Mark Steyn digs himself deeper

After falling for an obvious hoax, Mark Steyn has refused to correct
his error. Instead he just keeps digging himself deeper and deeper
into a hole. (My previous posts on this topic:
1
2
3).

In his latest effort Steyn complains about how the meanies at Media Watch asked him what checks he made to prove the validity of Bryant’s unlikely tale:

But Chantal explained that she’d checked out the show and that the Media Watch concept involves them accusing you of something, you emailing back your 15,000-word response and then they pick the infelicitously phrased seven-word throwaway subordinate clause and stick it up on screen, after which the host delivers a withering putdown.

And also putting up your 15,000 word response on their web site for
all to see. Of course, the real reason why Steyn hasn’t written
15,000 words on the checks he made of the validity of Bryant’s story
is that he didn’t do any. All he has offered to justify his use of
story is Able Danger and he didn’t know about that when he wrote the
story. This doesn’t seem to matter to the The
Australian
—they don’t care whether the columns they publish are factual.

Steyn then claims that only argument that Media Watch had against him was:

But in the end their only point of factual disagreement boiled down
to a possible discrepancy in the timeline.

Well, no. There was also the fact that the 9/11 Commission, which had
a better chance to look at all the evidence than any of us, did not
find Bryant’s story credible.

Steyn continues:

a couple of days after the Media Watch broadcast, the news broke that
a US military data-mining operation claimed to have identified Atta as
part of an al-Qa’ida cell in Brooklyn well before he “officially”
landed at Newark on June 3. Since then, three of the 12 members of the
team have come forward publicly and the question of when precisely
Atta arrived in the US is now a topic of hot controversy. Media Watch
may go all goo-goo for the bland assurances of official reports but
there is simply no factual basis for the 9/11 commission’s chiselling
in granite of June 3 as the date of Atta’s first arrival.

Here is an important bit from the first
story

(way back on August 9) on Able Danger:

The official said the link to Brooklyn was meant as a term of art
rather than to be interpreted literally, saying that the unit had
produced no firm evidence linking the men to the borough of New York
City but that a computer analysis seeking to establish patterns in
links between the four men had found that “the software put them all
together in Brooklyn.”

Steyn is wrong to claim that the cell was located in Brooklyn. Able Danger did not find that Atta was in Brooklyn before June 2000.
In fact the official stated that they they had no firm evidence that he was in
Brooklyn. “Brooklyn cell” was just a name chosen because there was
some Brooklyn connection. Now, I don’t know whether Able Danger
identified Atta in early 2000. The troubling thing about the story at
the moment is that for all the talk about charts identifying him, none
of these charts or any other documentation has turned up. I’m
concerned that the team identified a terrorist cell in 2000, no action
was taken, and after 9/11 they convinced themselves that Atta was
identified when it was just someone with a similar name or appearance.
But as far as the Atta timeline goes, none of this matters since Able Danger has produced no evidence contradicting it.

Edward Jay Epstein explains that Able Danger used “open source material” and suggests a way that they could have identified Atta. But note that Able Danger didn’t have any information that wasn’t also available to the 9/11 Commission, so once again we see that it had no good evidence that Atta was in the US before June 2000.

Steyn then shares with us the earth-shattering news that it is possible to sneak into the US. Wow, who knew? What he doesn’t present, however, is any reason why Atta would do this. He had no trouble getting a US visa so there was no need for him to sneak into the country.

But my favourite bit is this claim:

The reality is that Bryant’s timeline has more supporting witnesses than the 9/11 commission’s.

The reality is that Bryant has one uncorroborated witness (herself) for her timeline, while 9/11 had many witnesses including Atta’s cell member Binalshibh.

After this latest shoddy effort from Steyn, Media Watch, which busted Steyn for falling for the story in the first place, has Steyn well in the running for the Jim Ball prize for media dupes. And if they ever introduce a blogger division of the prize, Tim “easily fooled” Blair is a shoo-in.

Update: Blair has added an update where he uses an out-of-context quote to claim that

Tim Lambert thinks “Abel Danger” is a person:

Abel Danger did not find that Atta was in Brooklyn before June 2000. In fact he stated that they had no firm evidence that he was in Brooklyn.

If Blair’s reading comprehension skills were any good he would have noticed that I consistently referred to the Able Danger team as “they”. The word “he” in the sentence Blair quotes refers to the official who was talking to Jehl about Able Danger. Blair’s response is characteristic of the unserious and superficial nature of his blog. He has no substantive comments on Bryant or Able Danger, just repeated assertions that Steyn is somehow correct and a lame attempt at point-scoring with an out-of-context quote.

Update 2: Blair has added another update—now his story is that he understood what I meant and all he was doing was mocking my “clumsy writing”. Even if this is true, it means that the sum total of his contribution to the discussion in five posts on Steyn and Bryant has been to discover a typo in the Media Watch transcript and some “clumsy writing” in one of my posts. Look up “superficial” in the dictionary and you’ll see a picture of Blair.

Comments

  1. #1 Grant
    August 29, 2005

    Eric Umansky seems to think this Brooklyn thing stems from mistaking Mohamed el-Amir (Atta) with Mohamed al-Amir. (Psst…it’s Able Danger.)

