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Hannity's Hackneyed Histrionics Over 9/11

Reported by Ellen - October 23, 2005

Poor Sean Hannity. As the Bush Administration sinks deeper into the mire, his only recourse seems to be to keep attacking Clinton and Democrats. Friday night, 10/21/05, Hannity put on his most earnest, his most self-righteous face of indignation as he and Republican Congressman Curt Weldon attacked the Clinton Administration for its supposed failures in the pre-9/11 "Able Danger" warnings. It's funny how the only mistakes worth discussing were made by the Clinton Administration and how there was no other guest to balance Weldon's very partisan and controverted accusations. Even so, Hannity had to rely on distortions and untruths.

The Able Danger story, for those not already familiar with it, broke last August when, Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and Navy Capt. Scott Philpott, went public with claims that a secret unit, code-named Able Danger, used data mining — searching large amounts of data for patterns — to identify 9/11 ringleader Mohammad Atta in 2000, i.e. while Bill Clinton was still president. Shaffer also claimed that Clinton's Pentagon staff blocked the group from sharing the information with the FBI out of concern about (as MSNBC put it) "gathering and sharing information on people in the United States legally."

Alan Colmes started off the discussion by saying that former Republican senator and 9/11 Commissioner Slade Gorton reported that a "broad and deep" Pentagon investigation found no evidence that Mohammad Atta was identified by Able Danger one year ahead of 9/11.

Curt Weldon said that was not correct, that the Pentagon "has, in fact, publicly affirmed" that five military leaders identified Attah prior to 9/11 and "they don't discredit any of those five leaders. They don't attempt to say it's not true.... So what Slade Gordon said is not true."

While it's true that the Pentagon didn't "discredit" Shaffer and Philpott, that's not the same thing as affirming their allegations. MSNBC.com states,

The intelligence officials said they consider the five people to be credible but their recollections are still unverified... (The Pentagon) interviewed at least 80 people over a three-week period and found three, besides Philpott and Shaffer, who said they remember seeing a chart that either mentioned Atta by name as an al-Qaida operative or showed his photograph. Four of the five recalled a chart with a pre-9/11 photo of Atta; the other person recalled only a reference to his name.

...To date, we have not identified the chart,” said Pat Downs, a senior policy analyst in the office of the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. “We have identified a similar chart but it does not contain the photo of Mohamed Atta or a reference to him or a reference to the other (9/11) hijackers.

..Downs and the other officials said they could not rule out that the chart recalled by Shaffer, Philpott and three others had been destroyed in compliance with regulations pertaining to intelligence information about people inside the United States. They also did not rule out that the five simply had faulty recollections (my emphasis).

While the Able Danger claims may warrant further investigation, they remain unverified. When it was Hannity's turn, the caution he advocated in the Tom DeLay accusations and the report of US soldiers burning bodies in Afghanistan disappeared. Suddenly, the five Able Danger "identifiers" had morphed into seven and Hannity emphatically adopted Weldon's view without bothering to mention that there might be another side to the story.

For example, the same Pentagon just held up as "affirming" Able Danger's claims was also condemned by both Weldon and Hannity for having taking "retribution" against Shaffer by revoking his security clearance. Nobody mentioned that some of the accusations made by the Pentagon raise serious questions about Shaffer's integrity and character. The alleged infractions include obtaining a service medal under false pretenses, improperly flashing military identification while drunk and stealing pens, according to military paperwork shown by his attorney to The Associated Press.

Rather than aiming for balance and reason (as the 9/11 Commission has), Weldon hammered on the Clinton connection as if that, in itself, proved wrongdoing. Weldon claimed that the person who debriefed Philpott did not brief the 9/11 Commissioners. Weldon added that the debriefer was a staffer for 9/11 Commissioner and former Clinton appointee Jamie Gorelick. No other consideration was given to why the staffer might not have forwarded the information. For example, Weldon didn't mention that, as The Washington Post, (via Media Matters) has reported, "The Sept. 11 panel said it did not find Phillpott's assertions credible because there were no documents to support them, and because Atta did not first travel to the United States until June 2000," at least four months after Phillpott claims that Able Danger identified Atta in Brooklyn, New York.

Never one to miss an opportunity to attack a Democrat, especially Clinton, Hannity used Weldon's opening to dust off one of his old, tried and untrue distortions about Clinton. "Just like they ignored the tape of Clinton saying that he was offered bin Laden on a silver plater. Clinton admitted it in his own words."

Buzzer: Hannity is either lying or misinformed (neither reflect well on a national news host). As Media Matters reported, "The false claim originated in an August 11, 2002, article on the right-wing news website NewsMax.com that blared the headline 'Clinton Admits: I Nixed Bin Laden Extradition Offer,' distorting a speech Clinton made in 2002. While he did acknowledge in a July 8 interview with CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour that he mistakenly implied that the United States was offered bin Laden in that 2002 speech, at no point did Clinton say that Sudan offered bin Laden to the United States in the speech... Clinton further refuted the allegation in a June 20 interview on CBS's 60 Minutes when he said: 'There was a story which is factually inaccurate that the Sudanese offered bin Laden to us. ... As far as I know, there is not a shred of evidence of that.'"

Tell FOX News that a real "real journalism" network doesn't allow its employees to distort the truth. comments@foxnews.com

Tell Sean Hannity that ignorance is unbecoming in a news host. Hannity@foxnews.com

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