WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has asked the FBI to hand over all information about a secret military intelligence unit that purportedly identified a leading Sept. 11 hijacker, Mohamed Atta, as a terrorist a year before the attacks.
This month it became known that two officers, Army Reserve Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and Navy Capt. Scott Philpott, had contended that a unit code-named "Able Danger" searched large amounts of data for patterns to identify Atta in 2000. Shaffer said three other Sept. 11 hijackers were also identified.
In a letter to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) asked the agency for "all information and documents it has" on Able Danger, Shaffer, Philpott and any others linked to the operation. The letter, distributed Thursday to reporters, also seeks a meeting between Specter's staff and FBI agent Xanthig Mangum.
Ed Cogswell, an FBI spokesman, said Thursday that the FBI was reviewing the matter.
Shaffer said he contacted Mangum about setting up a meeting with the FBI to discuss Able Danger findings but was told by military lawyers that he could not go because of concerns about the legality of gathering and sharing information on people in the U.S., Specter wrote.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Thursday that no evidence had been found that would support the claims that any Sept. 11 hijackers were identified by Able Danger.
Shaffer and Philpott said they had made comments to the 9/11 commission about Able Danger, but were not taken seriously.