U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

Presenter: Various DoD Officials Thursday, September 1, 2005

Special Defense Department Briefing

Participating in this brief were:


Mr. Bryan Whitman, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs (Media Operations)


Ms. Pat Downs, Senior Policy Analyst, Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (Intelligence)


Mr. Thomas Gandy, Army G-2 Director of Counterintelligence and HUMINT


Mr. Bill Huntington, Vice Deputy Director for HUMINT, Defense Intelligence Agency


Cmdr. Christopher Chope, Center for Special Operations, U.S. Special Operations Command


            Whitman: When I scheduled this particular room I hadn't anticipated that we would have these other activities that are going on down south, but I'm glad there are some of you here to report on this and have an interest in this.


            As you know, the department has been aggressively looking into this Able Danger program since there were some allegations that were made some three weeks ago I think now, about three weeks. There's been a very extensive effort by the department to look broad, to look deep, and to document as well as to interviewing individuals that are associated with the project. Today we have reached the point where we're prepared to tell you what that broad and deep and extensive review has revealed to us.


            I've got a number of subject matter experts here whose organizations were involved. By the mere fact of the representatives here you can see that this was not something that was just looked at narrowly. What we'll be able to do today is talk a little bit about what Able Danger was and maybe more importantly what it wasn't; what type of products were a result of this activity; discuss a little bit about some of the legal authorities and things that have been reported on, sometimes inaccurately about this; and to really talk to you a bit about our interactions with the 9/11 Commission when they were doing their work.


            I got you all here under the guise of a background briefing, but I think what we'll do is, we've discussed this and these individuals have agreed to be on the record. There has been a lot of anonymous reporting on this which I think has been unhelpful. I hope that as you write these reports that you give weight to those people that have been directly involved in this effort and are on the record to discuss what the department has found for you on this.


            With that they're going to kind of open up with a little bit of a presentation, talk about it just a little bit. Pat's going to start I think, Pat Down is going to start from the Under Secretary of Defense Intelligence Office. Then the commander here from Special Operations Command is going to give you a bit of a thumbnail on the activities. We've got some other subject matter experts if we get into Q&A that involves their areas. I promise not to make it too long because I know you all have day jobs on this other story too.


            With that, Pat, why don't you go ahead and start us off.


            Down: Let me give you an overview of what we have done to determine the facts concerning the recent public statements on Able Danger and where we are to date and what we've found. And then I'll turn it over to Commander Chope so he can give you background information on Able Danger. Some of you may not be as familiar with exactly what that is, what it isn't, and what the timeline is here. It can be confusing with all the various accounts that are in the press.


            We have conducted two types of activities. One is extensive document searches from all the organizations including contracting firms that were associated with the Able Danger program. To date we have not identified the chart that is referenced in public statements by Mr. Schaeffer and Captain Philpot in particular, who say they saw a chart with the photo of Mohammed Attah and other hijackers, particularly Mohammed Attah, pre-9/11. We have not discovered that chart. We have identified a similar chart, but it does not contain the photo of Mohammed Attah or reference to him or reference to the other hijackers.


            The second type of activity we've conducted is interviews of people involved, again associated with the Able Danger project. To date we've conducted interviews with 80 people, and that is still ongoing. We're not done yet. We're still refining the questions. As we talk to some people we have to come back to other and ask additional questions.


            Most of those people do not recollect the existence of a chart with the picture of Mohammed Attah on it, or again, other hijackers pre-9/11. We have identified three other individuals besides Mr. Schaeffer and Captain Philpot who have a recollection of either a chart with a photo of Mohammed Attah or a reference to Mohammed Attah. That's basically where we are.


            As I said, we continue, we also have searched the records, the documents that we sent to the 9/11 Commission just to be sure that our copies of those records don't include anything additional we might have missed, including a whole number of documents that were deemed non-responsive to Commission requests. It's possible we might have missed something in that collection. It's a fairly extensive collection. We have reviewed all that documentation and at this point have not identified, again, such a chart which references pre-9/11 hijackers.


            Media: But the three people who do remember, those three people are from which agency or what's their function?


