Able-Danger Officer Disciplined

James Smith, left, and Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer listen during a Senate hearing, Sept. 21, 2005, on "Able Danger" and intelligence information sharing prior to the Sept. 11 attacks. AP

An officer who has claimed that a classified military unit identified four Sept. 11 hijackers before the 2001 attacks is facing Pentagon accusations of breaking numerous rules, allegations his lawyer suggests are aimed at undermining his credibility.

The alleged infractions by Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, 42, include obtaining a service medal under false pretenses, improperly flashing military identification while drunk and stealing pens, according to military paperwork shown by his attorney to The Associated Press.

Shaffer was one of the first people to publicly link Sept. 11 leader Mohamed Atta to the unit code-named Able Danger. Shaffer was one of five witnesses the Pentagon ordered not to appear Sept. 21 before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the unit's findings.

The military revoked Shaffer's top security clearance this month, a day before he was supposed to testify to a congressional committee.

Mark Zaid, Shaffer's attorney, said the Pentagon started looking into Shaffer's security clearance about the time in 2003 he met in Afghanistan with staff members of the bipartisan commission that studied the Sept. 11 attacks and told them about Able Danger.

Zaid said he can't prove the Pentagon went after Shaffer because he's a whistleblower, but "all the timing associated with the clearance issue has been suspiciously coincidental."

Citing concerns with the privacy act, Cmdr. Terry Sutherland, a Defense Intelligence Agency spokesman, declined to release any information on Shaffer.

Shaffer says he received a Bronze Star medal for work on a classified operation in Afghanistan in 2003. According to papers provided by Zaid, the military is now questioning whether he deserved it, including challenging whether at least one person who backed Shaffer's nomination for the medal had firsthand knowledge of his actions.

Shaffer says he showed his government credentials during two incidents in 1990, when he was drunk, and 1996, when he was pulled over by police. The military says he misused his credentials, but Shaffer says he was not told he should not have used them. He also said he has joined Alcoholics Anonymous and has been sober for 13 years.

As for the pens and other office supplies taken, he blamed that on "youthful indiscretions" more than 20 years ago.

According to the paperwork, Shaffer also faces other infractions including falsely claiming mileage reimbursement, obtaining personal mobile phone charges, going over the chain of command to brief superiors and having a credit card debt.

Shaffer, now a member of the Army Reserves, has been on administrative leave since March 2004. During the same time, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel on Oct. 1, 2004.

Shaffer has said he tried three times to meet with the FBI to convey the Able Danger unit's findings before Sept. 11, but was ordered not to by military attorneys.

Shaffer's assertions on Able Danger have been supported by Rep. Curt Weldon, a Republican. If correct, they would change the timeline as to when authorities first learned of some of the Sept. 11 hijackers.

The Sept. 11 commission has dismissed the claims. The Pentagon has acknowledged some employees recall seeing an intelligence chart identifying Atta as a terrorist before the attacks, but said none have been able to find a copy of it.


By Kimberly Hefling
  • John Esterbrook

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