take that as his personal philosophy or was that somehow reflective of a larger administration view?

SHAFFER:
I can't answer that question because some of these operations were driven by the Office of Secretary of Defense. They were telling him that we needed to do them. It was tasking from that level, plus in this case, from General Schoomaker.

GSN:
How do you explain his objections to your various activities?

SHAFFER:
I can only speak to the facts. His opinion was, "That's not part of your job." As he walked through things, he kept saying, "I don't see this as your job. This should be done by someone else."

I tried to explain to him how that's not their job. We're human intelligence. This is just an aspect of human intelligence. He disagreed with me. It came to the point where we brought up Able Danger, where I was explaining the operation to him -- as you know it now, plus more -- and he looked at me and he said "Well, Tony, that's not your job."

I said, "Well, sir, with all due respect, this is an important operation focused on the global Al Qaeda target," and he said, "You're not hearing me, Tony. This is not your job."

"Well, sir, this is basically using human methodology, combined with data mining to..."

"Tony, you're not listening to me. This is not your job."

"Sir, this is important, I think..."

"Tony, I'm the two star here. I'm the two star. I'm telling you I don't want you doing anything with Able Danger."

"Sir, if not us then who?"

"I don't know, but it's not your job."

And that effectively ended my direct support and my unit's support to Able Danger.

GSN:
Did it end Able Danger altogether?

SHAFFER:
I think it contributed to the failure of it because by that point, Army had already pulled out and Special Operations Command, because of the political change there, had also changed their focus. I remember the last conversation I had with Captain Scott Philpott on this was a desperate call from him asking me to try to help use one of my operational facilities to at least try to exploit the information [Able Danger had collected] before it got lost.

GSN:
What was the name of the general who said "No, this is not your job."

SHAFFER:
General Rod Isler.

GSN:
He sounds like a bit of a heavy in the story.

SHAFFER:
There are good guys and bad guys in the story.

[Editor's Note: When contacted by GSN, General Rod Isler (USA-Ret.) said he recalls Lt. Col. Shaffer as someone who worked under his command at DIA, but had no recollection of any discussion with Shaffer in which Shaffer briefed him on Able Danger or an intelligence mission to find Al Qaeda cells. Isler emphasized that in his role as deputy director for operations at the Defense Intelligence Agency he had no authority over any programs run out of the J-3 unit of the Joint Staff, and no authority over any program run by the Special Operations Command.]

GSN:
How soon after the 9/11 attack did you realize that Able Danger had actually identified about a year earlier the Brooklyn cell and several of the actual 9/11 terrorists, including Mohammed Atta?

SHAFFER:
It was within two weeks of 9/11, when one of my colleagues, who had kept one of the charts, called me and said, "You're not going to believe this. He's on one of our charts -- Atta." I just felt this sinking in the pit of my stomach like, "You've got to be kidding me."

"Nope, you want to come see?"

This [colleague] and I get together for coffee.

"Here it is," [said the colleague.]

I'm just sitting there shocked, like I can't believe we have this, and I asked, "What are we going to do about this?" and [the colleague] said, "I don't know yet."

I was told later that the information [on Able Danger's findings] was passed by Congressman [Curt] Weldon over to Stephen Hadley [then the deputy national security advisor in the Bush White House]. At that point in time, I was convinced, "Okay, we got the word out. We're good to go. At least someone will know now that this happened."

GSN:
Was your motivation at this point to be able to say, "I told you so," or to have it recognized that there had been some good intelligence work carried out and that maybe someone would want to keep that effort going?

SHAFFER:
The problem was everything was in total chaos at that time. I accepted recalled active duty and took command of a special mission unit which did another counter terrorism mission. So, we moved on our merry way, to do other things. I can't speak for Capt. Scott Philpott and my other colleagues, but I do believe that everybody felt that the information got to where it needs to be and we're just going to let it go now.

GSN:
Did you ever hear anything to suggest that anybody either in the White House or in higher military or civilian DoD leadership positions actually said, "Look at what Able Danger found. We should keep this going."

SHAFFER:
I thought that maybe some of the good work we had done was continuing to do good things. But, I heard Richard Ben-Veniste [one of the 9/11 Commission members] confirm that no such capability exists today to try to replicate what we did. So, that's a 9/11 commissioner confirming that no such [data mining] capabilities exist today.

GSN:
How did the thought dawn on you -- or another Able Danger colleague -- that you should talk to the 9/11 Commission?

