The Right Coast

August 18, 2005
 
Able Danger and the Costs of Civil Liberties
By Mike Rappaport

It is too soon to know what to make of the Able Danger story. But the revelations so far are striking. Consider this:

A military intelligence team repeatedly contacted the F.B.I. in 2000 to warn about the existence of an American-based terrorist cell that included the ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a veteran Army intelligence officer who said he had now decided to risk his career by discussing the information publicly. The officer, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, said military lawyers later blocked the team from sharing any of its information with the F.B.I.

He said he learned later that lawyers associated with the Defense Department's Special Operations Command had canceled the F.B.I. meetings because they feared controversy if Able Danger was portrayed as a military operation that had violated the privacy of civilians who were legally in the United States. "It was because of the chain of command saying we're not going to pass on information - if something goes wrong, we'll get blamed," he said.
I have not made up my mind about whether this type of information gathering is constitutional or legitimate. But one thing is clear: these broad civil liberties have important costs, and 9/11 may have been one of them.

What is amazing is that the 9/11 Commission, which apparently did not see fit to publish these matters, included Jamie Gorelick on it, the principal person concerned with putting up the wall of separation.

When historians look back at this commission, will they be able to understand why she sat on the Commission? And why the Republicans allowed her to? I certainly don't know why.