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Iraqi Agent Denies He Met 9/11 Hijacker in Prague Before Attacks on the U.S.
New York Times ^ | December 14, 2003 | James Risen

Posted on 12/14/2003 3:37:10 PM PST by Shermy

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 — A former Iraqi intelligence officer who was said to have met with the suspected leader of the Sept. 11 attacks has told American interrogators the meeting never happened, according to United States officials familiar with classified intelligence reports on the matter.

Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, the former intelligence officer, was taken into custody by the United States in July. Under questioning he has said that he did not meet with Mohamed Atta in Prague, according to the officials, who have reviewed classified debriefing reports based on the interrogations.

American officials caution that Mr. Ani may have been lying to American interrogators, but the only other person reported to have attended the meeting was Mr. Atta, who died in the crash of his hijacked plane into the World Trade Center.

Reports that an Iraqi spy had met with Mr. Atta in Prague first circulated soon after the attacks on New York and the Pentagon, but they have been in dispute ever since.

Czech government officials initially confirmed the reports, even as the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said they could not corroborate them. Conservatives both inside and out of the Bush administration, arguing for war with Iraq, pointed to the reports as evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization that planned the Sept. 11 attacks.

During the period between the Sept. 11 attacks and the war, the reports of the Prague meeting came under intense scrutiny from the C.I.A., the F.B.I., the Pentagon and the White House.

Possible contacts between Mr. Atta and Mr. Ani seemed to offer the clearest potential connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda at a time when the Bush administration was arguing that invading Iraq was part of its campaign against terrorism.

But the C.I.A. and F.B.I. eventually concluded that the meeting probably did not take place, and that there was no hard evidence that Mr. Hussein's government was involved in the Sept. 11 plot.

That put the intelligence agencies at odds with hard-liners at the Pentagon and the White House, who came to believe that C.I.A. analysts had ignored evidence that proved links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Eventually, the Prague meeting became a central element in a battle between the C.I.A. and the administration's hawks over prewar intelligence.

Since American forces toppled the Hussein government and the United States gained access to captured Iraqi officials and Iraqi files, the C.I.A. has not yet uncovered evidence that has altered its prewar assessment concerning the connections between Mr. Hussein and Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, officials said.

American intelligence officials say they believe there were contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda in the 1990's, but there is no proof that they ever conducted joint operations.

Senior operatives of Al Qaeda who have been captured by the United States since Sept. 11 have also denied any alliance between the organization and Mr. Hussein.

Abu Zubaydah, one of the highest-ranking Qaeda leaders in American custody, told the C.I.A. that Mr. bin Laden rejected the idea of working with Mr. Hussein, a secular leader whom Mr. bin Laden considered corrupt and irredeemable, according to a September 2002 classified intelligence report obtained by The New York Times.

Mr. Zubaydah said that some Qaeda operatives wanted the organization to try to take advantage of Mr. Hussein's hatred for the United States in order to obtain military material or other support from Iraq. But Mr. bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, were strongly opposed to working with Iraq, according to the report of Mr. Zubaydah's debriefing, which was obtained from Bush administration officials.

Al Qaeda's leadership "viewed the Iraqis, particularly the military and security services, as corrupt, irreligious and hypocritical in that they succumb to Western vices while concurrently remaining at war with the United States," the report says, summarizing Mr. Zubaydah's statements. "The Iraqis were not viewed as true jihadists, and there was doubt amongst the senior Al Qaeda leadership on the depth of Saddam's commitment to destroy Israel and further the cause of cleansing the Holy Land of infidel influences or presence."

The debriefing report contains significant caveats, warning that Mr. Zubaydah, who was captured in March 2002, might be seeking to mislead the United States.

Separately, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Al Qaeda's chief of operations until his capture on March 1, 2003, in Pakistan, has also told interrogators that Al Qaeda never agreed to work with Mr. Hussein, officials said.

But even as the C.I.A. has played down the connection, the report of a Prague meeting has continued to resonate among administration conservatives. As recently as September, two months after Mr. Ani was captured, Vice President Dick Cheney referred to the Prague meeting during an appearance on the NBC News program "Meet the Press."

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Asked about links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, Mr. Cheney replied: "With respect to 9/11, of course, we've had the story that's been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we've never been able to develop any more of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don't know."

The story first emerged in October 2001, when the Czech interior minister said publicly that there was evidence that Mr. Atta had met with Mr. Ani in April 2001. At the time, Mr. Ani was serving as an Iraqi intelligence officer under diplomatic cover at the Iraqi Embassy in Prague.

Later, many Czech government officials became much more skeptical that the meeting ever took place, particularly after it became clear that the initial intelligence report from the Czech domestic intelligence agency concerning the meeting had come from a single informant in the local Arab community.

The information was treated skeptically by Czech intelligence experts because it had been provided only after the Sept. 11 attacks, after Mr. Atta's picture had been broadcast on television and published in newspapers around the world, and after the Czech press reported that records showed that Mr. Atta had once traveled to Prague.