  2. #2 SayUncle
    August 29, 2005

    I was gonna say it’s able.

    FWIW, with the other able danger stuff floating around the web, I’m not so sure i’d trust the dog and pony show that was the 9/11 commission. Sure, steyn’s story is way out there but there have been at least two pentagon/military officials who have attested (though one inconsistently) that someone knew Atta was in the states.

  3. #3 Ragout
    August 29, 2005

    As Grant has pointed out, we now know that there were two terrorists named Mohamed Atta. Although this has come up in the context of Able Danger, it appears to be solidly supported, and its truth does not depend on anything about Able Danger.

    Anyway, it seems to me that Tim’s claim that the 9/11 Commission “did not find Bryant’s story credible” is no longer remotely tenable. The 9/11 Commission, after all, said nothing at all about Johnelle’s story.

    True, it’s fairly reasonable to infer from their silence that the commission didn’t meet with the 9/11 Atta. However, there’s no reason to think that the commission didn’t believe that Johnelle met with the other Atta, or some other wannabe terrorist.

    Indeed that’s what Slate and Epstein (sources Tim relies on) say: Johnelle probably had the encounter she described, just not with 9/11 Atta.

  4. #4 Peter W
    August 29, 2005

    Another ‘Pssssst’ … Able Danger isn’t a person – maybe you should do some ‘fact’ checking yourself…

    After this pathetic column of yours the ABC won’t have far to look if any vacancies pop up at Media Witch.

    Your mediocrity will ensure you fit in nicely with Aunties `B’ team of nonentities.

  5. #5 Tim Lambert
    August 29, 2005

    Ragout, Bryant’s story quite clearly contradicts the 9/11 Commission’s account of Atta’s doings. If they had believed her, then their report would have been different. Bryant was quite specific that he had spelled out his name A T T A. MAybe she did meet someone who asked for a loan for a crop duster — if so, she invented the part about his name being Atta and probably all the rest about Al Qaeda and threatedning to attack Washington.

  6. #6 Tim Lambert
    August 29, 2005

    Peter W seems to be going for the blog commenter division of the media dupes prize, having been fooled by Tim Blair into thinking that I believe that Abel Danger is a person.

  7. #7 Ragout
    August 30, 2005

    Tim,

    You’re completely ignoring my point, which is that there seem to be two terrorists named Mohamed Atta. How do you know Bryant didn’t meet with the other one? Or with someone using Atta’s name?

    And Bryant did not say that Atta threatened to attack Washington. As I recall, he said something like, “how would you feel if someone attacked Washington?” As with the 9/11 commission’s silence, you are substituting your interpretation for the facts.

  8. #8 Tim Lambert
    August 30, 2005

    Ragout, if had bothered to read the post you linked to you would know that the other Atta was deported from the US to Israel in 1990 and is serving a life sentence in Israel. So that’s how we know that it wasn’t him either.

  9. #9 Wilbur
    August 30, 2005

    There’s a couple of points here I’d like to look at.

    First, Tim says:
    “Well, no. There was also the fact that the 9/11 Commission, which had a better chance to look at all the evidence than any of us, did not find Bryant’s story credible.”

    I’ve never seen any evidence that the commission even bothered to interview Bryant, much less consider her claim.

    Second, Tim states:
    “But as far as the Atta timeline goes, none of this matters since Able Danger has produced no evidence contradicting it.”

    Surely the whole point here is that much of the Able Danger information was offered to the commission, and yet they decided to ignore it, (see http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2005/8/17/82553.shtml). Also, Able Danger suggests Atta moved under various verions of his name, but the commission used ONE version for its timeline.

    They also avoided speaking to Shaffer, the army officer from the military intelligence team that was involved with the program (see http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/08/17/sept.11.hijackers/). Consider that- a commission of inquiry didn’t want to look at the intelligence information being used by Special Operations Command in the military. In other words, the intel used by special forces soldiers in hunting terrorists wasn’t good enough for them. Tim states that none of these charts or documents have turned up. But they have turned up; boxes of the stuff was offerred to the commission but ignored.

    There are also several independant witnesses to Bryant’s claim about Atta being in the country earlier than June 3rd 2000. These have been identified by Florida journalist Daniel Hopsicker (see http://www.madcowprod.com/issue29.html ). He describes them as;
    1). A girl who claims to have met and briefly dated Atta.
    2). Apartment manager Charles Grapentine, an ex-marine who recalls Atta staying in the same block of flats.
    3). Housewife Stephanie Frederickson, who lived next door.

    All three of these witnesses claim Atta was staying at the flats earlier than June. The flats are also near where he learned to fly. And therefore Bryant does indeed have more witnesses now than the commission’s timeline.

    All three of these witnesses have been turned away by the FBI, which doesn’t want to believe their evidence, because the official record has Atta entering the country later on June 3rd, under the name of “Mohamed Mohamed el-Amir Awad el-Sayed Atta”. The only problem here is- military intelligence is suggesting that Atta lived under several variations of his name, and not just “Mohamed Mohamed el-Amir Awad el-Sayed Atta”. That’s the whole point of Able Danger. If he used various shortened versions of his name- a practice common amongst arabs travelling or working in the west- then the whole FBI/commission timeline is based on official records pertaining to ONE VERSION OF HIS NAME.

