In summer 2005, news reports began to appear regarding a data mining initiative that had been carried out by the U.S. Army’s Land Information Warfare Agency (LIWA) in 1999-2000. The initiative, referred to as Able Danger, had reportedly been requested by the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) as part of larger effort to develop a plan to combat transnational terrorism. Because the details of Able Danger remain classified, little is known about the program. However, in a briefing to reporters, the Department of Defense characterized Able Danger as a demonstration project to test analytical methods and technology on very large amounts of data. The project involved using link analysis to identify underlying connections and associations between individuals who otherwise appear to have no outward connection with one another. The link analysis used both classified and publicly available data, totaling a reported 2.5 terabytes. All of this data, which included information on U.S. persons, was reportedly deleted in April 2000 due to U.S. Army regulations requiring information on U.S. persons be destroyed after a project ends or becomes inactive.
Interest in Able Danger was largely driven by controversy over allegations that the data mining analysis had resulted in the identification of Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers, as a terrorist suspect before the attacks took place. While some individuals who had been involved in Able Danger were reportedly prepared to testify that they had seen either his name and/or picture on a chart prior to the attacks, the identification claim was strongly disputed by others.
On September 21, 2005, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on Able Danger to consider how the data could or should have been shared with other agencies, and whether the destruction of the data was in fact required by the relevant regulations. While the Department of Defense directed the individuals involved in Able Danger not to testify at the hearing, testimony was taken from the attorney of one of the individuals, as well as others not directly involved with the project.
- ↑ Department of Defense, Special Defense Department Briefing (Sept. 1, 2005.
- ↑ Shane Harris, “Homeland Security — Intelligence Designs,” Nat'l J., Dec. 3, 2005
- ↑ Erik Kleinsmith, Testimony before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Able Danger and Intelligence Information Sharing (Sept. 21, 2005).
- Curt Weldon, "Weldon Rejects DoD Report on Able Danger and Harassment of Military Office" (full-text).
- DoD, Office of the Inspector General, Investigation into Alleged Misconduct by Senior DoD Officials Concerning the Able Danger Program and Lieutenant Colonel Anthony A. Shaffer, U.S. Army Reserve (Sept. 16, 2006) (full-text).