A lengthy US senate investigation has debunked claims by a Republican congressman that military analysts identified Mohamed Atta and other September 11 hijackers before the attacks.
In a letter to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senators Pat Roberts and John D Rockefeller dismissed suggestions by Republican Curt Weldon that defence analysts ignored analysis that could have prevented the attacks.
Roberts, a Republican, is the outgoing chairman and Rockefeller the senior Democrat who will assume the chairmanship on January 4 when the new congress convenes.
They concluded “there was no evidence Mohamad Atta or any hijackers were identified prior to 9/11”, said a committee aide.
An internal defence department assessment had already dismissed Weldon’s claims as unfounded, but the letter from Roberts and Rockefeller is the first rejection from Capitol Hill. The letter was reported on today by The Los Angeles Times.
Weldon, a 10-term Republican who lost his seat in the November 7 election, repeatedly contended that a secret military unit called Able Danger searched large amounts of data to link four September 11 hijackers to al-Qaida more than a year before the attacks.
In September, the Pentagon’s inspector general found that some employees recalled seeing an intelligence chart identifying Atta as a terrorist before the attacks, but the report said those accounts “varied significantly” and witnesses were inconsistent at times in their statements.
At the time, Weldon questioned the “motives and the content” of the report and rejected its conclusions, which he said relied on cherry-picked testimony. Weldon was not available for comment today.
According to the committee aide, Roberts and Rockefeller found similar problems in their investigation.
Weldon lost his seat to Democrat Joe Sestak, a retired navy admiral who called for troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2007.
Just weeks before the election, the FBI raided the homes of Weldon’s daughter and a close friend in an investigation of whether or not the congressman improperly helped the pair win lobbying and consulting contracts.