    Tim mentions, again, that Atta had no reason to enter the US secretly earlier as he had no problem getting a US visa. This has been suggested by the commission as an attempt to hide Atta’s travel to pakistan by getting a new visa in 2000. But it could just as easily have been an attempt by Atta to hide previous travelling anywhere- including to and from the US. A terrorist on the move would have plenty of reasons to do so under several different (and quite legal) versions of his own name, in order to keep authorities guessing and make it hard for databases to make any connection. In fact, earlier visits wouldn’t be ‘secret’, they would be legitimate, open uses of his name.

    Did the other terrorists change identity documents during this time? The evidence suggests that they did. Hazmi and Hanjour, for instance, suddenly took out new bank accounts and mailboxes in june 2001, and several others suddenly took out brand new photo identification. This was in New Jersey and then at the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. (see http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/ops/911-fin.htm ). They are believed to have been in the country for awhile, with other ID docs already, BEFORE doing this. I wonder how many variations of their Arabic names they used throughout? The same article notes that Atta suddenly purchased several new mobile phones in mid 2001. Now why would a guy who had no problems getting a visa suddenly decide to change phones for him and some of his team? Could it be that he wanted to present any government surveillance with a change of direction- again- that would frustrate following them?

    And don’t forget- the critique of Bryant’s story rests on her recalling a meeting date with Atta two years after the event, which could easily be a mistake over dates on her part. I’d be curious to know the exact date of when the office she worked for moved, so we can start to tie dates in or out.

  10. #10 Peter W
    August 30, 2005

    If you didn’t feel the heat Tim, why did you `stealth edit’ your original post?

    From:

    “Abel Danger did not find that Atta was in Brooklyn before June 2000. In fact he stated that they had no firm evidence that he was in Brooklyn.”

    To

    “Able Danger did not find that Atta was in Brooklyn before June 2000. In fact the official stated that they they had no firm evidence that he was in Brooklyn. ”

    I guess its another example of the unserious and superficial nature of your blog.

    Looks like Tim L for the `Red face of embarrassment’ award for wrongfully attributing corporeal existance to a DoD operation.

  11. #11 Ragout
    August 30, 2005

    Tim,

    The post I linked to does NOT say that the 2nd Atta is serving a life sentence in Israel! It even discusses his whereabouts in 2000.

    In any event, you are in error. The second Atta has long since been released from prison.

  12. #12 James Lane
    August 30, 2005

    Tim,

    It seems to me that in order to sustain your attack on Mark Steyne, you ned to prove that Atta could not have been in the US in April-May 2000. For this, you appear to entirely rely on the time-line constructed by the 9/11 Commission, which is at least partly circumstantial. At the same time there are several witnesses (apart from Bryant) that report Atta being in the US before June 2000.

    You also contend that Atta had no reason to travel under false documents (or enter the US illegally) as he had no trouble getting a visa under his own name. In part, that was because he had two Egyptian passports, reporting one as “lost” to disguise recent visits to Pakistan. Why would you presume that he hadn’t previously entered the US under other pretences?

    Finally, as others have pointed out, you seem to characterise Atta as being rational, which is not an adjective that I would readily apply to someone that hijacked an airliner and flew it into a skyscraper.

    Returning to the main point – can you prove that Atta was not in the US April-May 2000?

  13. #13 Bill Posters
    August 30, 2005

    It seems to me that in order to sustain your attack on Mark Steyne, you ned to prove that Atta could not have been in the US in April-May 2000.

    Wrong onus of proof. It is Steyn attempting to make a positive case; the onus is on him.

  14. #14 James Lane
    August 30, 2005

    Well, Bill Posters’ comment is the funniest I’ve seen in a while.

    Steyn contends that Atta could have been in the US April-May 2000. This is supported by Bryant and a number of other witnesses.

    Tim cites the 9/11 Commission saying he was elsewhere at the time, via circumstantial evidence.

    Onus of proof is on Tim to show that Atta could not have been in the US at the time Bryant said she met him.

    If he can’t prove this, then his charge against Steyn is unfounded.

  15. #15 Tim Lambert
    August 30, 2005

    Ragout, my bad. I looked at the Snopes page but I didn’t notice that the other Atta had been released. However, he was Palestinian and Abu Nidal so doesn’t fit with Bryant’s story. Nor would he have been allowed back into the US under his real name.

  16. #16 Ragout
    August 30, 2005

    Tim,

    The 2nd Atta was a naturalized US citizen, and so would certainly have been allowed into the US. It is very hard to lose US citizenship.

    Really, it occurs to me that the 2nd Atta’s US citizenship is the biggest problem for this theory, rather any of the things you mentioned. Bryant says Atta didn’t qualify for a loan because he was not a citizen. She’d have to be pretty incompetent to get this wrong.

    The broader point is that this is one of many ways in which Bryant’s story could be basically true, if not correct in every particular.

  17. #17 Meyrick Kirby
    August 30, 2005

    >and a number of other witnesses.

    Who?

