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Pentagon to release report on September 11 claims

Reuters / David Morgan and Kristin Roberts | September 21 2006

The Pentagon's inspector general will release a report in the coming days that is expected to refute claims that an Army intelligence unit had information that could have thwarted the September 11 attacks, officials said on Wednesday.

The report, the result of a Defense Department probe launched last October, was expected to be issued by acting Pentagon inspector general Thomas Gimble as early as Thursday, military and congressional officials said.

Former members of the data-mining unit code-named Able Danger and their Republican champion in Congress, Rep. Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, have maintained for over a year that Able Danger uncovered intelligence on September 11 mastermind Mohamed Atta and others in 2000 that should have been a tip-off of the attacks.

The September 11, 2001 attacks killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania and prompted the Bush administration's war on terrorism.

A spokesman for Weldon's office acknowledged that a final draft of the report was "imminent" but said he could not discuss the contents of the document.

Officials from Gimble's office were expected to brief Weldon about their findings on Thursday and then release the report on the Defense Department web site www.defenselink.mil, officials said.

Two officials familiar with the contents of the report said it substantially undermines claims put forward by Weldon and former Able Danger members.

Weldon and former unit members including former Defense Intelligence Agency liaison officer Lt. Col Anthony Shaffer maintain that Able Danger identified Atta and three other hijackers as al Qaeda members in early 2000. But he said Pentagon lawyers prevented the team from warning the FBI.

Officials said the inspector general specifically investigated charges that the Defense Intelligence Agency retaliated against Shaffer for his public remarks about the Able Danger findings.

The inspector general began reviewing the case of Able Danger after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld received a written request on October 20, 2005, from Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services.

Others associated with Able Danger, including the team's former leader, Navy Capt. Scott Phillpott, have made statements similar to Shaffer's.

But an earlier exhaustive Pentagon search of tens of thousands of documents and electronic files related to the operation failed to corroborate the claims.

Officials with House and Senate intelligence oversight committees have also said there is little substantiating evidence.

 

 

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