Chairman Specter's time expires, and Senator Kyl resumes the questioning.
Senator Kyl. I am trying to now, having served on the Intelligence Committee for 8 years, I can understand why there might be some nervousness about this, so I am going to try to put on a hat and be the most restrictive devil's advocate here and try to figure out why they might want to restrict this information.
For example, data mining is known to be a method for intelligence collection and it is just now beginning to be something that is utilized, and this was one of the first significant uses of it, as I understand it. That is a method of intelligence gathering. What do you know about the point that perhaps one of the reasons why they don't want a lot of public testimony about this is that it might reveal capabilities, methodology that might be relevant to, A, future intelligence gathering, and B, might conceivably tip somebody off that they may or may not have been a part of an investigation related to data mining? From all of your discussions of this, could that be part of the reason? And if it is, why would that necessarily limit most of the things that you have talked about here?
Representative Weldon. Well, it wouldn't. It has been a reason given, and I share the gentleman's concern for security. We served together on the Armed Services Committee for a number of years, and as the Vice Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, I would never do anything to reveal classified data. So that would never be an intent of mine.
This information was largely open source. From 1999, I started pursuing the prototype that the Army had developed at our legal facility at Fort Belvoir. I was the oversight Chairman of the Committee that funded it. I was enamored with their capability and I saw tremendous potential. In fact, I had experience in 1999 that I will go into, but it would take some time, if you want as to how I saw the CIA and the FBI did not have the capability.
I took a delegation of ten members to Vienna to meet with five Russians to find a common foundation in the Kosovo War. Before I left, the Russians told me they were bringing a Serb. I called George Tenet at the CIA and said, can you run me a profile of this Serb. He gave me two sentences. I called the Army's Information Dominance Center, which I had a good relationship with. I said to the folks down there, Dr. Heath and Dr. Preisser, can you run me a profile? They unofficially gave me, like, eight or ten pages of information.
When I came back from that trip, I got a call from the FBI and the CIA to debrief them on what I knew about the Serb, and the CIA said, Congressman, when I said, why is this so urgent, they said, "We have been tasked by the State Department to brief our Ambassador negotiating the end of the war and you met with this person, so we want you to debrief our people." So I had four agents in my office for 2 hours and I gave them all that I knew, and when I ended, I said, now, do you know where I got my data from? They said, "Well, you got it from the Russians." I said, no. "Well, you got it from the Serb." I said, no. I said, before I left America, I called the Army's Information Dominance Center. They ran me a profile and gave me eight to ten pages of open source information. The FBI and the CIA said, "What is the Army's Information Dominance Center?"
It was then that I developed a nine-page briefing called the NOAH, a National Operations and Analysis Hub. John Hamre agreed with my assessment that this was critically important, and it was developed by intelligence people, not by me. On November 4 of 1999, 2 years before 9/11, I had the CIA, the FBI, and DOD in my office at John Hamre's suggestion to brief them on creating what today exists, the TTIC and now the NCTC. And the CIA at the end of the briefing said, "We don't need that. It is not necessary."
And so as a result, before 9/11, I felt I did not push hard enough against the system to put into place a mechanism that today is in place that might have helped us understand what was about to happen.
There's a great deal in that passage.
What strikes me most is that the CIA wanted this information so badly, and had no source for it, but then, when presented with a means to acquire it, replied, "We don't need that. It is not necessary."
What I find most interesting and significant is that neither the CIA nor the FBI were even aware of Able Danger, yet, in late 1999, they got an education, finding out just how useful it could be.
If someone knew that 9/11 was on the drawing board, and wanted it to happen, Able Danger might seem to that someone to be a very able danger indeed.
Senator Kyl. But there is nothing from your knowledge here that would prevent testimony in general about what was done here?
Representative Weldon. No. We would never get into specifics.
Senator Kyl. Sure.
Representative Weldon. Nothing in general.
Senator Kyl. And then, just a second, a little bit of time. The matter of Posse Comitatus, is it your belief that it was a significant factor in the decision both to destroy the information and not to provide testimony here that there might have been--that there was a concern that perhaps they had gone too far in gathering information about people who were legally in the United States and that they might not have been authorized to do that and that might be one of the reasons for the reluctance to testify, as well as the destruction of the--
Representative Weldon. That might be a reason, but to me, that is absolutely unacceptable. I mean, these are terrorists. If they are terrorists in the United States and we were monitoring them or had information from open sources, then I think our law enforcement community had a right to know that. We are not--I mean, our Republican and Democrat Parties transfer this information to ID voters. It is called Vote Smart. I mean, we can use it for voter ID, but we can't use it to identify people in this country that are involved in terrorism? I mean, cut me a break.
There is something wrong with this system, and at a minimum, we should have been able to discuss that. That is what we are all about as policy makers. But to clamp down on this and to do it with such venom, to me, it is mysterious. I don't understand it.
This is the part that bothers me.
1) The Bush Administration has pushed for waterboarding alleged terrorists and for "enhanced interrogation" of "detainees",
2) The Bush Administration has held a US citizen as an enemy combatant, denying him basic legal protections that are not supposed to be withheld from US citizens except under circumstances where the civilian court system is not functioning,
3) The Bush Administration has pushed for warrantless spying on anyone that it deems may be connected with terrorism, even beyond the relatively permissive bounds of FISA,
we are to believe that they don't want military officers and Defense Department employees to testify before Congress because they are concerned that these Able Danger people, who are working with publicly available information, may have gone too far in collecting information about terrorists.
