The Republican chairman of the Senate judiciary committee accused the Pentagon on Wednesday of stonewalling an inquiry into claims that the U.S. military identified four September 11 hijackers more than a year before the 2001 attacks.
The Defense Department barred several witnesses from testifying at a judiciary committee hearing and instead sent a top-level official who could provide little information on al-Qaeda-related intelligence uncovered by a secret military team code-named Able Danger.
"That looks to me like it may be obstruction of the committee's activities, something we will have to determine," said the panel's chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
Specter also complained that the Pentagon delivered hundreds of pages of documents related to Able Danger late on the eve of the hearing, giving his committee staff no time to review the material.
"The American people are entitled to some answers," Specter said. "It is not a matter of attaching blame. It is a matter of correcting errors so that we don't have a repetition of 9/11."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the Pentagon considered Able Danger to be a classified matter and declined to participate when the judiciary committee chose to hold an open hearing, reports Reuters.
According to Guardian, the Pentagon was represented at the hearing by William Dugan, the acting assistant to the secretary for intelligence oversight.
Dugan testified that he had very limited knowledge of Able Danger. But, he said, if the information were properly collected, Posse Comitatus should not have prevented intelligence sharing between the Pentagon and the FBI.
Specter told Dugan to inform his superiors that the committee wants to hear from people with firsthand knowledge of Able Danger.
Zaid, the lawyer, also testified on behalf of James Smith, a defense contractor. Zaid said Smith recalls seeing, before the Sept. 11 attacks, a chart bearing Atta's picture. The picture was purchased from a California contractor, Zaid said.
Erik Kleinsmith, a former Army major who worked on Able Danger, said he destroyed documents pertaining to Able Danger in 2000 because he was required to do so under Army regulations.