  18. #18 Meyrick Kirby
    August 30, 2005

    I might also add, if my memory serves, the original ABC piece on Bryant claims she met 4 of the 9/11 terrorists, not just Atta. Now maybe ABC got it wrong (in which case you would think she would have asked for a correction), but I find it hard to believe she could have met 4 of the terrorists and the commission miss it.

  19. #19 Bill Posters
    August 30, 2005

    James Lane:

    Onus of proof is on Tim to show that Atta could not have been in the US at the time Bryant said she met him.

    You would like Tim to prove a negative?

  20. #20 David Heidelberg
    August 30, 2005

    Steyn is blair’s wet dream, and he will defend him to the end of the earth. He has no credibility to lose, so nothing is likely to stop him.

  21. #21 James Lane
    August 30, 2005

    Bill, the subject of this thread (and the two earier ones) is that Mark Steyn has been suckered by the Bryant story.

    Tim (and Media Watch) argue that Atta wasn’t in the US at the time Bryant says she met Atta (April-May 2000), relying on the 9/11 Commission’s time-line.

    In reply, Steyne says that he doesn’t accept the Commission’s time-line as the “gold standard” of Atta’s movements (and a bit of googling will show that he’s not alone in that view), and that Atta could have entered the US prior to June 2000 in a number of ways.

    If Tim wants to nail Steyn as a sucker, it’s incumbent on him to show that Atta could not have been in the US at the critical time. This isn’t “provng a negative”: if we knew that, for example, Atta was in jail in Europe at the time, that would do it.

    I’m not defending Bryant’s story, just pointing out that it hasn’t been conclusively shown to be false. It’s also possible that Bryant met a different Atta, or someone claiming to be Atta.

  22. #22 James Lane
    August 31, 2005

    Is there any chance that Tim Lambert will reply to questions posted on his own blog?

    Ragout has shown that there is more than one terrorist with the name “Mohamed Atta”.

    Wilbur has shown that there are other witnesses that put Atta in the US before June 2000.

    And I ask, is there any solid evidence that Atta could not have been in the US in April-May 2000?

    Once again, I’m not promoting Bryant’s story, only noting that it hasn’t been falsified. As has been pointed out before, the 9/11 Commision never mentioned Bryant, and AFAIK, never interviewed her.

  23. #23 Ian Gould
    August 31, 2005

    Mark,

    Look at the top item posted on the main page – Tim may have other priorities besides answering your questions just at the moment.

  24. #24 James Lane
    September 1, 2005

    Apologies for the intemperate comment – I hadn’t noticed the more recent post. Hope you both had a happy anniversary, Tim

  25. #25 Tim Lambert
    September 1, 2005

    James, Ragout concedes that the other Atta deasn’t fit with Bryant’s story.

    The witnesses Wilbur mention were interviewed by the FBI which id npt find them credble.

    Note that when Binalshibh’s application for a visa was rejected, he stayed behind in Germany, rather than sneaking over the border. This is further evidence that Atta didn’t tryt to come to America until he got hid visa in May 2000.

  26. #26 James Lane
    September 2, 2005

    Tim, there are certainly credibility issues here, but not just with the witnesses.

    Three more Able Danger personnel have confirmed earlier accounts:

    “WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Three more people associated with a secret U.S. military intelligence team have asserted that the program identified September 11 ringleader Mohammed Atta as an Al Qaeda suspect inside the United States more than a year before the 2001 attacks, the Pentagon said on Thursday.”

    At the very least, the idea that because the 9/11 Commission “didn’t mention” something it was not credible/important is now completely unsustainable.

    Here’s some more stuff the Commission “didn’t mention”:

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/006/010ewlke.asp

    Are you still so certain that Atta couldn’t have entered the US before June 2000?

  27. #27 Wilbur
    September 2, 2005

    I’m still going to disagree with Tim on this one.

    For starters, the FBI rejected the witnesses because it was working from a timeline based on one version of Atta’s name, the one that went on his visa. They did not, as far as I know, have any access to the military intelligence information, which showed that Atta had travelled under multiple versions of his Arabic name. And nor could they know; lawyers had forbid the military intelligence officers and NCOs from sharing information with civilian law enforcement agencies.If this information was made available to them at the time they may have thought differently.

    Furthermore, I very much doubt that a domestic law enforcement agency had access to the arabic speakers that intelligence staff at Special Operations Command would have had. Or any understanding of arabic names and their variations.

    Binalshibh’s visa rejection is not proof that Atta hadn’t travelled to the US previously. If Atta applied for a visa at that stage, and it was a successful application, then the authorities would have demonstrated to Atta once and for all that he was not suspected of any earlier illegal activity in the US. That would have given him the green light to enter the US on a legal basis and commence flying training with a clean slate, having made his recce and preparations in the earlier visits.

    This actually makes, to my mind, his meeting with Bryant all the more plausible. Having considered his various operational options- including the use of crop dusters- he could have exited the country, then gone for a formal visa application in order to see if he was ‘clean’ and ready for the final phase (flying training) in the lead up to the attack. The moves by other members of the terrorist group to seek new formal identity documents (drivers licences and so forth) after they had already been in-country for several months could also have been an attempt to test authorities and see where their status was at.