            Down: We have from SOCOM, two individuals. One of those is Captain Philpot. We have, of course Tony Schaeffer, he's actually a DIA civilian employee. We have, the two other individuals are, one is from the Land Information Warfare Activity, the Army's Land Information Warfare Activity, now actually part of the Information Dominance Center. The last one is with the O'Ryan contractors.


            Media: At the time.


            Down: At the time, yes. And we can answer, Mr. Gandy can answer more questions on the contractors and some of these -- Five individuals all told. Four of them, five individuals including Captain Philpot and Mr. Schaeffer. Four of them remember a chart with a photo of Mohammed Attah pre-9/11; the fifth person remembers a chart with a reference to Mohammed Attah, but not a photo.


            As I said, we're continuing to interview or re-interview based on what we've discovered so far to be sure that we're not missing anything.


            I think it probably is a good idea at this point to turn it over to Commander Chope, and he'll describe to you what Able Danger is. I think that would be helpful. Again, describe some of the timelines because, as I said, we're confused by some of the reports out. We're trying to find the facts. Some of the various accounts have conflicted somewhat. I think it would be helpful to put this in some context for you.


            Chope: I'm Commander Chope from the Special Operations Command and I'll offer a brief chronology and overview of what Able Danger was and try and dispel some of the myths and rumors surrounding the effort.


            In early October 1999 the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tasked the United States Special Operations Command with developing a campaign plan against transnational terrorism, specifically al-Qaida. That effort would result, or that tasking would result in a 15-month effort undertaken mostly out of Tampa, Florida with some peripheral collaborative partners, that would span a 15-month period. In order to accomplish this tasking SOCOM turned to an internal working group who again worked with elements within the Department of Defense and with the Department of the Army to construct this plan. Captain Scott Philpot, then Commander Scott Philpot was probably the team leader, you would call him, for the Able Danger effort.


            Able Danger was never a special access program. Able Danger was never a military unit. Able Danger was never a targeting effort. It was not a military deception operation. It was merely the name attributed to a 15-month planning effort.


            In January of 2001 the U.S. Special Operations Command delivered the final product of their plan which was a draft operations plan to the Joint Staff, and for all intents and purposes Able Danger ended at that time.


            Media: Can you say how many people were involved in it?


            Chope: From the Special Operations Command, probably ten people were involved throughout the effort.


            Media: You say it wasn't military? It was --


            Chope: It was not a military unit. It was a name given to the effort. It's like calling all of us in here Able Danger. That's not --


            Media: Were they all military people?


            Chope: No, not uniformed service members, no.


            Media: You say it wasn't a targeting effort.


            Chope: Correct.


            Media: I'm very ignorant about military affairs, but wouldn't any kind of plan against transnational terrorism involve a list of targets?


            Chope: It would, and that's a good question. Throughout the Able Danger effort we're going to talk about data mining and nodal analysis. What the data mining and nodal analysis actions were designed to do was characterize the al-Qaida terrorist network. Those were some of the tools they used in order to do that mapping, if you will. When I said it was not a targeting effort, I mean it was not meant to go after individual people. It was meant to determine vulnerabilities, key nodes, linkages among and within al-Qaida.


            Media: Nodal analysis? What does that mean?


            Chope: I think in layman's terms it means determining linkages and relationships among disparate entities.


            Down: Looking for patterns based no previous activity.


            Media: It would seem you would want to deal with individual names of people if you were trying to understand vulnerability and linkages. No?


            Chope: I'm sure that they got to that level of detail, however when you look at the plan, what the task was rather, the task was develop a plan, so that was the focus of the effort. The effort was never determine which individuals we ought to roll up. Did Osama bin Laden's name come up? Of course it did. But as far as that granularity, that level of detail, that was not the desired or required level of effort on the project. It was a by-product.


            Gandy: This is Tom Gandy from the Army. Let me just help out here a little. The way it works is there's a campaign plan and then if someone decides to act upon that plan they will give that plan to someone to execute. At that point you get into various specifics about how you're going to execute it, phases of the operation, what the targets are in each phase, and get really down to the down and dirty side of things.


