Tuesday, October 18, 2005

"Able Danger" Still Simmers

In an October 11th story about The first annual National Security Whistleblowers Conference, U.S. News & World Report mentions, in a rather offhand way, that Able Danger whistleblower Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer is in danger of losing his job at the DIA.
One of the biggest names of the conference never even uttered a word. Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer is the military intelligence operative who recently went public with a controversial claim that a year before September 11, his top-secret task force "Able Danger" was able to identify the man who later turned out to be the lead hijacker as being connected to al Qaeda. Shaffer is a veteran of top-secret operations against terrorists, including some in Afghanistan, and several of his DIA colleagues have come out publicly to confirm that they remember Mohamed Atta being identified in 2000 as part of a project that combed through public databases looking for hidden links. But these allegations have been vigorously denied by the Pentagon and the White House, while several members of Congress are investigating. Shaffer was slated to speak but instead sat quietly by as his lawyer, Mark Zaid, spoke for him.

"Tony is not allowed to talk," Zaid said. "He is effectively gagged from talking. He is gagged from talking to Congress."

Indeed, while Shaffer's case is being championed by Republican Rep. Curt Weldon, the Pentagon has prohibited him from speaking further to members of Congress without prior approval. He has already watched the Pentagon revoke his security clearance. Zaid says that the Pentagon cited a series of old, unsubstantiated claims that had been addressed during his routine security screenings earlier in his career. "When he was 15, he took some pens from the U.S. Embassy where he was doing an internship," Zaid said. "This is one of the reasons" Shaffer was given for the revocation. Officials also brought up several newer allegations, including two small claims of unauthorized expenses, as well as an allegation that he accepted an award to which he was not entitled. Zaid says that Shaffer disputes all the allegations and can offer evidence in his defense.

Still, several lawyers agreed that there is not much room for appeal when a security clearance is revoked. Now, Zaid says, Shaffer– who is still employed by the DIA –is worried about getting fired from his job.
Personal experience has shown me that blowing the whistle while working for the Feds is definitely not...career-enhancing. But sometimes a career is a worthy sacrifice to make, if only for one's own peace of mind.

For a large (though thankfully, shrinking) proportion of Americans, a story isn't news unless it's been spoken on the air by one or more of the big three network anchors. Only Shaffer can decide if being fired is a price worth paying to force the words "Able Danger" past the lips of the network anchors. But even that sacrifice might not be enough to make ABC, CBS, and NBC stop suppressing the story.