  28. #28 Tim Lambert
    September 2, 2005

    James, the Reuters report is not accurate. [Here](http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2005/tr20050901-3844.html) is the transcript of the briefing — no-one is saying that Atta was in the US, just that he was on a chart. And they’ve looked through the records and a chart with his name on it has not been found. And I’m not impressed by the Morrisey link — he really really wants to discredit the 9/11 report so he can revive the Atta Prague Iraq link.

    Wilbur, don’t be silly. Of course the commission knew that he travelled under different versions of his name since they reported this travel.

    Nor does attempting to buy a crop duster make any kind of sense. AQ had already been planning the planes operation for quite a while and they weren’t planning on using crop dusters which would have been much less effective than hijacking commercial jets.

  29. #29 Wilbur
    September 3, 2005

    Tim,

    The briefing at http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2005/tr20050901-3844.html clearly mentions that the chart could well have existed, but can’t be found as it may have been destroyed. It also mentions that the witnesses who recall its existence are not the previously mentioned three, but are really FIVE.

    One of the DoD staff also mentions that the five witnesses are people he considers ‘credible’, it’s just that the chart cannot be found yet. Another mentions that a large amount of documentation was shredded, including whole CDs and disc drives that went into the cruncher.

    As I mentioned in the earlier link at http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2005/8/17/82553.shtml , Shaffer has described how the 9/11 Commission was offered 15 boxes of information from Able Danger. They only took away 2 briefcases full and rejected the rest.

    Furthermore, the commission did not look at evidence that disagreed with the FBI produced timeline. I haven’t seen any evidence yet that the commission inquired into the possibility of Atta travelling to and from the US before June 2000, after the FBI stated their timeline based on the visa in the name of ‘Mohamed el-Amir Awad el-Sayed Atta’. The commission did not interview the three witnesses in Florida for starters. And yes, the commission did look at multiple uses of his name, because they looked at his 2000 visa application as an attempt to hide previous travel to and from Pakistan. I guess the possibility that it could just have easily been used to hide travel to and from somewhere else didn’t occur to them.

    You also mentioned that ‘no-one is saying that Atta was in the US, just that he was on a chart’. Able Danger was designed to look at links between foreign and domestic terrorists and organisations. If a terrorist link to Atta was recalled by five witnesses (with an unknown location of him), and if four people (including Bryant) recall meeting Atta before June 2000, then I would say Bryant’s story is far from disproved.

    Al Qaeda had indeed been planning the airliner operation for some time. However Al-Qaeda has always considered multiple options for attacks. Plus you’re assuming that a kamikaze pilot would act in a sensible fashion in planning an operation.

    And as I mentioned earlier, Binalshibh’s visa rejection didn’t prove anything; except that Binalshibh suddenly knew his cover was blown. He wouldn’t have risked crossing the border afterwards, because he would have jeopardized the others.

  30. #30 Terry
    September 4, 2005

    Tim wrote, “There was also the fact that the 9/11 Commission, which had a better chance to look at all the evidence than any of us, did not find Bryant’s story credible.”

    Jamie Gorelick was on the commission. She was also responsible for building the “wall” between the FBI and CIA. She had a conflict of interest, investigating herself. She should not have been on the commission.
    When it was revealed that Richard Clarke lied when a Fox reporter came forward after Clarke testified and said the Clarke said the exact opposite off the record.
    This was confirmed. Bob Kerrey after confirming Clarke lied, said it was okay because it was off the record. He then praised Clarke and offered him a job at New University.
    There were five Democrats and five Republicans on the commission, no independents.
    When Lee Hamilton and Bob Kerrey demanded that Bush testify at lenght, and Bush did, they both walked out after an hour of a scheduled three hour testimoney, Kerrey saying he had to attend a lunch, and Hamilton said he had “business to take care of.”
    What this proves is the 9-11 commission is a joke. It has no credibility.
    Zero, none.
    Is something wrong with you Mr. Lambert?
    Its so fucking obvious but you swallow it hook, line and sinker.
    Why?

  31. #31 Wilbur
    September 4, 2005

    Terry’s comment on Gorelick is quite interesting (and, I confess, something I hadn’t even spotted personally).

    Gorelick was indeed on the commission (http://www.9-11commission.gov/about/bio_gorelick.htm ), and she was deeply involved in stopping different agencies from sharing intelligence (http://www.washtimes.com/national/20040429-122228-6538r.htm ). I’m not surprised that the Commission didn’t want to look at most of the military intel from Able Danger, especially anything that suggested links between people and organisations involving Atta.

  32. #32 Tim Lambert
    September 4, 2005

    Don’t be silly Wilbur. Gorelick was only one of the commissioners. She had no way of covering anything up without the other commissioners being aware of it.

  33. #33 Rob
    September 4, 2005

    Ahh I see those super intelligent outsiders have been blaming Jaimie Goerlick and her mighty power of the pen now that the whole Sandy Berger stole them! was laughed out. Of course Goerlick wrote a memo dealing not with the CIA and the FBI but the FBI and the rest of the Justice Dept. I guess the conservatives are just smart enough to know that the Justice Dept is really a CIA front.

  34. #34 Ian Gould
    September 5, 2005

    I don’t have a link but at least one of the people who remembers Atta’s name on the chart was on the TV the other night saying that his inclusion simply meant that he was believed to be an associate of, or working with, the suspected Brooklyn terrorist cell – not that he was necessarily physcially present in the US at the time.