Czech officials have said that border police records showed that Mr. Atta, who was then living in Hamburg, Germany, did come to Prague in June 2000, after obtaining a visa in late May. Shortly after arriving in Prague on that occasion, Mr. Atta flew to Newark.

American records now indicate that Mr. Atta was in Virginia Beach, Va., in early April 2001, when he was supposedly in Prague to meet Mr. Ani.


TOPICS: Extended News; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: 200209; 911hijackers; africa; alani; alqaedaandiraq; alqaedairaq; anthrax; atta; cheney; czechatta; denial; feithmemo; gold; goldmine; iraq; jamesrisen; josephwilson; mines; mining; niger; nigerflap; nytimes; prague; risen; wilson; yellowcake; zubaida; zubaidah; zubaydah
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Saturday's news from the New York Times.
1 posted on 12/14/2003 3:37:11 PM PST by Shermy
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To: Shermy
And OJ is looking for the real killers of Ron and Nicole on the golf course in Florida.
2 posted on 12/14/2003 3:39:25 PM PST by ladyinred (If all the world's a stage, I want to operate the trap door!)
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To: aristeides; blam; seamole; wirestripper; Mitchell; Allan; TurtleTrap; Fred Mertz; mrustow; archy; ..
American records now indicate that Mr. Atta was in Virginia Beach, Va., in early April 2001, when he was supposedly in Prague to meet Mr. Ani.

"Now" indicate.

"Now", after the Respekt article and Edward Jay Epstein's article.

Some backtracing, fixing-upping on the "timeline"?

Times is famous for planting the fake-Havel statement.

3 posted on 12/14/2003 3:47:28 PM PST by Shermy
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To: Shermy
How to keep The New York Times busy
4 posted on 12/14/2003 3:49:01 PM PST by WinOne4TheGipper (If the world ended today, what would the headline be tomorrow?)
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To: ladyinred; TurtleTrap; Mitchell
Might be true, but the New York Times is the preferred outlet for disinformation on this matter, notably for the fake Havel statement.

CIA going overtime perhaps? Continually the "spin" givenis that "neo-conservatives" are behind making false connections, ie, code word to liberal opinion makers to rant about Cheney and ignore further inquiries.

Just this morning I saw somehting interesting.

Andrea Mitchell spoke about two things in the same segment, David Kay and Atta in Prague. She started about the doubts of the Czech meeting in April (avoiding other possible instances) then moved on to David Kay. INteresting linkage....

Kay, she says, is in the US now on vacation. "doubts" are rising about finding weapons, he's meeting CIA chief George Tenet tomorrow, and she hinted the search for WMD might stop.

Very interesting timing and linkage...
5 posted on 12/14/2003 3:52:52 PM PST by Shermy
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To: will1776
LOL

I think it interesting to read the Times to, so to say, read the tea leaves.

One faction is very worried about the Prague connections, and has used TImes and Newsweek to float its deflections before. This time this writer continues the "conservative" red herring, and add s words like "many Czechs think..."

Funny, I've read all the articles and never seen this before. Naturally it is untraceable, since no names are used.
6 posted on 12/14/2003 3:55:59 PM PST by Shermy
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To: Tailgunner Joe; sarcasm; Ernest_at_the_Beach
PIng for new dis/information.
7 posted on 12/14/2003 4:00:20 PM PST by Shermy
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To: Shermy
It may very well be that we will never be told the truth about WMD in Iraq.Can you imagine the panic that could come from the US announcing they found Small Pox viruses or other nasty things.The media would go crazy about the idea that they may have already been given to terrorist. The last thing we ever want to do is give terrorist credibility that they really do have WMD. Our economy is turning around nicely,no need to set it back again. Oh,and if the terrorist do have WMD and they decide to use them our economy will be tanked anyway.Could be we are trying to stop them before they get a chance.
8 posted on 12/14/2003 4:10:34 PM PST by eastforker (Money is the key to justice,just ask any lawyer.)
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To: Shermy
I did not meet with that terrorist in Prague. Never, not one time!
9 posted on 12/14/2003 4:18:33 PM PST by OldFriend ( BLESS OUR PRESIDENT)
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To: Shermy
At first glance, this story seems to be sourced. But in point of fact, it is not.

"according to United States officials familiar with classified intelligence reports on the matter. . ."

"according to the officials, who have reviewed classified debriefing reports based on the interrogations. . ."

"American officials . . ."

Probably from Valerie Plume.
10 posted on 12/14/2003 4:32:16 PM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: Shermy
American records now indicate that Mr. Atta was in Virginia Beach, Va., in early April 2001, when he was supposedly in Prague to meet Mr. Ani.

There are 30 days in April. A lot can happen in 30 days. We're supposed to believe the "word" of an Iraqi intelligence officer over a letter. This is laughable.
11 posted on 12/14/2003 4:58:10 PM PST by plain talk
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To: Cicero; aristeides
"Probably from Valerie Plame."

Good one. Not unlikely.

