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John Gibson Licking His Chops at Able Danger

Reported by Judy - August 17, 2005

John Gibson cannot wait for more information about Able Danger to surface so that he can blame President Clinton again for 9/11. On Wednesday (August 17, 2005), he asked, "Does this ultimately come down to somebody in the Clinton administration never took Mohammad Atta seriously enough?" and then missed a chance to ask somebody who might have an opinion.

Gibson, the big blond buffoon of afternoon news, asked Fox News National Correspondent Catherine Herridge the question after her report on Able Danger, which included snippets of a recorded interview with Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and then a brief live interview.

Shaffer was part of the highly secret army intelligence effort, called Able Danger, which used data mining techniques to identify patterns of activity based on publicly available information that would indicate if someone might be a terrorist. Shaffer said this included looking at air travel, car rentals, immigration records, and so on, with the aid of a computer program.

Shaffer said that in the summer of 2000 he had arranged three meetings with the FBI to pass information on to them about two of the three cells of the terrorists involved in 9/11 but all three meetings were cancelled by Special Operations Command. Later, in a brief live interview, Gibson asked Shaffer who prevented him from sharing the information. Shaffer said "the lawyers" did.

And what was Gibson's follow-up? Gibson did not have a follow-up. Gibson, who wants so desperately to prove Clinton knew about 9/11 all along and let it happen anyway because he is an evil liberal, did not ask for the names of the lawyers. He did not ask Shaffer if he thought the lawyers were acting on their own beliefs or were receiving instructions from above. It is not as though Gibson was running out of time. After all, his show is a full hour long and it is called "The Big Story" so he ought to be able to spend, oh, maybe 20 minutes on the Big Story of the day.

Gibson instead asked Herridge the question, and all she could do was say she was "going to be interested to see in the next six months" whether a military lawyer made the decision or whether "they were really taking their directions from some one higher up in Washington. I think that's sort of the critical point." Well, duh. Also kind of critical is that the Department of Defense during the Clinton Administration was headed by a Republican.

Gibson then brought on a former CIA officer, Michael Swetnam, to repeat the erroneous information that "regulations that were in place at the time actually made it illegal to share that information." Gibson suggested that the 9/11 commission didn't want to hear Shaffer's story because a member of the panel, Jamie Gorelick, "enforced the wall that didn't allow agencies to talk to each other."

As Media Matters for America has explained repeatedly, no such "wall" existed. Gorelick wrote a memo explaining the procedures that should be followed so that shared information would be admissible in court. The memo, however, was misinterpreted and misapplied by the FBI and that is what prevented the sharing. The 9/11 commission concluded that more information could have been shared had the agency followed the procedures properly. Yet conservatives keep repeating the same stale lies about "the wall" and Jamie Gorelick.

I hope Herridge is wrong and that it doesn't take six months to get to the bottom of this. Right now, it is only Shaffer claiming that when he tried to tell the 9/11 Commission about Able Danger's cancelled meetings, he mentioned Mohammad Atta's name. Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pennsylvania, had said previously that he saw Atta's name on documents that were given to the commission, but he now says he can't remember for sure if Atta's name was on them. Without Atta's name, Shaffer's information may not have seemed of much value to the commission since it already had identified the problem of agencies' failure to share information.

I wish Shaffer would have come forward earlier. He says the 9/11 Commission told him in January 2004 that they didn't need his information. Now, 20 months later, he comes forward. That doesn't
mean his information is wrong, but holy cow if I thought such an important commission had made a big mistake I would have tracked down a good reporter and not let go until he or she believed me and wrote a story about it.

Finding out what happened before 9/11 is too important to allow things like this to be swept under the rug or ignored. That's how conspiracy theories start. As things stand right now, the Pentagon for starters has some explaining to do.

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