SHAFFER:
It's interesting how that came up. Going into October of 2003, I was deployed to Afghanistan as the operations officer overseeing all of DIA's collection activities in that country. The 9/11 Commission shows up and announces, through the chain of command -- I did this above-board, through the chain of command, General [Lloyd] Austin, being the two-star commander of Task Force 180 and Brigadier General [Byron] Bagby, being his deputy. Word came down through them, saying, "Is there anyone here assigned to this command who has information that is relevant to the pre-9/11 intelligence or operations environment? Please tell us so we can have you go talk to the commissioners, to Dr. [Philip] Zelikow."

[Editor's Note: As executive director, Dr. Zelikow was the Commission's top staff member.]

SHAFFER:
These are my talking points. [Shaffer showed GSN a typed, one-page memo, with a series of bulleted points, but would not allow GSN to publish the memo.]

I went through this whole thing with [Zelikow and other staff members.] I talked about the background, what Stratus Ivy was. I went through the integrated human collection planning effort. I talked about how we planned to do that, the application of U.S. technology. You notice how much time we're taking now to talk about it.

GSN:
Right.

SHAFFER:
Same thing [in Afghanistan.] It took time to go through these points. The bottomline was, and the way I phrased it was, "We found two of the three cells which conducted 9/11, to include Atta."

That's the way I phrased it to them. I don't know if they didn't recognize the Atta part, but I did specifically mention two of the three cells which conducted 9/11, and at the end of that I threw in Atta.

Because my focus, honestly, was that we found two of the three cells. That was to me the most important factor, rather than focusing on Atta, as an individual. And that was what I told them.

I basically gave them background on each one of these three agencies and how it worked. The fact was several DoD seniors saw what I was doing [as similar to] the movie "Kelly's Heroes" with Clint Eastwood?
In "Kelly's Heroes," Clint Eastwood takes a bunch of guys and goes off for gold behind enemy lines during World War II. [Some DoD officials] compared us to being some renegade element totally out of control, doing something which made no sense to them. So, the "crazy factor" was a big issue that I was dealing with at that time. I'm showing you exactly what I put in my notes and said to the 9/11 Commission.

GSN:
So, as far as you're concerned, you not only gave a thorough briefing on everything that had happened, but also identified -- maybe as a throwaway line -- that you found these cells and Mohammed Atta?

SHAFFER:
Correct.

GSN:
That would seem to be the "money" line. How does somebody [working for the 9/11 Commission] not have his eyes pop open when you say, "Oh, by the way sir, we also identified Mohammed Atta a year before the attacks."

SHAFFER:
As I recall, at the end of the meeting, there was silence. People were just silent at what I'd said.

Now, I don't know how to interpret that, but I do know that two things came out of that meeting, some of which are admitted by the 9/11 Commission now.

First, Zelikow approached me at the end of the meeting and said, "This is important. We need to continue this dialogue when we get back to the states. Here's my card."

Now a senior executive handing an [Army] major his card, I would consider that a fairly big indication that "Hey, there's something to this."

Second thing, by the 9/11 Commission's own statement of 12 August, it talks about Dr. Zelikow calling back [to the U.S.] immediately. My understanding from talking to another member of the press is that [Zelikow's] call came into America at four o clock in the morning. He got people out of bed over this.

So, I don't know what they heard. I can only tell you that I was told by Zelikow to re-contact him and we have their own statement here. So, it seems to me that what they're saying about [Able Danger] not being important is contradicted by the fact that he did tell me to contact him.

GSN:
Their statement, more or less, says, "We thought Able Danger was important, we looked into it but then reached the conclusion that either you weren't entirely credible or the information wasn't historically significant."

They might have cooled down a little bit. They might have been very hot when they first heard it, but then reached the conclusion, perhaps reasonably, perhaps unreasonably, that, "This isn't that significant after all."

SHAFFER:
I agree they may have reached that conclusion, but I believe the investigative rigor that would be required to reach that conclusion actually was not done. I'm a trained investigator myself, and you always ask Who, What, When, Where, Why, How. Can you do that in 30 days or 60 days after something like this is given to you?

Plus, I offered them access to my full copy of Able Danger documents. I let him know that because I was operating as Able Danger's forward headquarters -- because they were in Tampa or Texas -- to preclude having to bring all this classified information back and forth. I became their repository of both briefing charts, summations and authority documents, so they didn't have to worry about bringing all this classified material on aircraft.