            But in a plan you're saying here's what we're trying to do against this threat element, in this case transnational terrorism, not al-Qaida, so it's a more generalized level. I'm just trying to help out there.


            Media: Can I get some clarity on the subsets that people are talking about. There were ten in Able Danger.


            Gandy: SOCOM personnel.


            Media: SOCOM personnel. How large was Able Danger in all then?


            Gandy: I would say in the 15-month period it waxed and wanted. It depended on which collaborative partner SOCOM dealt with at the time. AT some points there was a partnership with the Army; other points there were contracted personnel involved?


            Media: What was the maximum number --


            Media: Hang on just a second and let me finish this line of questioning.


            So you've interviewed 80 people. Were all 80 of them Able Danger or were they people who got briefings by Able Danger? What is that universe that gave you 80 people?


            Gandy: It probably spans both of those representations you just gave. Not only folks who were integrally involved in the effort, but also those that were peripherally involved.  I don't think that we necessarily went out and amongst those 80 we'd count people who just happened to have been exposed. Those 80 I would say had something to do with Able Danger.


            Media: And the five who have some recollection of something, are those Able Danger core members, are they people who received briefings, are they the peripherals?


            Gandy: Out of the ten I quoted you, two of them are from that ten. So the other three would be from the other 70, if you will, if that math makes sense to you.


            Media: So three are peripheral, quote/unquote, to use your phrase; and two are from Able Danger.


            Gandy: No. The hard core U.S. SOCOM part of Able Danger was ten people. There were other collaborative partners who were as involved in Able Danger.  I'm only speaking to the SOCOM Personnel involved in Able Danger with those ten. There were other people who were as involved in Able Danger during the time.


            Media: Who were the five who have some recollection of something?


            Gandy: We have two SOCOM personnel, one of whom is Captain Philpot, one is Mr. Schaeffer who is a DIA employee.


            Down: Actually --


            [Multiple voices].


            Media: Just simple math here. This is a really --


            Whitman: In the SOCOM people there's an unnamed analyst who's going to remain unnamed. Then there's Captain Philpot. Those are the two from the ten.


            Media: Civilian analyst?


            Whitman: Yes.


            Media: But there are five with some recollection, so who are the other three?


            Whitman: The other three, one was an analyst associated with the Land Information Warfare Activity (LIWA) which is the Army activity, one of the partners spoke of where LIWA was supporting the SOCOM effort for a period of time in the planning effort.


            Another was a contractor who supported the Land Information Warfare activity. That's one of the other.


            The other was Mr. Schaeffer.


            Media: That's very helpful. Thank you.


            Media: One further thing on that, how would you characterize, of those three people -- the analyst from LIWAC (sic) and the, well Schaeffer I think we know his relationship with Able Danger. But the other two. The analyst from LIWAC (sic) and the, associated with LIWAC (sic) and the contractor, how would you characterize their degree of -- Were they part of the core? Were they in the periphery, out of periphery?


            Whitman: They were doing analysis and production support of requirements to help build the plan. So they were provided with requirements from the core group of SOCOM planners and they would try to meet those requirements of intelligence analytical products.


            Media: Intelligence requirements.


            Whitman: Right. It's LIWA, by the way, Activity. Not LIWAC.


            Down: And Captain Philpot was more managing the whole effort. As opposed to an analyst.


            Media: So five people remember this, but you haven't been able to come up with the chart. So you're not here telling us this chart does exist or doesn't exist.


            Down: We don't know. We don't have it. We have not to date identified that chart, discovered it in our recent searches, nor did we pull it up during the life of the 9/11 Commission where the Commission itself did ask us, sent us two document requests for information on Able Danger. It was not pulled up at that time.


            Media: What could have happened to it? Could someone have destroyed it to cover up?


            Whitman: Let me say something there, just for any other questions that might come up too. We're not going to get into the business of speculating in terms of what might have happened. We're here today to present the facts as they exist and as we know them.


            Like Pat was saying, what we know is that we didn't discover such a chart when we first responded to the Commission back in November and December of '03 and we haven't discovered such a chart in the current search. That's the facts. It's just not productive for us to get into speculating beyond what we actually know.


