As is his way, Tom Maguire has become the go-to man for OCD-level parsing, this time of Rep. Curt Weldon's allegations that the military knew about Mohammed Atta and three other hijackers back in 2000.
Among the other things, Tom notes that, according to the NY Times, Weldon said he has "been aware of the episode since shortly after the Sept. 11 attack" but "recognized the significance of the episode only recently." To which Tom asks, rightly, WTF: "So, Weldon learned of this Pentagon success shortly after 9/11, discussed it with Stephen Hadley, but only recently realized its significance. Really?"
In another post, Tom points out that, as Laura Rozen has also noticed, Weldon has, since least 2002, been talking up the secret program's purported pegging of al-Qaida suspects. Weldon never mentioned Atta. Tom wonders whether that's because of some classification issues. I have no idea. But I do have another guess:
I was talking about this story with LAT reporter Terry McDermott, who recently published a history of the 9/11 hijackers, Perfect Soldiers. He pointed out a key bit of context missing from the Times' story: If the Pentagon's secret data-mining program really did finger some of the future hijackers, how many other names were on the list? Tens, hundreds, thousands?
If it was closer to thousands, maybe officials presumably (rightly? wrongly?) that they were dealing with too many false positives and the info was, essentially, not of high enough quality to be actionable. And, just guessing here, maybe there were so many names on the list that nobody noticed Atta's et. al until recently. That would explain some of the mystery, and offer a much murkier picture than the NYT painted.