WASHINGTON (AFP) -A US Navy captain said that a top secret US Defense Department intelligence operation had identified Mohammed Atta a year before the Egyptian led the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
Navy Captain Scott Philpott said the top secret US program called "Able Danger" had identified Atta as an Al-Qaeda member in early 2000, according to Fox News.
"Atta was identified by Able Danger in early 2000," Philpott — who worked on the program — was quoted as saying in a statement to Fox News.
Philpott”s statement appeared at odds with the Pentagon”s position Monday.
A Pentagon spokesman told reporters that a review has so far found no evidence that a secret intelligence operation identified Atta as a member of a US-based Al-Qaeda cell before the September 11 attacks.
"What we have found are mostly sort of general reference to terrorist cells that people were generally aware of," spokesman Lawrence DiRita said.
Representative Curt Weldon (news, bio, voting record) and Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer have charged that Atta and three other September 11 hijackers were identified as early as mid-2000 through the data-mining program codenamed Able Danger.
Weldon and Shaffer have said all four appeared as members of a Brooklyn-based Al-Qaeda cell on an Able Danger chart that was presented to the US Special Operations Command in early to mid-2000.
They said the group had recommended the information be shared with the FBI, but that the command”s lawyers rejected that course of action.
DiRita said earlier Monday that a review of materials related to Able Danger has so far turned up no evidence that it identified Atta.
"I have briefed the Department of the Army, the Special Operations Command and the office of Dr. Cambone (the undersecretary of defense for intelligence) as well as the 9/11 commission. My story has remained consistent," Philpott told Fox News.
Atta was the reputed leader of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and the likely pilot of the jet which slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center, according to media reports.