  35. #35 James Lane
    September 5, 2005

    Despite some misreporting, I don’t think any of the Able Danger evidence to date indicates that Atta was definitely in the US before June 2000.

    What the Able Danger evidence does do is shred the argument by Tim (and Media Watch) that because the 9/11
    Commission did not mention Bryant, her evidence was not credible. The Commission didn’t mention Able Danger either, and that’s now looking very credible.

    Rob’s post is incoherent, so it’s difficult to know what he’s trying to say. But it seems clear that Gorelick’s “wall” prevented the transfer of Able Danger intel to the FBI.

    Regardless of the political composition of the Commission, it certainly appears to be, in part, an exercise in arse-protection.

    It appears that Tim is pretty far out on a limb to claim that Steyn fell for an “obvious hoax”. Once again I’ll ask Tim if he still believes that it’s not possible that Atta was in the US prior to June 2000?

  36. #36 Tim Lambert
    September 5, 2005

    James, you don’t seem to have followed the argument. Bryant’s story is not credible. Just read the full transcript. Plus [this](http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/news/60602_news_atta.html)

    >But that wasn’t the only time she saw Atta. He returned again, slightly disguised with glasses. He claimed to be an accountant for Marwan Al-Shehhi, who was with him, and said he wanted $500,000 to buy land for a sugar-cane farm.

    >Ahmed Alghamdi and Fayez Rashid Ahmed Hassan al Qadi Banihammad also came separately seeking loans, but were less successful in speaking with people.

    The last two were muscle hijackers, even. Come on, are you seriously trying to tell me that this is a credible story?

  37. #37 Tim Lambert
    September 5, 2005

    Some more links. [LA Times](http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-atta2sep02,0,549919.story?coll=la-home-nation)

    >Swiergosz and other Pentagon officials said they believed that all five of the team members were credible, but that investigators could not find a single piece of evidence proving that such a chart existed.

    >”The facts are very simple,” Swiergosz said. “They specifically searched for the name Mohamed Atta and it never came up. We couldn’t even find data that someone could use to create such a chart.”

    >Pat Downs, a senior policy analyst in the office of the undersecretary of Defense for intelligence, said investigators did find evidence of a “similar” chart that found links to a “Brooklyn cell,” but said it did not contain a reference to Atta or any of the other 18 hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks.

    [Interview with Shaffer](http://www.gsnmagazine.com/sep_05/shaffer_interview.html):

    > Did they say, for example, “Here’s Abdul and he’s showing up at a mosque in Pakistan and, lo and behold, he’s showing up at another mosque in the Sudan a week later”?

    >SHAFFER:Yes.

    >GSN:How did they get down to the level of who’s walking in and out of a mosque?

    >SHAFFER: Because apparently there are records of who goes where regarding visits to mosques. That was the data that LIWA was buying off the Internet from information brokers.

    >You’d need to talk to [James] Smith to find out more about that. He came forward publicly, but he has not publicly admitted that he was the guy using this type of information that made the link between [Mohammed] Atta and [Sheik Omar Abdel] Rahman, the first World Trade Center bomber. That’s how the link was established, through [Smith's] research on the Internet.

    Rahman’s mosque was in [Brooklyn](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Trade_Center_bombing) so that explains the “Brooklyn cell” name.

  38. #38 James Lane
    September 5, 2005

    Tim,

    I’ve followed the argument perfectly well – it’s you that’s ducking and weaving.

    You are asserting that Bryant’s story is false because it’s bizarre. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t true. It’s perhaps equally bizarre that a Dept. of Agricuture official (of 16 years service) would invent such a story. BTW, the second part of your post, regarding Ahmed Alghamdi and Fayez Rashid Ahmed Hassan al Qadi Banihammad is not attributed to Bryant.

    But this is beside the point. This thread (and the previous three threads) are about whether Mark Steyn was taken in by “an obvious hoax”. First you relied on the the fact that that the 9/11 Commission didn’t mention Bryant. You interpreted this to mean that they didn’t find Bryant credible (even though it appears that the Comission never interviewed her). We now know (Able Danger) that there were credible and relevant things that the Commission also didn’t mention. Also you rely on the Commision’s time-line that Atta didn’t visit the US before June 2000.

    Steyn has replied that he doesn’t accept the Commission’s time-line as the “gold standard” of Atta’s movements, a view that would appear to be well founded.

    It doesn’t matter that Bryant’s story is “bizzare”. There are plenty of events in history that are bizzare but nevertheless true – the 9/11 event itself perhaps falls into this category. If you want to sustain your argument that Steyn has fallen for “an obvious hoax” then you have to show that Atta could not have entered the US before June 2000. If you can’t, then you don’t know – you weren’t in Bryant’s office (while the head of the bank in the office next door to Bryant believes her story).

    So I’ll ask you again, for, what, the fifth time? – can you be certain that Atta was not in the US before June 2000? Please answer yes or no. And if “no”, I think you owe Steyn an apology.

  39. #39 Wilbur
    September 5, 2005

    “Gorelick was only one of the commissioners. She had no way of covering anything up without the other commissioners being aware of it.”

