Friday, August 26, 2005

Specter seeks documents on Able Danger

The Able Danger controversy has apparently prompted at least one prominent senator to seek some answers:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked the FBI to hand over all information about a secret military intelligence unit that purportedly identified September 11 mastermind Mohamed Atta as a terrorist a year before the terrorism attacks.

Two military officers, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and Capt. Scott Philpott, contend that a unit code-named "Able Danger" used data mining -- searching large amounts of data for patterns -- to identify Atta in 2000. Shaffer has said three other September 11 hijackers were also identified.

In a letter to FBI director Robert Mueller, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, asked the agency for "all information and documents it has" on Able Danger, Shaffer, Philpott and any other people linked to the operation. The letter, dated Wednesday and distributed Thursday to reporters, also seeks a meeting between Specter's staff and FBI agent Xanthig Mangum.

A handwritten note at the bottom says, "Bob, I'd like to move head on this ASAP."

Sounds like a man of action. Only I'm not buying it. Specter enjoys the friendships and perks he has accumulated as a long-time senator and you will never see him do anything to rock the boat. At most he will glance over the FBI documents, make a big show over a couple of key points that "concern" him, and then drop the matter citing lack of evidence.

What we need is a truly independent investigatory body with no conflict of interest. The 9/11 panel was doomed from the start because of Gorelick and the Pentagon has too many officials it wants to protect. Same thing with the CIA. So why not go outside the government and hire an independent firm in the private sector to investigate it? Set some ground rules, give them clearance and subpoena power wherever they may need it and let them have at it?

I think I'll ring up GW right now and run it by him.