Therefore, I had a full copy of this. I just kept it because I was worried about something like this happening one day. My former deputy was a finance officer. She kept immaculate records of all the legal documents. We had all this. I informed Dr. Zelikow that I had a copy of all this stuff and I offered it to him. I think that was one of the reasons he wanted me to re-contact him; so he could look at it.

GSN:
And what happened?

SHAFFER:
I returned in December [2003], took 30 days of leave, came back off of leave, and I called Dr. Zelikow's number on his card the first week of January [2004] Someone answers the phone and says, "Yes, we remember you. I will talk to Dr. Zelikow and find out when he wants you to come in."

A week goes by, no phone call back. I called them a week later and said, "Hey, what gives?"

"Yeah, we know who you are. ummmmm. Dr. Zelikow tells me that he does not see the need for you to come in. We have all the information on Able Danger."

This is the second week of January. To my knowledge, the Able Danger documentation, which they claimed that they did get, which was about two briefcase-sized containers, didn't show up until February or March. So, I don't know what they were looking at or what they'd been told about, but I can tell you, from my understanding, they did not have a full set of information at that point in time.

GSN:
What is your explanation for Zelikow's actions.

SHAFFER:
Based on my lawyer's recommendation, I want to remain tied to the facts that I'm aware of. There are some troubling timelines here. I told them about the set of documents in January. Then, in March of 2004, there are some allegations drummed up against me regarding $67 in phone charges, which were accumulated 25 cents at a time over 18 months. Even though when they told me about this issue, I offered to pay it back, they chose instead to spend in our estimation $400,000 to investigate all these issues simply to drum up this information. By the way, these allegations were refuted by the Army by the fact that in the same year, 2004, I was promoted on schedule to lieutenant colonel.

GSN:
So you're suggesting that based in part or entirely on your coming forward to the 9/11 Commission and raising these issues that that might have ruffled somebody's feathers?

SHAFFER:
There are some troubling facts that remain. The last time I saw the data I'm referring to is also the February 2004 timeframe. Since then, the data regarding the Able Danger set of documents has not been located.

A lot more to read: Government Security News

This could easily be Neo-Cons allowing an al-Queda attack, so America could be forced into the PNAC Plan (LIHOP, or Let It Happen On Purpose). Thinking that Lambert and Isler killed the Atta info, because they thought Atta and the Gang were US Persons, is just too ludicrous to consider for me.  

There is a lot more to this, especially when you put together the testimony from Paul O'Neil and Richard Clarke on how the obsession from the Neo-Cons--from Day One--was to find some way to attack Iraq.

But since the Democrats have no subpeona power and no spine anyhow there will be no investigation.  Specter promised to hold a hearing if Rumsfeld allows the agents to speak.  Since that will never happen, this will likely be my last diary on Able Danger as no new info will probably ever see the light of day.

All we will ever have is this interview, the suspended hearing, the Internet pages on this--and so another successful Neo-Con Coverup.

Congratulations to President Cheney.

Originally posted to Sherlock Google on Thu Sep 22, 2005 at 09:01 AM PDT.

Poll

Do you speculate the Atta ID was stopped due to LIHOP or Misreading of "US Persons" Regulation

93%31 votes
0%0 votes
6%2 votes

| 33 votes | Vote | Results

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Kudos to TopDog08 also for (none)
    putting the link and some of this interview on his blog!

    Who among us will create an Able Danger timeline for posterity?

  •  (Mis)underestimated (none)
    Clearly there are plenty of people on this site who know more about this than me.  But I always thought (perhaps assumed is a more accurate term) that the Bush administration had its head in the sand on 9/11 because they simply didn't believe that these little brown religious fanatics could actually pull it off.  I picture the Clinton people telling the Bush people about Al Queda and Condi, Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc. yawning back at them. This stuff just wasn't what turned them on.  The still had a very nation-state-entric view of the globe, and in fact they still do (which is basically what caused this war--they picked the nation state they liked the least and attacked it).  

    And I've read all these Able Danger diaries that SG has done such excellent work on.  I just don't see wat evidence forces us to leap to LIHOP.  I still picture the Bushies saying "[scoff] Able Danger.  Yeah whatever."  And I definitely don't see where this gets them closer to attacking Iraq.  If anything, it represented at best (and in reality) a temporary delay, and at worst (if the Democrats had found their gonads at any point int he last 4 years) an impediment, while the country insisted the focus on Al Queda and ignore the oil-rich real estate that they so coveted.