That dog just don't hunt!
The pattern that I see is that the Bush Administration wants power to do whatever it wants against anyone it perceives as an enemy -- which we are going to be told is a terrorist, whether or not evidence to support that is presented -- while denying any significant, objective review of information collected or oversight of the actions of the executive branch.
This is consistent with what Sibel Edmonds alleges, that government officials are abusing the system to cover up their own criminal activities.
In fact, it is consistent with government officials abusing the system to enable and further their own criminal activities, and then to obstruct any investigation thereof.
The mice are in charge of the cheese.
Senator Kyl concludes, and Chairman Specter passes the floor to Senator Grassley, who has to depart due to work dealing with Hurricane Katrina.
Senator Grassley. [continuing]. And I have got questions in writing for two witnesses, and I do have something that I want to say at this point beyond that statement and that is to compliment the Congressman for your work.
It is just so reminiscent of everything I have run into, not just with the Defense Department, but bureaucracy generally and maybe the Defense Department to some extent, just a little bit worse than others. But what you say you don't understand is an institutional disease that we have that if the information that you want out got out, people would have egg on their face. They are just going to try to wait you out.
I hope that, Senator Specter, you won't let that happen. Whatever it takes to get this information out needs to be gotten out, not just to back up Congressman Weldon's work, but more importantly, just the fact that Congress has to fulfill its constitutional responsibility of oversight. We all want to brag about the legislating we are doing, but quite frankly, in this day and age, I think we do a more responsible job for our constituents, what we do through Congressional oversight to make sure that these laws are faithfully executed and that money spent according to Congressional intent, and in particular now when we are in this war on terrorism, we have got to get all the information out we can.
You can't have somebody hiding information from Congress under the ridiculous idea that we might be compromising national security when you and I can buy that very same information. And more importantly, what can be done in a closed session of the Congress if it can't be done in open session.
What the Bush Administration was saying about this open-source information, data that is publicly available and that was collected and compiled by Able Danger, is that the Defense Department is not allowed to talk about it.
This is information comparable to the contents of newspaper articles, magazine articles, telephone books, and so on.
Government officials were directed to not talk about it with Congress, not even in a closed-door session where classified information is routinely addressed.
This reminds me of the way Sibel Edmonds was gagged: her entire case, including basic facts about her life, her education, and so on, is deemed to be a state secret.
Sibel Edmonds stated that it is criminal activity that is being covered up.
What is obvious to me at this point is that it is Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush who were covering it up in the case of Able Danger.
That means that Bush and Cheney were logically behind the Attorney General's efforts to gag Edmonds.
Otherwise, we would have to believe that all these lower-level players, from the cabinet level on down, are independently involved in criminal activity, and Bush and Cheney alone know nothing about any of it.
I'm sure that is what Bush and Cheney will plead when this finally breaks.
Really, what is at stake here is not, again, Congressman Weldon. What is at stake here is whether or not Congress is going to fulfill its constitutional responsibility and whether or not we are going to let people that come up here with a lot of ribbons and a lot of stars on their shoulders or political appointees of the same Department just embarrass us and get away with it.
I know that you are not a Senator that is going to be embarrassed, and whatever I can do to help you, count on me helping you, because we must get to the bottom of this.
Thank you for being a great American.
Representative Weldon. Thank you, Senator.
Indeed, what is at stake is the very essence of our way of government -- whether we will continue to be a republic with democratic principles, or whether we will be a dictatorship.
Chairman Specter and Senator Grassley exchange a few jokes, and then Chairman Specter continues:
Chairman Specter. [snip]
Congressman Weldon, you had testified that at one juncture, there was an effort made to turn over this information to the FBI. Could you amplify that, please?
Representative Weldon. Yes. Lieutenant Colonel Shaffer was prepared to testify--his lawyer will testify today--that he on three occasions set up meetings with the FBI Washington Field Office. The woman who set those meetings up is prepared to testify. Your staff has met with her and they have interviewed with her and she also was prohibited from testifying. But she knew the purpose of the meetings. The meetings were designed to allow the Special Forces Unit of Able Danger to transfer relevant information that they thought important to the FBI about the Brooklyn cell, which included Mohammed Atta and three of the terrorists. This information was largely gathered from open sources. On three separate occasions in September of 2000, at the last minute, lawyers, I assume from within DOD, and we still haven't determined who made the ultimate decision, but lawyers determined that those meetings could not take place and they were shut down.
The Army had information on the Brooklyn cell of Al Qaeda, tried to give it to the FBI, and somebody -- presumably from the Department of Defense -- shut that down, so the Able Danger information about Al Qaeda couldn't get passed to the FBI.
Was someone running interference for Al Qaeda?
Was someone making sure the dots didn't get connected?
Had somebody discovered Able Danger, realized how powerful it was -- after all, it had beaten both the CIA and the FBI to the punch and had gotten information about that Serb -- and realized it was about to blow wide open the terrorist attack that Al Qaeda was preparing for 2001, a terrorist attack which would, we understand, end in the destruction of four airliners, the Twin Towers, a wing at the Pentagon -- including the deaths of thousands of people -- and which would spark a War on Terror?
Later, the Defense Department prohibited DOD personnel from testifying about Able Danger to Congress.
What are they hiding?