- The Washington Times - Friday, September 2, 2005

The Pentagon said yesterday that three more persons who worked on a top-secret data mining project now corroborate claims that it identified the September 11 ringleader as linked to al Qaeda more than a year before the attack.

But officials have been unable to find the chart the three recall seeing. The documents generated by the project — code-named Able Danger — likely were destroyed in 2001 as a matter of routine.

“We have identified three other individuals … who have a recollection of a chart with a photo of Mohamed Atta or a reference to Mohamed Atta … pre-September 11,” said Pat Downs, a senior policy analyst in the office of Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone.

Two persons who worked on the project, which looked for associations, patterns and linkages to known al Qaeda supporters in commercially available data, already had come forward.

Army Reserve Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, who was a civilian analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Navy Capt. Scott Philpott, Able Danger’s team leader, have said the effort generated a chart in early 2000 that bore the names of Atta and three other September 11 hijackers.

Miss Downs said the other three persons who recalled references to Atta were from U.S. Special Operations Command, the Army’s Land Information Warfare Activity and a defense contractor called Orion. The three were among more than 80 people interviewed by defense officials as part of a major Pentagon probe into the Able Danger claims.

She said one of them remembered a chart “with a reference to Mohamed Atta,” and the other four a chart bearing his photograph.

She said, however, that despite an extensive search of documents related to the project, no copies of the chart, and no documents referring to it, had been found.

“These people are credible people,” she said of the five who recalled the chart, but added: “We haven’t found any corroborating evidence.”

She said that documents from the project had been destroyed, in accordance with regulations designed to prevent U.S. intelligence agencies from spying on citizens.

“There are strict regulations about collection, dissemination and destruction procedures for this type of information,” she told a briefing for reporters at the Pentagon. “We know that that did happen in the case of Able Danger documentation” on other topics.

She said the regulations had been “very strictly interpreted pre-September 11.”

Thomas Gandy, the Army’s head of counterintelligence and human intelligence, added that the documentation would have been destroyed as a matter of standard operating procedure at the time — “in compliance with our intelligence-oversight directives.”

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