False Concern

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


On Monday Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) brought a New York Times reporter into his Congressional office to meet with an unidentified intelligence official who said: 1) that there is a top-secret military intelligence group called “Able Danger” 2) this group knew in the summer of 2000 that Mohammed Atta, and several other participants in the September 11, 2001 attacks were not only members of al-Qaeda, but present in the United States as well, and 3) the group hesitated to pass on the information to law enforcement agencies because of prohibitions against foreign intel agencies spying on citizens and green card holders.

But the same article very clearly says that that none of the four terrorists who ‘Able Danger’ fingered in 2000 had green cards. That’s confirmed by the 9/11 Commission; they all had some form of tourist visa. Yet Weldon seems confused on the point. In June a local paper quoted him in as saying, “Because the men had green cards, they couldn’t touch them.” And Government Security News, a biweekly newsletter that reported the story on Monday, seems to have bought what was apparently Weldon’s line until very, very recently: they were untouchable because they had green cards.

So when that statement became inoperative, the new line was that the damn lawyers wouldn’t let the intel folks tip off the FBI or other domestic law enforcement because they had a “sense of discomfort” about breaking some sprit of the law. This is, as Robert Novak would say, bullshit. First, the law is clear: citizens and permanent residents (the formal term for green card holders) get this protection, while people on holiday or business trips don’t. Second, as the Times op-ed page deliciously points out today (how’s that for timing) the law is violated all the time. Third, according to Human Rights First, getting exemptions to the law for people suspected of being foreign agents isn’t that tough.

I have little trouble believing that there is something called ‘Able Danger,’ or that it knew about these four men well before the attacks. And it certainly would be consistent with most views of pre-attack intelligence operations that the information wasn’t shared. But the rationale for why the names weren’t passed on just doesn’t have legs. So why float this balloon now? Perhaps Weldon and others are interested in further watering down protections against spying on citizens and permanent residents. Or maybe it’s just nice to blame the lawyers and civil-libertarians rather than the intelligence community or Bush’s (and, yes, Clinton’s) lax approach to Al Qaeda. Or maybe he’s just full of it.

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate