Is it possible that those involved with Able Danger are misremembering such important information? It's hard to say. Memory can play tricks, particularly if a story fits with a preconceived notion. It's also possible to confuse dates and names. In talking about this issue recently on "Eye on Washington," a public affairs show that airs on PBS stations around the country, I recently conflated some "facts" in trying to explain why this case resonated. I noted that what upset many people about this story was that the Able Danger unit was not allowed to share information about Atta with the FBI because Defense Department lawyers prevented it. "Guess who one of those top people at the Defense Department at the time was?" I asked. "A woman named Jamie Gorelick, who happens to have sat on the 9/11 Commission," I asserted. But I was wrong, at least partly.
Jamie Gorelick was general counsel for the Clinton Defense Department, and she was also someone whom many people blame for making it more difficult for intelligence agencies to share information with law enforcement when she was deputy attorney general under President Clinton. But she had left the Clinton administration in 1997, long before Able Danger was in operation, so I was wrong.
We may never know exactly what Able Danger discovered in early 2000, but we do know that there is plenty of blame to go around in missed opportunities to prevent the horrible attack on this country. Let's hope that in the future we spend less time pointing fingers and more time ensuring it never happens again.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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