            Media: Does that mean that because it was a classified operation a lot of documents including the chart could have been destroyed and that's why you can't find it?


            Down: There are regulations. At the time how they were interpreted, very strictly pre-9/11, for destruction of information which is embedded, I guess is the way I would say it, that would contain any information on U.S. persons. In a major data mining effort like this you're reaching out to a lot of open sources and within that there could be a lot of information on U.S. persons. We're not allowed to collect that type of information. So there are strict regulations about collection, dissemination, destruction procedures for this type of information. And we know that that did happen in the case of Able Danger documentation.


            Media: So it's possible then that this is how the chart cannot be found. Along with other documents, they could have been destroyed and that's why you can't corroborate what these people are saying or say it's wrong.


            Down: Correct.


            Media: What is the definition for U.S. person?


            Down: I wish we had our lawyer here.


            Chope: A U.S. citizen or someone who is in the country legally.


            Media: So a tourist is a U.S. person.


            Chope: Can be.


            Media: Under what circumstances?


            Chope: For instance on a work visa. I think it's more than just a tourist, on a work visa or something like that.


            Media: But there are work visas that allow you to come, I’m here on one  --


            Gandy: We have a whole class on that if you'd like to attend it. I'll invite you. We have it annually.


            We have lots of regulations on this that spell out precisely what they are. I'd hate to make an off-the-cuff comment here.


            Media: Okay.


            Gandy: But there are strict definitions.


            Media: Maybe you can direct me to --


            Gandy: Executive Order 12333. You can go on the web tonight and do it. DoD Directive 5240-1R.


            Media: That does not --


            Gandy: And Army Regulation 381-10.


            Media: Does that mean there could have been legal advice given by the department or somebody within SOCOM to destroy it before it got out of the military's possession?


            Chope: We have negative indications that that was ever the case. We've spoken to all the attorneys at all levels of command and organization that were involved with Able Danger, and there was no legal advice given along those lines.


            Media: That lines?


            Chope: Along the lines to destroy anything.


            Down: We have not discovered that legal advice was given to date.


            Media: On this chart, can you say approximately what the date of the chart is these five people recall? And do all of them recall not only Attah, but the other hijackers?


            Down: Maybe Tom can help with the details of the interviews, but I believe Captain Philpot says he saw the chart in January, February 2000. That's the general reference point.


            Media: Are you saying that the recollections of Schaeffer and Philpot are incredible?


            Down: They're our starting point. They're DoD people who -- Captain Philpot, or then Commander during when the 9/11 Commission was wrapping up, came to us and said I have this information. We took him to the 9/11 Commission to examine it further. It's really up to the Commission to determine the relevancy of the information.


            Fortunately, Captain Philpot or then Commander Philpot did not have documentation either, and so the staff questioned, and you can talk to the 9/11 Public Discourse Project where the two former chairmen of the Commission now work. But in terms of the clarity of the dates, when things were produced. At the time that Commander Philpot spoke with the Commission, the Commission staff at that time believed it wasn't strong enough evidence, especially without documentation, to make a change in their report which was at that time being coordinated with us and had already been drafted.


            Media: So now that you have three other individuals corroborating this chart, saying they've seen this chart, are you going back to brief the Discourse Project now? The 9/11 Commission?


            Down: No, not at this point, but we will be shortly. Or at least --


            Media: Has anything changed. Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt.


            Down: That's okay.


            Media: Has anything changed about the way that U.S. persons who get sucked up in a data mining operation would be handled today as opposed to how they might have -- completely independent of this. Say if my name gets sucked up into a database tomorrow morning would it be handled differently today than it would have before 9/11?


