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Archive for Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Lawmaker: Ringleader identified several times before 9-11

February 15, 2006

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Pre-9-11 intelligence conducted by a secret military unit identified terrorist ringleader Mohamed Atta 13 times, a congressman said Tuesday.

During a Capitol Hill news conference, Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., said the unit - code-named "Able Danger" - also identified "a problem" in Yemen two weeks before the attack on the USS Cole. It knew the problem was tied into the port of Aden and involved a U.S. platform, but the ship commander was not made aware of it, Weldon said.

The suicide bombing of the Cole killed 17 sailors on Oct. 12, 2000.

If anyone had told the Cole's commander that there was any indication of a problem in Aden, "he would not have gone there," Weldon told reporters.

Weldon would not say who provided evidence of such intelligence to him.

Since August, Weldon, vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has pushed Congress and the Pentagon to investigate the workings of Able Danger, which used data mining to identify links that might indicate the workings of terrorists. If he is correct, it would change the timeline for when government officials first became aware of Atta's links to al-Qaida.

Cmdr. Greg Hicks, a Pentagon spokesman, released a statement saying that Pentagon officials welcome the opportunity to address these issues during a hearing scheduled today before a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

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