    There was no cover up. They just couldn’t be bothered to look for the information, which is not the same thing. As I said earlier, the fact that the commission didn’t want to look at most of the intel that was produced by Able Danger shows that they didn’t think intel used by Special Forces was good enough for them.

    As for Bryant’s story not being credible, it’s no more incredible than some of the other bizarre things involving Atta. Such as him sharing an airline flight with actor James Woods when he was on a pre-9/11 recce. Or his father insisting he was still alive after 9/11. Or the fact that he completed a thesis on the history of Aleppo’s urban landscapes. Or that he sometimes told people he was of royal saudi descent. Or the fact that a number of the 9/11 hijackers, despite being islamic fundamentalists, partied in Vegas and got drunk not long before the attacks, whilst watching strippers.

    It also seems that the manager of the local community bank in Florida (Bob Epling) was backing Bryant’s story before Bryant’s story was out. As far back as September 25 2001 he was saying, in an article published in the Los Angeles Times (http://www.miis.edu/offsite_press/Los%20Angeles%20Times%20Sept%2025,%202001_files/CA62FP56_files/000000082049155.html ), that his staff recalled someone approaching his bank on the telephone to inquire about a loan application to buy crop dusters.

    This is well before Bryant went public in 2002 and got interviewed for television. Epling rented space to Bryant’s office, and his bank was near her office. Any chance that Atta noticed the bank on the way out of Bryant’s office, and decided to ring it later? Or that he phoned the bank to start with, visited the building, but thought that the Department of Agriculture in the same building would be a safer bet? Or that someone else from the terrorist cell made the phone call? And how many small community banks in Florida get telephone calls about a loan to buy crop dusters anyway?

    Epling seems to be the person who went public first. Which does put a different angle on his recent support for Bryant.

    What is it about Atta that makes you think he would behave in a normal, sensible way anyway?

  40. #40 Wilbur
    September 5, 2005

    *Whoops* a quick correction by yours truly; Atta didn’t stumble across the bank on the way to or from Bryant’s office. A careful re-reading of her original interview in June 2002 shows that she directed him to it (see http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/news/60602_news_atta.html );

    “…she referred him to other government agencies and to a bank downstairs.”

    Now lets check the timeline again. Bob Epling ran that bank branch downstairs. And many months earlier than Bryant’s ABC interview (on Sept 25 2001), he was quoted in the LA Times as saying that one of his staff could recall a weird phone call from someone asking about a loan to buy crop dusters, which was thought to be very unusual.

    So Bryant is really corroborating Epling’s story, NOT the other way around, as some have suggested.

    The money quote from Bryant is in the original ABC article though, right after she refers him to the bank;

    “He asked questions about whether his plans to be out of the country for a few weeks would interfere with his eligibility for a loan. “I think he said he needed to go to Madrid, and somewhere in Germany, and then there was a third country,” said Bryant.”

    So Bryant is saying that Atta was in her office briefly in April or May of 2000, and that he even said to her he was going to be out of the country for a few weeks, and to be returning via other countries, including Germany, soon. Soon- as in June 3rd….. a trip that saw Atta come in on a brand new visa.

    A brand new visa so that he could hide where he had been.

    Anyway, Bryant would have known none of this. For her to have invented her story, she would not only have had to research Atta’s international travel- back in mid 2002 when less that was known was confirmed on the public record- she would have to know about the phone call to the bank downstairs. Even though she had moved offices and was in a different location when the LA Times spoke to Epling in September 2001. Granted, she could have read it on the internet, but we’re talking about a woman who freely admitted to not knowing anything about Al-Qaeda (which was common to most people before the attack).

    Or maybe she was just telling the truth all along.

  41. #41 Tim Lambert
    September 5, 2005

    Sorry, you have it backwards. Bryant told her story to the FBI first. That’s why they questioned Epling. [Wapo Sept 25 2001](http://64.233.187.104/search?q=cache:TAMfVu0MeesJ:www.911da.org/crr/documents/1136.pdf)

    >Epling said yesterday that his bank, headquartered in Homestead, received a call from the FBI seven to 10 days ago saying that Atta had gone into a USDA office that until recently was in the bank’s building.

    >The agents asked if Atta had applied for such a loan from Community Bank, since USDA employees had apparently suggested to Atta that he try Epling’s bank.

    >Several USDA employees had recently identified Atta to the FBI, and recalled that he wore Tommy Hilfiger clothes and a lot of cologne, according to the FBI version of events provided to the bank.

    >Epling said one employee had a vague memory of an encounter. “All he remembers is an inquiry about a loan for buying crop-dusters,” Epling said of his employee. The employee thought the inquiry was in 2000 and did not remember the customer well enough to identify him as Atta, Epling said. The FBI said Atta may have gone to the USDA offices in April 2000, Epling said.

    >Employees in the USDA’s Farm Service Agency, whose local office has since moved to neighboring Florida City, referred questions to a supervisor in the state headquarters. At a reporter’s request, Kevin Kelley, state executive director for the USDA’s Florida Farm Service Agency, contacted Johnell Bryant, a USDA loan manager in Florida City, to ask what had happened.

