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.
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.
Who was the commander at the time? General Pete Schoomaker?
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.
This is below the level of General Schoomaker.
I'm confident that General Schoomaker was never told of this.
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.
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.
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.
Did you take that as his personal philosophy or was that somehow reflective of a larger administration view?
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.
How do you explain his objections to your various activities?
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.
Did it end Able Danger altogether?
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.
What was the name of the general who said "No, this is not your job."
General Rod Isler.
He sounds like a bit of a heavy in the story.
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.]
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?
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."
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?
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.
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."
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.
How did the thought dawn on you -- or another Able Danger colleague -- that you should talk to the 9/11 Commission?
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.]
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.
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.
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?
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."
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.
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."
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.
And what happened?
I returned in December , 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  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.
What is your explanation for Zelikow's actions.
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.
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?
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.