Skip to comments.Iraqi Agent Denies He Met 9/11 Hijacker in Prague Before Attacks on the U.S.
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."
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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