I'm surprised no writers have written about the Vanity Fair piece. It's quite interesting...reading through the lines... Wilson was trying to set up a gold mining deal with the Niger Govt, his second wife was a French diplomat, etc. etc. An no mention of his work on the Kerry Campaign, and little discussion about his Saudi and Rock Creek Corporation connections.
12 posted on 12/14/2003 5:13:50 PM PST by Shermy
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Comment #13 Removed by Moderator

To: Shermy
Al Qaeda's leadership "viewed the Iraqis, particularly the military and security services, as corrupt, irreligious and hypocritical in that they succumb to Western vices while concurrently remaining at war with the United States," the report says, summarizing Mr. Zubaydah's statements. "

Well, that settles it, then. Using similar logic, the 911 hijackers couldn't have been members of al Qaeda since they spent time in Florida and Las Vegas getting lap dances and drinking booze. Thus, it is reasonable to assume they were working for Iraq, a secularist state known for making the best beer in the region and where gang-banging with the Hussein brothers was the national sport.

14 posted on 12/14/2003 6:15:10 PM PST by piasa (Attitude adjustments offered here free of charge.)
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To: Shermy
But the C.I.A. and F.B.I. eventually concluded that the meeting probably did not take place, and that there was no hard evidence that Mr. Hussein's government was involved in the Sept. 11 plot.

First of all, we know from the Feith memo that the CIA has concluded that there were strong operational ties between Saddam's Iraq and al-Qaeda. Has the Times ever acknowledged that?

Specifically dealing with the Atta matter, the Feith memo points out the CIA's actual position is not so definitive:

CIA can confirm two Atta visits to Prague--in Dec. 1994 and in June 2000; data surrounding the other two--on 26 Oct 1999 and 9 April 2001--is complicated and sometimes contradictory and CIA and FBI cannot confirm Atta met with the IIS. Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross continues to stand by his information.

15 posted on 12/14/2003 6:28:26 PM PST by denydenydeny
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To: Shermy
Whatever the truth is .. it will come out

Regardless of what the NYT's reports
16 posted on 12/14/2003 6:45:44 PM PST by Mo1 (House Work, If you do it right , will kill you!)
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To: Shermy
It is amazing(not):-( that the "slimes keeps bringing this so called information to their pages, yet this is the only guy who claims the meeting never happened.

This is also connected to the husband of the so called outed CIA agent that everyone already knew about.

I expect that the slimes is trying to keep this issue alive and try at the same time to negate any value of the victory in Iraq.

Any positive or helpful thing that helps GWB's re-election is a target of the history re-writers of the New York Slimes . This media giant is so in the pocket of the socialist movement. The smell is gagging me.

17 posted on 12/15/2003 1:19:01 PM PST by Cold Heat ("It is easier for an ass to succeed in that trade than any other." [Samuel Clemens, on lawyers])
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To: eastforker
It may very well be that we will never be told the truth about WMD in Iraq.

I am not sure what you meant by this statement.

I believe that we already know the truth of the WMD story.

What we don't know is where the remaining stockpile is, or how and when it was disposed of, or where it was hidden or sent to for safe keeping, if that is the case.

As to the bio aspect, we know that there was a active program to produce it, but from the information gleaned so far, it appears that no major quantities, (other than anthrax) were produced for a weapon. It appears that most of what they had was chemical in nature.

Personally, I think that much mis-information was put out by the Hussein regime to keep the U.S. off balance and also keep his own people confused on the issue. I believe that the bio and chem programs were mothballed after the first conflict in 92 and much of the stocks were in fact disposed of or sent out of the country. I think he kept enough equipment and precursor chems to quickly go back into production as soon as the U.N. inspectors finished their job.

Unfortunately he was so cocky about his situation and so sure that France would protect him from invasion that he never allowed the inspections to finish and sanctions to lift.

He had to give countries like Iran the idea that he had WOD ready to deploy so that they would not take advantage of a perceived weakened defense. Unfortunately for him, this ruse also caused his ultimate downfall. He sure was a dumb SOB.

I think that there is much more evidence buried in various places in Iraq. I also think that France, Russia and Syria helped him to hide some things.

As to the truth of the matter, it is so obfuscated by lies that no one will believe any one truth about what happened.

Even if the truth is out there it will never be something that can be said to be the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

18 posted on 12/15/2003 1:53:31 PM PST by Cold Heat ("It is easier for an ass to succeed in that trade than any other." [Samuel Clemens, on lawyers])
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To: wirestripper; denydenydeny; Cicero; piasa; aristeides; seamole; Mitchell; Allan; TurtleTrap; ...
Interesting tidbit, IMO

The author of this NYTimes article, James Risen, is the same person who floated the false story last year about Vaclav Havel denying there was a Prague meeting.

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/773774/posts
19 posted on 12/17/2003 6:40:17 PM PST by Shermy
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To: Shermy
Good catch. It looks as if someone in the administration, such as George Tenet, is turning to the Times to do his dirty work.
20 posted on 12/17/2003 8:18:31 PM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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