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Friday, August 12, 2005

TRIPLE PLAY

Hasn’t been a great year for Media Watch. First the state-funded leftist puppy show questioned Arthur Chrenkoff’s journalistic credibility, only for him to turn up days later in the New York Times ...

Then Media Watch accused Phil Gould of plagiarism when even basic awareness of journalistic processes would have indicated otherwise, leading to an embarrassing retraction ...

And now Media Watch’s attack on Mark Steyn is apparently busted by revelations of Mohammed Atta’s pre-2000 arrival in the US. A second retraction within two weeks could be aired on Monday night.

(Via J.F. Beck, whose instincts are less faulty. Check out his entire site)

UPDATE. David Nason in The Australian:

New intelligence reports suggesting that 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta arrived in the US in late 1999 or early 2000 - six months earlier than previously thought - are likely to spark a reassessment of public servant Johnelle Bryant’s incredible story of a face-to-face meeting with the terrorist.

In an extraordinary 2002 interview later branded a hoax by some media—including the ABC’s Media Watch—Ms Bryant claimed to have met Atta in late April or early May of 2000 when she worked as a loan officer with the US Department of Agriculture’s farm services agency in Florida ...

Ms Bryant could not be reached for comment this week but Bob Epling, president of Community Bank of Florida, which let office space to the agency Ms Bryant worked for, said he had no doubt Atta visited the premises.

He said Ms Bryant had referred Atta to the “agriculture-friendly” CBF. “Atta was 15 steps away from walking into our loan department and making an application,” Mr Epling said yesterday. “He chose not to.”

Over to you, Tim Lambert.

UPDATE II. John Podhoretz asks if the Able Danger reports are credible:

According to this report in the New York Times, “They said the commission had concluded that the July 2004 testimony…‘was not sufficiently reliable’ to warrant further investigation, in part because the officer could not supply documentary evidence to prove it.”

That sounds like something to take seriously. A single source with no proof should have been taken with a grain of salt, to put it mildly.

The problem is that Rep. Curt Weldon, who exposed this whole matter, claims the 9/11 staff learned about the Able Danger identification of Atta a year earlier than that, during a meeting in Afghanistan. The 9/11 Commission folks deny this happened.

That denial would be significant except that the 9/11 Commission folks at first denied they’d ever received ANY information about Able Danger and then backed down two days later. So it’s not clear why we should accept this denial about the Afghanistan meeting on faith.

Also, Kean and Hamilton say Able Danger “did not turn out to be historically significant,” which is a bizarre thing to say. If this operation managed to surface the name, identity and Al Qaeda role of Mohammed Atta, it was by definition “historically significant.” Dismissing Able Danger in this way makes Kean and Hamilton sound disingenuous at best. Why wouldn’t they want to get to the bottom of this?

UPDATE III. Jack Kelly:

When the story broke, former Rep. Lee Hamilton, a Democrat from Indiana, co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission, at first denied the commission had ever been informed of what Able Danger had found, and took a swipe at Mr. Weldon’s credibility:

“The Sept. 11th Commission did not learn of any U.S. government knowledge prior to 9/11 of the surveillance of Mohammed Atta or his cell,” Mr. Hamilton said. “Had we learned of it obviously it would have been a major focus of our investigation.”

Mr. Hamilton changed his tune after the New York Times reported Thursday, and the Associated Press confirmed, that commission staff had been briefed on Able Danger in October, 2003, and again in July, 2004.

UPDATE IV. John Podhoretz:

Some of us on the Right who have been making a big stink about this may have been had.

The 9/11 Commission has put out a very detailed memo defending itself that basically says Rep. Curt Weldon and the unnamed Navy officers who have made a big stink about Able Danger are stretching it bigtime.

Interesting. Able Danger aside, Steyn is correct to point out that it’s absurd to suggest Atta was “never in the United States until June 3, 2000, simply because that’s what the INS says.”

UPDATE V. Some curious assumptions over at Lambert’s, among them that Atta wouldn’t have identified himself to Johnelle Bryant as a member of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization because “the US was already at war with Al Qaeda”; that bin Laden was “already widely known” throughout the US prior to 9/11; that Atta “would probably have expected most Americans to have heard of [bin Laden]”; and, of course, stated with absolute certainty, that “Atta wasn’t in the country until June.” How can he possibly be sure?

UPDATE VI. The Bergen Record’s Mike Kelly presents claims of Atta’s time in New Jersey, and more:

What is interesting about this information now is that a CIA team, working separately from the Able Danger Team, had set its sights on al-Mihdar and al-Hazmi. The two were already on a CIA terror watch list and still had managed to obtain U.S. visas.

The CIA feared al-Mihdar and al-Hazmi might try to slip into the United States. But the CIA lost track of them after they left a terror meeting in Malaysia in early 2000 for Bangkok. Worse, the CIA waited until the summer of 2001 to tell the FBI that two suspected terrorists had visas to enter the United States - and might be here …

Imagine what might have happened if Able Danger was cooperating with the CIA and the FBI.

On the phone last week, the former Able Team member I interviewed told a depressing story of that cooperation that never took place.

(Via Jim Geraghty)

Posted by Tim B. on 08/12/2005 at 12:57 PM
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