    I'm not saying it's not possible. And the very fact that the administration stonewalls and covers up about it is scandalous enough.  The fact that a LIHOP scenario is conceivable, based on these facts, and that their response is to stifle the information, rather than air the facts and level with the American people, that's damning enough.  Regardless of whether or not they actually had the type of malicious intent that so many folks here want to assign to them.  Specter agrees with this.  The whole hearing yesterday agreed with this.  And I wonder whether the fact that the story is always told as a means to a LIHOP theory on his site might actually discourage people like Olbermann from covering it more. If only because wingers will point to posts like this to construe the story as a tin-foil hat theory, rather than the national disgrace that it already, objectively has become.

    I understand that if I was convince that the administration had actually LIHOP, I would be obsessive and screaming about every chance I got.  But try to think about it from a PR, publicity perspective.  I think there's a god reason why kos hasn't front-paged these diaries yet--he already gets enough ink that marginalizes this community and accuses us all of being extremist whack jobs.  So in order to counter act that tag, we have to be very careful about avoiding leaps in logic when making our case against these bastards.

    Anyway, great work SG, et al.  God willing, we will win back either the house or the senate (or ideally both) and some subpeonas will get issued.  Until then, maybe some LTEs this week and calls to Olbermann?  Ideally ones that grant that the evidence allows for, but does not prove the LIHOP theory (which would be plenty disturbing to readers and viewers nonetheless).

    •  I believe that the 2006 election will be a (none)
      referendum on Bush, Cheney and Iraq.  Anything that makes the Republicans look bad is thus good for us.

      Rule of thumb with Neo-Cons:  Since we don't know what we don't know, and the Neo-Cons try to keep everything secret, whatever horrible suspicions you may have about what the Neo-Cons are hatching--TRIPLE that and you will come closer to the truth.

      •  asdf (none)
        I share this sentiment that you have about expecting the worst from them.  The problem is, it doesn't seem like an idea that you can lead with/frame around, with much success in our current media enviorment, or for that matter, any American media environment in history, pretty much, given the "objectivey" myth.  It's the kind of idea that people need to come to on their own after reviewing the hard evidence.  The evidence you have assembled is objectivrely staggering.  That's part of why your diaries hit the recommended list so often.  But to reach an audience outside this site, or even greater prominence on this site, it's important to play to the objectivity myth and let the facts speak for them selves and/or temper your editorial/theorizing with caveat that allow a reader who doesn't want to leap to your conclusion, nontheless be unsettled by the facts that you relay.
        •  I have been LIHOP for years (none)
          BUt never mentioned it on KOS because of this.

          I always thought that the US had Id'ed Atta.  Able Danger proved that.

          That was the only missing piece for me.  Zelikow's actions concerning Shaffer, however, covering it up from the 9-11 Commmission he was appointed to head, you must admit can only be explained by LIHOP.

          Unless you have another explanation.  There is no such thing as US Persons being the excuse there.  So why did Zelikow do what he did?

          You see Zelikow is just the icing of proof on the cake.  I can't help it if the media or the public is in denial.  If this were properly investigated, you would end up with LIHOP, IMHO.

          I calls them the way I sees 'em.  

          I do agree with allowing the reader to make up their mind and so have changed the tone and added a poll.

          I hope you and others approve of that.

          •  The poll (none)
            is probably the main reason I commented about this.  There are more than three choices here 1) being LIHOP, 2) being Zelikow could never tell a lie and 3) being I don't know.

            This is embarassing even if they just blew it off.  They would want to cover it up, even if it was simply that they didn't take terrorism seriously before 9/11.  In fact, that would be more damaging in some ways, because it is exactly what all of the public critics of the Bush White House's terrorism policy have argued, from Clarke on down.  

            And so you've nailed it.  They covered it up for the 9/11 commission.  They lied.  They admitted it yesterday.  Just let people stew ont hat. Get as many people as possible repeating that point.  Speculating about their motivation for lying an covering up can come later.  Preferably wit subpoena power, so that we can just go get the email from Cheney to Rumsfeld (or whoever) that says "This Atta guy could help us re: Iraq.  Don't let Clarke know." Until we can get that piece, speculating about their motivation undermines your stated goal of publicizing things that make them look bad, which consequently help us.  It gives people an excuse to dismiss your evidence.  Particularly when you openly state (or imply by way of a poll with ou statements) that the way you view this scenario, the only reason for a cover-up MUST be LIHOP.  I swear, if the story were just the cover up, without the LIHOP attached, we would have seen he footage of those hearing on Olbermann and maybe TDS already.