    >Kelley said Bryant declined to comment. “She said she was told by authorities not to speak about it,”

  42. #42 James Lane
    September 6, 2005

    There’s an interesting new detail buried in that post:

    “Several USDA employees had recently identified Atta to the FBI, and recalled that he wore Tommy Hilfiger clothes and a lot of cologne, according to the FBI version of events provided to the bank.”

    So according to Epling, the FBI mentioned several Dept of Agriculture employees identifying Atta, not just Bryant.

    It’s also worth noting that, at this time, Bryant refused to talk to the press, inconsistent with Tim’s depiction of her as an attention-seeking fabulist.

    Just for fun, let’s ask Tim for the sixth time – can you be certain that Atta was not in the US before June 2000? Please answer yes or no.

    Alternatively, you could change the title of the thread to “Tim Lambert digs himself deeper”.

  43. #43 Tim Lambert
    September 6, 2005

    Yes James, because everything you read in the paper must be true. The “several USDA employees” is third hand information. Most likely the number got garbled somewhere between the FBI, the bank and the reporter. [Here](http://www.edwardjayepstein.com/nether_fictoid11.htm):

    >In December, when Moussaoui was indicted as part of the conspiracy, two of the overt acts cited in the indictment were:

    >1) “in 2000 and 2001, in Florida, Mohammed Atta made inquiries regarding starting a crop dusting company.” …

    >As it turned out, all these news stories, as well as Ashcroft’s information about Atta, were based on the recollections of two people? Johnell Bryant and James Lester.

    >Johnell Bryant, a loan manager in the Department of Agriculture’s Florida Farm Service Office, recalled after September 11th that Atta came to her office to get a $650,000 cash loan to finance a twin-engine, six-passenger airplane (not a crop-duster.) She said that the man had told her that he intended to build a tank in the passenger plane so he could also use it for crop-dusting. She said that the meeting had occurred in 2000, between “the third week of April to the third week of May of 2000.” She was able to fix the date because the Far Service subsequently moved their office to Florida City. While no doubt some Arab-looking man made an inquiry about getting a loan during this period, Mohamed Atta was in Germany during that time period, applying for his visa to come to the United States. He did not arrive in the United States until June 3rd 2000. If so, the person who came into Bryant’s office to get a loan to buy a passenger plane in April or May 2000 could not have been Mohamed Atta. …

    >When these conflicts in dates became apparent after the FBI re- interviewed the two witnesses, the Department of Justice decided to drop the terror crop-dusters from its case. On June 25 2002, it replaced the previous indictment with a new one that omitted the claim that “Mohammed Atta made inquiries regarding starting a crop dusting company,” any other references to”crop dusting” encounters by anyone alleged to be part of the conspiracy.

    >The terror crop-dusting planes, a fictoid initially of Ashcroft and the Justice Department, is now only a fictoid of the media.

    Notice the date when the Justice Department stopped believing Bryant? 25 June 2002, a couple of weeks after she told her story to ABC. What do you think the odds are that the story she told ABC was considerably embellished from what she told the FBI the previous year?

  44. #44 James Lane
    September 6, 2005

    For heaven’s sake, Tim, you chastise me for relying on a media report, and then you rely on a blog for a refutation!

    I was quoting *your* post – if you think it’s not reliable, why did you post it at all?

    Seventh time: – can you be certain that Atta was not in the US before June 2000? Please answer yes or no.

  45. #45 Tim Lambert
    September 7, 2005

    James, the blog I linked to was by Edward Jay Epstein who is a respected writer with several published books. People certainly take him more seriously than Steyn.

    I linked to the story because it disproved Wilbur’s claim that she had corroborated Epling rather than the other way round.

  46. #46 Wilbur
    September 7, 2005

    Tim, you are indeed right on the fact that Bryant got in there before Epling, my reading had me thinking it was the other way around.

    However, this doesn’t get us away from the fact that one corroborated the other, or that witnesses are backing Bryant when people have said that there was no witnesses.

    Epstein shows a lack of understanding in the legal system, when he decides that dropping the crop duster accusations from the legal brief is proof that the whole thing never happened. As anyone who has served in the military AND policing could tell you, the big difference between the two is that one works on what they know, and the other goes on what they can prove to others.

    Dropping something from a legal brief does not show that it didn’t happen. It shows that an element of reasonable doubt has been introduced that could risk the credibility of the accusers in court. A legal brief would be seeking to prove things beyond reasonable doubt, not on balance of probabilities.

    Witnesses recalling conflicting dates, from memory, a long time after the event, would be a good example of ‘reasonable doubt’. Throwing doubt on something before it gets to court is NOT the same as proving it never happened. If the FBI ditched the crop duster stuff before court it doesn’t mean that the intel information doesn’t point to it. It means they didn’t want to give the defendant any room to wriggle in court, when they had enough stuff on him, anyway.

    And as we have seen, Intel information from Able Danger may have pointed to things- but the 9/11 commission didn’t want to look. Which is as good an example as any of what happens when you put a bunch of lawyers in a room, instead of using people who actually have some investigative experience.

    By the way, has anyone bothered to check the actual date that Bryant’s office moved on?

  47. #47 Ian Gould
    September 15, 2005

    The September 11 Commission has rejected the Able Danger claims:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2005/09/14/national/w120012D31.DTL