Able Danger was a data mining effort conducted by U.S. Special Operations Command and the Defense Intelligence Agency in 1999 and 2000. It used open source information and data mining techniques, including social network analysis, to help track the Al Qaeda terrorist network. According to Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, who wrote about Able Danger is his 2010 book Operation Dark Heart, it was like “Google on steroids.” Although descriptions of Able Danger talk about the use of computer programs, link analysis and advanced algorithms, there are no specifics provided about the type of software that was used. “Its researchers did huge sweeps of the Internet and used highly advanced algorithms to compare and amalgamate data,” Shaffer wrote. “It was a powerful way to link individuals and organizations and make sense of disparate streams of data.” Able Danger also used classified data supplied by the National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency, according to Shaffer. The program first drew widespread publicity when former Pennsylvania congressman Curt Weldon alleged in 2005 that Able Danger had successfully picked out 9/11 leader Mohamed Atta prior to the 2001 attacks. The 9/11 Commission rejected that claim, however.
Below is an excerpt from a 2005 House Judiciary Committee hearing on the program.
Source(s): New York Times, Operation Dark Heart, by Anthony Shaffer