          •  are you aware... (none)
            ...of this discussion about your diaries?

            http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/9/22/152553/753

            Jesus: "Destroy this Temple" - Gospel of John

            by The Gnostic on Thu Sep 22, 2005 at 01:54:15 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Put another way... (none)
        Anything that makes the Republicans look bad is good for us.  And we want that thing hat makes them look bad to reach the widest possible audience, to maximize that good.  So why force a theory about the events on to the story, especially when it has the effect of limiting the story's reach on this site, let alone in the media at large.

        Again I really respect and appreciate your work.  But a big part of the reason why SusanG, et al. got so much play for Gannon was because they developed the story with a method that did not stray very far (if at all) from the dictates of U.S. journalism's dogma about "objectivity." They stuck to the facts.

  •  How convenient (none)
    Your clip from the interview begins right after this exchange:

    GSN:
    At what stage does the Able Danger team say, "We've got some pretty hot information here, and we should share this with somebody"?

    SHAFFER:
    Capt. Philpott came to me and said, "Based on our internal discussions within Able Danger, we are concerned by the fact that this appears to be a group of terrorists here within the United States." It was at that point in time that he asked me to broker a relationship or a meeting with the FBI.

    Keep in mind, I had been asked to develop a parallel, but different, capability for the FBI on one of their terrorist targets overseas. So, at that point in time, I was negotiating with the FBI about parameters and scope of support. The same basic team that was doing the SOCOM stuff was going to be assembled to support the FBI mission as well. That includes some of the same data miners, the same technicians, the same analysts.

    GSN:
    And you're fronting for them?

    SHAFFER:
    I'm fronting for them too, yes.

    GSN:
    So, at the same time you're being asked to set up a meeting with the FBI regarding Able Danger, you're already talking to the FBI about using almost the same data mining resources on another FBI program.

    SHAFFER:
    Absolutely correct. That was why it was so logical for Scott to come to us and ask for that support. So, I called my FBI point of contact and said, "Hey, I'd like to link the special operations guys up. They're doing a mission -- I can't tell you about it -- but I'd like to make a meeting for FBI and your `Bubbas' to meet with them and discuss the information they have."

    GSN:
    When was that?

    SHAFFER:
    My best recollection is between summer of 2000 and fall of 2000, somewhere in that like. Now, I did not personally set up all the meetings. The one I do recall personally setting up was the last one. That I recall was where the O6 colonel in charge of Able Danger, was supposed to meet with officers of the FBI at the FBI's Washington Field Office to discuss this issue. I personally got the phone number from my FBI point of contact, called the WFO folks and said "This colonel from SOCOM is going to come talk to you. Please receive him."

    GSN:
    Okay. What happened?

    SHAFFER:
    The colonel never showed up. Later, I found out from Captain Philpott that the reason the colonel didn't show up was because he was told not to.

    GSN:
    Why not?

    SHAFFER:
    I learned from Capt. Philpot during my next trip down to Tampa that the lawyers had gotten involved and recommended to the chain of command that they not pass the information. According to Captain Philpot -- and again you'll have to ask him directly -- it went up to the J3, the operations officer, a two-star general at Special Operations Command, where lawyers and Captain Philpot both briefed and the general came down on the side of the lawyers.

    The thinking at the time this was going on was that there was an investigation of Special Operations Command regarding its support to the siege of the Branch Davidians [which had taken place in Waco, TX, in 1993].

    The concern, as I understand it from talking to Captain Philpott, was that if SOCOM shares this sensitive [terrorist] information with the FBI, and the FBI takes action with it, and something goes wrong, we at SOCOM will get blamed for the bad outcome.

    GSN:
    Typically, in a military organization, the legal department acts as an advisor to the commander.

    SHAFFER:
    Absolutely.

    GSN:
    The legal department doesn't make the decision; the legal department whispers into the ear of the commander who makes the decision to either overrule them or overrule you.

    SHAFFER:
    Right.

    You also clip out this:

    GSN:
    Are you suggesting that some or all of the information related to the four terrorist cells outside the U.S. was put into some sort of operational hands overseas -- CIA or whatever -- and actions were taken to do something with that information?

    SHAFFER:
    I have to use this phrase, "I can neither confirm nor deny what happened to the other elements or aspects of the information."

    GSN:
    Are you telling me that there was some good to come out of Able Danger?

    SHAFFER:
    Yes, the part that the lawyers did approve and tell us that we could do was the overseas part.

    This, and this discussion preceding it concerning the discussions with lawyers regarding data mining and privacy concerns virtually wipes out any LIHOP tin foil hatting.