            Down: My understanding is that the same procedures are in place. We may exercise some flexibility, but I have to be careful here because the same procedures, the same regulations, they are still accurate. We have to be very careful of what we protect against U.S. persons --


            Media: -- different or --


            Down: Again I have to be careful. The procedures stand and I really can't speak for the analytical side at the moment, but I would think that in the post-9/11 mindset --


            Chope: Let me get into some of the problems we have. We're looking back about 5.5 years. Data mining is a relatively new thing in the intelligence community. They were not using the most sophisticated tools. They were using what tools were available. Sophisticated at the time, but compared to now of course we're Moore's law a couple of times down and we've got a lot better tools. So at this point now in the analytical side, we're a lot better in identifying the type of data we get and where we get it from. Back then you would do what they called a web crawl and you'd get a lot of data and it would go in one pile.


            Now when we put the data in a pile we tag it, you've heard about XML tagging and those sorts of things. So we understand where the data came from better, we understand the nature of that, and we have tools to help us identify the data.


            So while the procedures haven't changed, the interpretation has probable become a little more flexible with hindsight on 9/11, a little more flexible, but we still have the procedures in place, believe me, and we have the training, but we also have the better ability now to say okay, this data came from this source, it's a U.S. person that has nothing to do with our problem set and we can expunge it a lot more easily than we could in the past. In the old days it was kind of an all or nothing.


            Media: All these questions about Able Danger seem to sound like how could you possibly have missed Mohammed Attah did this, but I'm wondering if Mohammed Attah came in under the same circumstances at the same time tomorrow, he would still be of the same class. Wouldn't they get ditched, thrown out? Not that that's what happened with this, but if you were to tag him as a U.S. person wouldn't he automatically be thrown out of the data base tomorrow just as --


            Chope: I don't know.


            Media: Can you say whether you have gone through all the documents yet? You say you you're now going back and reintegrating, but have you looked through all the documents? Is that why you're here, to say you've completed that?


            Down: We have done extensive searches including the documents that we delivered to the 9/11 Commission and the group of documents that were deemed unresponsive to the Commission's particular request. There are boxes and boxes of these.


            As you can imagine, an organization as large as DoD with the speed at which we had to respond to the Commission's request, there were numerous documents that came through for all 39 of the Commission's requests that weren't really relevant to specific requests.  So we have like a non-responsive pile. We weeded those out. If we had any doubt we left it up to the Commission to decide.  It's their job to decide what's really relevant for them. But we went back through the old piles just to be sure we had not missed anything or to see if we could potentially identify this chart.  And in terms of the other organizations, there have been very extensive document searches.


            Media: Is there an estimate about how many pages you searched?


            Down: Oh, boy --


            Chope: We did a complete electronic search --


            Down: Pages.


            Chope: All holdings, physical searches, --


            Down: Hundreds of thousands probably.


            Media: Are you done with your effort?


            Down: Including electronic files, of pages


            Media: I'm sorry. Are you done with your review? Is this, are you finished or is this ongoing?


            Down: Not in terms of the interview process. But in terms of document searches, unless there is some other source of documents that we find out through the interview process that we haven't looked at, and again, we haven't identified what that would be, right now we are complete on our document.


            Media: Can I just return briefly on this chart that had Attah's picture or reference, did the chart, did all the people have a recollection that the other hijackers who have been mentioned were also on the chart or just Attah?


            Chope: Most of the discussion's been about Attah --


            Whitman: Before we get into that, let's address the question. You said the chart that had Attah on it. We have not found a chart that had Attah on it. I just want to make sure --


            Media: You said five people said they recall --


            Whitman: I just didn't want that to be out there as that there is a chart that exists that has Attah on it. Okay?


            Chope: If there was a chart with Attah, [Laughter].


            Whitman: It's important.


            Media: These five people recall, do they recall it having Attah and additional hijackers on it?


            Chope: I can't be certain. That would really be the, then Commander Philpot would be the one. The remainder talk about Attah and a picture, or Attah's name. The one person who only saw a name and no picture, and the others saw a picture and a name.


            Media: So Philpot is the only one who recalls other hijackers?


            Chope: I believe, but I'd have to check the notes I have from the discussions we had.


            Media: Let me go back to the U.S. persons question for a second. To what extent did any controversy over that issue lead to the shutdown of this program?  I talked to several people who said there was a separate program developing. They were looking at Chinese tech transfer. It wasn't Able Danger, but it used some of the same personnel, some of the same facilities at LIWA and came up with a name list of some very prominent U.S. persons and led to somebody saying terminate this thing. Is there any truth to that at all?


