- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Pentagon’s top intelligence official told Congress yesterday that his investigation turned up no chart or photo depicting hijacker Mohamed Atta before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but a Republican lawmaker accused the Bush administration of ignoring evidence.

Testimony before two House Armed Services subcommittees marked the first time that Stephen Cambone, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, testified in public about an intelligence collection program from 1999 through 2000 called Able Danger.

But the hearing did not appear to answer the question about whether Able Danger singled out Atta as an al Qaeda-connected operative more than a year before the attacks.

Mr. Cambone said his probe, which took “6,500 man-hours” and 50 interviews, found no documents to support the statements of five former or current officials who say they remember seeing Atta’s name or photo among the thousands that turned up in Able Danger’s computer-generated data mining that started in 1999.

“The review did not uncover a chart or charts with information on 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta that predated the 9/11 attack,” Mr. Cambone testified. “Nor did the review discover any data — hard copy or soft — that provided information on Atta prior to the 9/11 attacks.”

Rep. Curt Weldon, Pennsylvania Republican, has been on a campaign to prove that such an identification was made.

“There has been no investigation,” Mr. Weldon said during a hearing in which several members deferred their 10-minute allotment to him. “There has been no analysis by the 9/11 commission or anyone else.”

Mr. Weldon has said the Clinton administration destroyed Able Danger documents, shut down the program and prevented intelligence officers from sharing the information with the FBI.

He has said the September 11 commission ignored evidence from Defense Intelligence Agency officer Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and failed to include anything about Able Danger in the commission’s report. He also has charged that the Bush administration refuses to follow leads he finds.

“Is this a massive effort to deny reality?” he asked.

Mr. Weldon leveled new charges yesterday:

• A retired official told him that an aide to Mr. Cambone said the Pentagon wanted to kill the Able Danger story.

• Another retired intelligence officer is ready to sign an affidavit saying that he, too, remembers hearing the name Mohamed Atta before September 11, 2001.

• Reporters for Time magazine and CNN told Mr. Weldon that Pentagon officials told them that the reason he was investigating Able Danger was because one of the whistleblowers was having an affair with one of the lawmaker’s staffers. Mr. Weldon said he knew of no affair.

Mr. Cambone testified that the reason the documents were destroyed during the Clinton administration was to comply with laws prohibiting keeping data for more than 90 days. He also said the FBI maintains that no one blocked meetings between Mr. Shaffer and federal agents.

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