Weldon on the Warpath

Weldon on the WarpathGOP congressman demands answers on operation that tracked 9/11 hijackers

Representative Curt Weldon, Republican from Pennsylvania, has declared war on his own Defense Department. Upset with the Defense Intelligence Agency over its continuing refusal to allow public scrutiny of the controversial Able Danger ‘information warfare’ program (which identified Mohammed Atta and three other 9/11 hijackers a year before the World Trade Center attacks,) as well as transparent DIA attempts to smear whistleblower Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, Weldon is calling for a full “felony investigation” of DIA’s actions by the Defense Department Inspector General.

As first reported here (10/10/05 ) DIA recently returned several boxes of “personal items” to Lt. Col Shaffer, who is employed by DIA as an analyst. Although Shaffer’s security clearance was recently revoked by DIA (on spurious grounds,) the boxes included classified documents marked ‘Secret No Foreigners,’ which Weldon says contain details of ongoing intelligence operations undertaken by both DIA and the Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

“This is a series of felonies,” Weldon told me. “It’s also further evidence of stupidity, incompetence and gross ignorance” on the part of DIA officials.

Weldon also called for a “federal theft investigation of DIA” because other items mistakenly sent to Shaffer, valued in excess of $500, are actually government property. “This illegal transfer of public property represents a fraud upon the taxpayers,” according to Weldon.

Weldon accused DIA representative William Huntington of misleading members of the House Armed Services Committee on September 8 about the supposed destruction of personal documents belonging to Lt. Col Shaffer. “He lied about it,” Weldon said. “Huntington said they had none—and then they sent them back to Shaffer!”

Weldon also characterized the Defense Department in general and the DIA in particular as “a bureaucracy out of control,” and criticized DIA for revoking Shaffer’s clearance, gagging him and other Able Danger analysts from speaking publicly about the program, and attempting to destroy Shaffer’s reputation.

“This is worse than any gulag in Russia,” Weldon said. “This is something I would expect from Kim Jong-Il in North Korea. This is not America!

“Lt Col Shaffer has done nothing wrong,” he added. “This is a massive DIA effort to cover its ass because agency officials are embarrassed that a special unit of SOCOM came up with crucial information and DIA did not. DIA needs to be taken to task, not Lt. Col Shaffer.”

Weldon also revealed that he has yet to receive an answer to a letter he sent to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on October 7th, alleging that DIA officials, “in the course of contending with the Able Danger inquiry, have engaged in behavior that is at best questionable, and perhaps better described as dishonorable.”

Telling Rumsfeld, “You know as well as I that inside the Beltway, there is a time-honored tradition of smearing the accuser rather than answering the charge,” Weldon went on to detail how DIA has “attempted to undermine his reputation through the tired old techniques of personal destruction.” He then sent a blast across Rumsfeld’s bow: “If this treatment is supposed to be a warning to future whistleblowers that the costs of speaking out are too high, then the United States Congress will be forced to reply with a stern warning of its own.”

Weldon concluded his unanswered letter to Rumsfeld by wondering if “ulterior motives” are behind the DOD decision not to allow Shaffer and other analysts to brief Members of Congress about Able Danger, and he posited that Congress “will not allow this brave man to be gagged” by what Weldon calls nameless bureaucrats. “While it may be uncomfortable for some who operate out of public view to have the light of day shone upon them, the truth will inevitably be told. The only choice for the like of you and I is to decide which side we will be remembered to have been on when the history of these events is ultimately written.”

I asked Weldon if he was at all concerned about going after high Defense officials from his own party in such a public way.

“Am I concerned about retribution? Absolutely!” he replied. “But this is larger than the party…this is about 3000 dead people, the worst terror attack ever on U.S. soil. And, as (former FBI director Louis Freeh) told Tim Russert on Meet the Press last week, Able Danger is ”the kind of tactical intelligence that would make a difference in stopping a hijacking.” So why can’t Congress and the American people hear about it? Ultimately, the buck stops with Rumsfeld.”