            Chope: No. It had nothing -- There was a prior effort involved with those topics that you mentioned. That effort ended with a subpoena by Congress in November of '99. That was the end of it.  It was a completely different target, different subjects, different data, everything.


            Media: You say ended with a subpoena from Congress. From where? From which committee?


            Chope: I'm not sure about the committee. That was a completely different effort. There were similar tools, but you've got to remember back here, let me just for the Land Information Warfare Activity, this was very experimental stuff back then. So what that was about was demonstrating can experimental stuff like this be useful in helping us solve some technology transfer riddles. That was kind of the purpose of that effort. That effort ended in the LIWA's eyes in November.  LIWA did a lot of other analytical projects. That's what they do. They do intelligence analysis.


            Media: -- open source, classified?


            Chope: In which?


            Media: In both.


            Chope: In Able Danger it was mixed, both open source and classified.


            Media: The five people that recall seeing either Attah's name or photograph on the charts, do they have any recollection of where that photograph might have come from, number one? How many people's names were on that chart? Was it five, was it 10,000?


            Chope: We don't know what was on the chart.


            Media: In their recollection, what is their recollection of that chart?


            Chope: It's different compared to any person you talk to.


            Gandy: Captain Philpot will contend there are upwards of 60 names on that chart. Not all of them will have photographs attributed to them. Some will just be outlined silhouettes of a head.


            Media: Given the differences in their recollection, are their claims considered credible?


            Chope: Don't know. We're just in the fact-finding mode.


            Media: This is kind of a fair question, actually. We won't ask you to do hypotheticals or conjectures, but you all live in a world of analyzing data. Clearly if you're supervisors or Dr. Cambone said to you want do you think now? You’ve now gone from two to five people who recall it. You haven't found the document. What do you think?


            Down: These people are, Captain Philpot for instance and the others, especially the ones that are involved in data mining, the contracting firms, are credible people.  Again, we just -- We are unable to again provide corroborating evidence. We just, as I've said, can't find the document. But as I said, they are credible people.


            Media: What do you make of that? That disparity. How do you conclude?


            Chope: We can only hypothesize on how this --


            Down: I don't --


            Chope: -- might have come about is all you can do, hypothesize.


            I agree with Pat. Most of the people involved in this are credible folks. We've checked out everything they've said. We can go to the same group of people you would think were sitting next to each other and say did you see a chart with a picture of Attah on it? No, no, no, yes. That's kind of the situation we're in right now. We drill into that and we still have the no, no, no, yes kind of situation.


            Media: If these people are credible, what could account for this difference in your view?


            Down: I don't know. We've seen a chart with different Mohammed's on them. Is it possible that Mohammed Ajaz, Mohammed -- what's the other one.


            Chope: Arateff.


            Down: Arateff, thank you. So we have charts with those names but not Mohammed Attah. Is there confusion there? Again, we don't know. We simply don't know. Was the reference to Mohammed Attah, did it come out early on in a chart? In that case if it came out early on, were there any kind of concerns which we again can't corroborate for our interviews. If it came out early, such as in a proof of concept chart, we may never find it.


            So as I said, we haven't found any supporting evidence at this point, especially that documentation, to back those claims up.


            [Multiple voices].


            Down: We didn't, no.


            Media: -- head of Special Ops at the time, wasn't he?


            Chope: -- do not.


            Media: You do not?


            Down: Not yet.


            Media: Can I ask a real basic question here? This effort to try to get to the bottom of this, this is responsive to Congress, to a directive from the Secretary, to what? Maybe you got into that in the beginning or maybe everyone in here knows it but me, I just -- You're getting to the bottom of this because Congress wants an answer or because you just want to know, because we're all asking these questions and you want us to shut up? [Laughter].


            Down: Maybe all of the above. We --


            Chope: -- Cambone has directed that we do fact-finding and find the facts in this case. Each of the components involved, SOCOM as the headquarters and supporting agencies have stepped forward and are doing their part to try and figure out what the facts are.


