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Specter: Pentagon may be obstructing committee

Officials ordered witnesses not to testify about secret program

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Department of Defense "ordered five key witnesses not to testify" about a secret Pentagon unit that some claim identified several of the 9/11 hijackers more than a year before the attacks, Sentate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said Wednesday.

"That looks to me as it may be obstruction of the committee's activities," Specter, R-Pennsylvania, said at the start of his committee's hearing into the unit code-named Able Danger.

Before Wednesday's hearing, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Pentagon was concerned about discussing a classified program in an open hearing and it had worked with the committee to provide a Department of Defense representative to testify. That representative was the acting assistant to the secretary for intelligence oversight, William Dugan.

Whitman also said the Pentagon is "working very closely with the committees of oversight to provide them with all of the info they need to assess Able Danger." The Judiciary Committee does not have oversight over the Pentagon.

At Wednesday's hearings, attorney Mark Zaid testified that his clients, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and defense contractor James Smith, had been prevented from testifying. Shaffer and Smith contend that Able Danger used data mining techniques to identify four of the September 11 hijackers, including Mohammed Atta, and that at least one chart existed that featured a photograph of Atta.

Shaffer and Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pennsylvania, have previously made these assertions in media reports and other public forums.

Zaid also testified that "at no time did Able Danger identify Mohammed Atta as being physically present in the United States." And, he said, "No information obtained at the time would have led anyone to believe criminal activity had taken place or that any specific terrorist activities were being planned."

Also testifying Wednesday was a former defense intelligence analyst, Erik Kleinsmith, who said he helped support Able Danger in 1999 and 2000. He testified that in April 2000 his work became "severely restricted and ultimately shut down due to intelligence oversight concerns," which led to the destruction of very large amounts of data about Able Danger, including information about Atta and other terrorists.

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