    You also omit this crucial exchange:

    SHAFFER:
    The ultimate goal is what created this whole event to begin with. The intent of Congressman Weldon, and the Army and maybe the leadership was to re-create this [data mining] capability. That's why this all came up. In the January / February timeframe, we started down the path with Captain Philpott in the lead, saying, "We need to look at how we can recreate the suite of Able Danger capabilities."

    That's when I came into it, because of my knowledge of, and having managed part of the process last time. Army and Navy went to Weldon and said, "Wouldn't it be great if we had some funding for this?" That's the key. [Rep.Weldon] asked the hard question, "What happened to the previous iteration of this?" And that's when the story came out.

    I can tell you that both Army and Navy had told us to tell the truth to Congress about what happened. That is a fact. Every time we've talked to Army and Navy leadership, they've said, "Tell the truth." And that is what we've tried to do here. The only reason that this is now in front of the public is because [Congressman Weldon] had the courage to take that information and to do something with it.

    I believe it was his intent to put it into the record on 27 June 2005, just to justify the expense of putting this into the upcoming FY2006 appropriations bill. But that was the ultimate objective here -- to build something called Able Providence. Able Providence being the follow up to [Able Danger.] In the simplest terms, to create a global, 21st century armored cavalry capability. Again, the idea here, going back to Gettysburg, when General Buford went after and seized the high ground of Gettysburg. That was a decisive point of that battle.

    GSN:
    What is the specific recommendation that you may have carried to Congressman Weldon and sought funds for? What's the essence of what that program would be all about?

    SHAFFER:
    Two parts. First is something called Kimberlite Magic which is the database / technology piece, which was essentially the LIWA technology piece - the data mining, the Spire, the Parentage, all those different software packages doing what LIWA did. That very smart data mining / intelligence neural-netting and processing capability.

    Kimblerlite is the tunnel from which diamonds are pushed through the earth towards the surface. A great deal of pressure presses the diamonds.

    GSN:
    That's the first of two parts.

    SHAFFER:
    Right and Able Providence is going to be the larger piece of that which basically uses complex data display tools to allow operational planners, such as myself, who are technology novices, to look at and make sense of the data.

    GSN:
    How much were you looking for in terms of funding? What's the dollar value?

    SHAFFER:
    You'll laugh. We're talking about less than $50 million dollars for the entire thing and that's small bucks compared to other programs. Just for the technology, we're talking about $13 million for the Navy, probably about another $12 or $13 million for the Army. With some other upgrades and personnel issues, we're talking about under $50 million dollars.

    GSN:
    Is that money in the 2006 bill? Where does it stand?

    SHAFFER:
    The last time I discussed this, and this is actually my real job right now, we're working with a senior staffer. He's already notified both the Army and the Navy that the intent is for the Hill to fund this capability. So, that's where the negotiation is right now.

    GSN:
    So, if all is said and done and this whole hullabaloo gets this Kimblerlite Magic and Able Providence launched, it will be a success?

    SHAFFER:
    That will be success. That's all I want.

    GSN:
    It's a hell of a lot of effort to go through to get a measly $50 million. Usually, a senior congressman, like Curt Weldon, can get a $50 million program done over lunch; over a bowl of soup.

    SHAFFER:
    That's what we're going for. All this public stuff was not our intent. Our intent was simply and quietly to get this capability up-and-running, and focused on the fact that warfare has changed. Fundamentally, we want to find a way to change the culture to match the new war fighting thinking. To be entrepreneurial, to use this technology to establish partnerships of the willing, people who are willing to partner with us.

    Just like we did in the original Able Danger concept, you took three separate organizations, Army, SOCOM and DIA, small components of each, focused them on one problem. It was like, if you don't mind me saying, a big apprentice task: go after Al Qaeda. That's what we're talking about here. Just being able to think out of the box, to get out of the normal government channels and think like a businessman.

    GSN:
    Just out of curiosity, why was Congressman Weldon willing to talk first with GSN about Able Danger?

    SHAFFER:
    You're an insider magazine. There was a belief that if we're going to talk about this with anyone, you'd be the best to get this word out to government insiders because they would take notice of it. And the idea here is to show people, "Hey, this happened before. We want to do it again," and in some ways maybe even elicit some support from the government to move this forward.

    I've said it in comments before, and now I'll say it again: you are doing their work for them.

    Shaffer is nothing more than a lobbyist, trying to get funding for something that could end up being a form of Big Brother.

  •  The lawyers (none)
    How come we don't even know their names, let alone have their accounts of this story?
Click here for the mobile view of the site