            Media: Can I ask another question about the lawyers? You said I think that you had negative indication that that has happened, i.e. the destruction of documents.


            Chope: That was taken a little out of context. No lawyer ever directed any Able Danger personnel to destroy documents.  Any destruction of documents was conducted in accordance with established regulations and directives.


            Media: What about the question of the meetings with the FBI?


            Chope: Aside from the statements by Mr. Schaeffer and Captain Philpot we have found no corroborating statements or evidence or whatever you want to call it to that effect in the course of our interviews.


            Media: So you talked to all of the lawyers who might have tried to stop this because it was U.S. person information and couldn't be disseminated to domestic agencies. And no one remembers --


            Chope: We have talked to all the lawyers involved in the project and there is no hindrance upon the sharing of information.


            Gandy: We know that data was destroyed, the Land Information Warfare Activity. But it was destroyed in compliance with our intelligence oversight directives, 12333, DoD 5240-1R, et cetera. So it was destroyed in complete protocols, normal protocols that we would follow with any kind of U.S. person data.  It wasn't destroyed because a lawyer came in and said you've got to get rid of this stuff.  It was the clock is ticking, show us how you can pull this U.S. person information out of here or not, you can't do it we have protocols and directives to comply with, we're going to comply, and they did. That's how the data was destroyed at LIWA and I believe later on in SOCOM was in a similar manner destroyed.


            Media: So the people involved in the project were asked whether there was a way that they could extract intelligence which could be shared from this massive data that they had from this pile you talked about --


            Gandy: I think you're confusing the sharing of data -- Data can be shared with anybody. U.S. person data can be shared in a wide variety of situations. We do that every day in the Department of Defense.  For instance on the counter-intelligence side of the house which I am responsible for for the Army, our intelligence agents share information every day with the FBI no U.S. persons, and who has primacy in an investigation, and who doesn't. It's all laid out in the protocols surrounding EO-12333 and 5240, our counter-intelligence regulations.  Promulgation of those sharing agreements. So we can share data with U.S. persons.


            In this case because of the nature in which the data was collected, now we're 5.5 years ago. It was a gobbling up of a lot of data from a lot of sources and put in one pile. You had this commingling of U.S. person data with lots of other data, and there was no way to really pull it out.  So the protocols were applied as they stood and really as they stand saying do you have a reason to do this. Like in the counter-intelligence case we have a reason, that we're doing a counter-espionage investigation or we're doing a force protection investigation. In this case there was no perceived imminent threat, imminent crime going to occur, any danger, those kinds of things that say that you can share it. That was not perceived to be the case in these situations and it was destroyed.


            Media: So the identification of individuals who were linked to al-Qaida inside the United States was not perceived as an imminent threat after the USS Cole and after the embassy bombings --


            Gandy: We don't know that they identified those people in this data.


            Media: You say there was no imminent threat, there was no perceived imminent threat.


            Gandy: That might be a reason you would keep the data. Those are the kind of reasons we're allowed to keep data about U.S. persons.


            Media: And share it, right?


            Gandy: Absolutely. It depends on the situation. If that person, for instance, if that person is located overseas, then you would share it with a different group of people than if the person was located in the United States.  Just that there are links established doesn't really mean anything. And by the way, some of these links, in the primacy of this technology you get some very goofy links that require research.  In fact when we interviewed these analysts to a person they said what was the nature of the stuff?  They said you really need to dig into this to find out what these links meant.


            Media: I was told that the, after the data run had been done on unclassified data bases it was then scrubbed against classified data in order to try and do this process. Like burrowing in and finding out what the links might be and which might be meaningful and so on. Have you been able to discover whether this chart that these five people remember was the product of a first stage of that or a second stage?


            Gandy: One, we don't know there's a chart. But if there was a chart we believe it came from open source information.


            Media: And not being scrubbed against classified --


            Gandy: I don't know.


            Media: Just to return to the question of the lawyers, Schaeffer said there were two occasions on which military lawyers intervened, the first was he said, that the military couldn't do anything with it and then when he tried to take it to the FBI again -- But you're saying that no -- Can you clarify exactly what you're saying about what the lawyers did? The document destruction stuff was SOP.  You haven't found anything about a meeting with the FBI.  I mean apart from the SOP on document destruction, what role did the regulations about U.S. persons and the legal interpretation of those made by lawyers of SOCOM play in how this all played out?


            Gandy: Intelligence oversight drives how long we can store information on U.S. persons. It's really proscribed pretty clearly.


            Media: Any activity that was proposed by people involved in Able Danger that was prohibited by lawyers --


            Gandy: No. That's not the lawyers' job in this kind of a, in any situation within here. Their job is to give advice to the commander. The commander makes the ultimate determination. In no way, shape or form did the lawyers dissuade or hinder people from turning information over.


            Media: The additional three people that recall seeing references to Mohammed Attah, do any of them recall what that was based on? You said --


            Gandy: We asked where did this data come from and the person who saw the name and not the face couldn't tell. What it comes from is a big large conglomeration of data from lots of sources, and you drag a problem set through this data and you get lots of linkages and then you research the linkages is how it works.


            We asked every single analyst if there was such a chart where would the data from that have come from? They didn't know. What they're doing is this huge data mining and they just get a pile of data, and in those days -- Now if you say okay, I have this piece of information, you could probably trace it back to its original parentage.


            Media: But not in those days.


            Gandy: In those days I think you could with some of the tools, but it depends upon analyst input to the tools, the linkages and all. They had some capability to do that because they would describe an anecdote where they'd say we'll read this information, and they'd say well, it's from a web site. They got to the web site it's kind of like a goofball web site. Then okay, get rid of that stuff.  It's from something that really is not credible information.  So they had some capability but I don't think they had the capability to scrub it in the fashion that the oversight rules could live with.


            Media: The documents that were destroyed, is there a, if it's a standard operating procedure, are there rudimentary records that are kept of what documents are destroyed?


            Gandy: There are certificates of destruction. What you'll have, traditionally for electronic it's very difficult.  They'll say I destroyed so many disc drives, so many zip drives, so many CD roms were in the cruncher, that kind of stuff.  You have lots and lost of data.  So it's very general in nature.


            Media: It doesn't really identify --


            Gandy: It would never go down like in an index fashion or an inventory fashion. For those volumes of data it would say, the Y drive on this server at this place was wiped on this day, certified by the technician who conducted it.


            Media: If there were a chart, a piece of paper, that would be different?


            Gandy: You do physical destruction of it.


            Media: Is that what it was?


            Gandy: This is for documents that are actually published and numbered kind of documents that you would sign for. Those kind of documents. But if you have like working papers, charts that you're printing off looking that's not good, that's not good, you wouldn't do that. You’d just destroy all those.


            Media: Schaeffer and Philpot's current status is?


            Gandy: Captain Philpot's in the Navy and Mr. Schaeffer is --


            Huntington: On administrative leave without (corrected – should be with) pay.


            Media: From the DIA?


            Huntington: That's correct.


            Media: Is he in uniform still?


            Huntington: I don't know the answer to that.


            Media: Is he on administrative leave without pay as punishment?


            Huntington: No. That's totally separate from any of this activity.


            Media: Does he face any possible action for disposing of information?


            Whitman: We're not going to get into any personnel issues that bump against the Privacy Act.


            Media: Is the reason why he's on leave, does that affect his credibility at all in the investigation?


            Huntington: No. These two things are entirely separate sorts of things. The reason for this action is totally unrelated to any of the activities related to Able Danger.


            Media: How much of your resources has been devoted to digging this up? Is it something – do you have a lot of people who are looking in to this now? [Laughter].


            Down: Yes.


            Gandy: A lot of personal time.


            Media: Your personal opinion of it, is it a waste of time?  Is it constructive?  Is it something you find helpful?


            Gandy: Dr. Cambone says this is something we ought to look into, I go roger that, sir.  It's very important.


            Whitman: Like I said, we would present you the facts when we had some conviction on it, and that's where we're at today. I hope it's been useful.


            Media: Thanks for doing it on the record.


            Chope: You're welcome.


Source: Department of Defense