Cheney’s Fixation with the Atta-Prague Story

The Washington Post has an interesting article today about Dick Cheney’s obsession with linking Saddam Hussein with 9/11, specifically by pushing the doubtful story about 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta meeting a senior Iraqi security official in Prague: Iraq, 9/11 still linked by Cheney.

5 Responses to “Cheney’s Fixation with the Atta-Prague Story”

  1. Dom Portwood Says:

    Cheney is right in saying that it remains an open case. The Washington Post story is wrong in saying that it is a closed case. Both the Washington Post story’s claims– the Czech government had distanced itself from its initial assertion and that US intelligence had determined Atta was in the US at the time of the Prague meeting– are false.

    1) The Czech government has not distanced itself. The Czech officials were involved in the case: Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, the intelligence chief, Jiri Ruzek, who reports to Gross, have reaffirmed the validity of the intelligence of the meeting– and expulsion– after news reports called it into question. On May 3rd, 2002, referring to a story in Newsweek, Interior Minister Stanislav Gross stated “I believe the counterintelligence services more than journalists. I draw on the Security Information Service [BIS] information and I see no reason why I should not believe it.”

    Minister Gross further explained that he had consulted with BIS chief Jiri Ruzek on May 2nd in order to find out whether the Czech intelligence service had any new information that would cast doubt on the meeting. “The answer was that they did not. Therefore, I consider the matter closed.”

    2) As for the US intelligence claim, it is untrue that the CIA, FBI or any other US intelligence agency established that Atta was in the US at the time of the Prague meeting. What the CIA found, and its director George Tenet testified to before a Joint Committee of Congress (June 18, 2002):

    “Atta allegedly traveled outside the US in early April 2001 to meet with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague, we are still working to confirm or deny this allegation. It is possible that Atta traveled under an unknown alias since we have been unable to establish that Atta left the US or entered Europe in April 2001 under his true name or any known aliases.”

    If there existed any information that established Atta was in the US at the time of the meeting, Tenet could not have testified that US was “still working to confirm or deny this allegation.”

    In fact, the misreporting about Atta being in the US at the time of the alleged meeting proceeds from an erroneous story (uncorrected) in the New York Times on October 26, 2001. The story attributed to “federal law enforcement officials” stated: “On April 2 [Atta] was in Virginia Beach. He flew to the Czech Republic on April 8 . . . by April 11, Mr. Atta was back in Florida, renting a car.”

    In fact, there were no such car rental records. Nor could there be such records in April 2001. Atta did not obtain his driver’s license, or even apply for it, until May 2, 2001.

    It may have been a case of mistaken identity– Atta is a common name– but there is no record of the hijacker Atta being in Virginia Beach in April 2001. Nevertheless, uncorrected, the error became part of the clip file and was recycled by other journals into “contradictory evidence.” Newsweek, for example, (June 6 ,2002) stated that at time of the alleged Prague meeting. “Atta was traveling at the time between Florida and Virginia Beach, Va. (The bureau had his rental car and hotel receipts.)” and USA Today (August 29,2002) reported falsely “records revealed that Atta was in Virginia Beach during the time he supposedly met the Iraqi in Prague.”

    If any such “records” existed, CIA Director Tenet could not have testified under oath to Congress that it was possible Atta was in Prague. If he did, the records would have demonstrated he had testified falsely. But of course, no such records existed (other than in erroneous news stories.)

    To be sure, no airplane or other records have been found showing Atta was in Prague during April 2001. So, as Tenet pointed out, if he was in Prague at that time, he must have traveled there under an alias. Since the hijackers used false identities, such a possibility cannot be dismissed.

    Cheney statement “We just don’t know,” as unsettling as it may be, is accurate.

    link to full site:

    or google: atta prague

  2. Cathy Henry Says:

    Here is a recent article from the Czech media about Atta in Prague. He was in Prague several times and was caught on cameras. After he left, his bank account got money.

    Czech Spies Still See Iraqi Connection to Sept. 11

    Mohammad Atta’s Decisive Meeting

    Jaroslav Spurny, Respekt (independent weekly), Prague, Czech Republic, Nov. 10, 2003

    Footage from a closed-circuit camera shows Mohammad Atta (R) passing through security at the airport in Portland, ME, Sept. 11, 2001 (Photo: Portland Police Dept./AFP-Getty Images).

    Immediately after the occupation of Baghdad, the CIA succeeded in obtaining nearly the complete archive of the Foreign Ministry and some of the material belonging to the Iraqi secret service. Czech security organs now have access to documents from Iraq’s embassy in Prague. This summer, the Iraqi consul to Prague, Ahmed al-Ani, was detained by American soldiers in Baghdad. Although it has not yet been proved whether the consul met with the terrorist Mohammad Atta [suspected leader of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States], new information from the American, the German, and the Czech [intelligence] services indicates that Atta’s visits to Prague were important. For the terrorist operations of Sept. 11, they may have been decisive.

    Money for a Terrorist

    Muhammad Atta, 33, an Egyptian, the leader of a 20-member group that committed the attack against the United States in September 2001 that left nearly 3,000 dead in its wake, flew to Prague for the first time on May 30, 2000. He had applied for a visa four days earlier and sat on a plane in Hamburg, although his application had not yet been acted on, and he must have known that Czech officials would not admit him to Czech territory. And, indeed, they didn’t: Atta spent six hours in the duty-free zone of the Prague airport and then flew back to Germany. “As far as I know, U.S. officials are intensively looking into this visit. Atta must have been brought to Prague by a genuinely urgent and important matter, when he flew with the knowledge that they would not let him leave the airport,” says Edward Jay Epstein, a well-known U.S. journalist and author of respected books on the activities of intelligence services who has been researching the case for two years. Still, despite persistent efforts, neither Czech nor American officials know the purpose of Atta’s trip.

    Similarly, they know little about Atta’s second visit [to Prague]. During that visit, the future terrorist arrived by bus on June 2, 2000. According to a closed-circuit camera and information from the Security Information Service (BIS) [the Czech intelligence agency], Atta lingered for a while at the Happy Day casino at Prague’s Florenc station and departed the next day on a Czech Airlines flight to New York. No record, however, has been found of his having spent the night at any Czech hotel; hence it appears he stayed at a private residence. What is interesting is the fact, unpublicized until now, that three days after this Prague visit, tens of thousands of dollars were transferred from several accounts to Atta’s own American and German bank accounts (officials have not made public the precise amount, and it is not available from unofficial sources).

    The CIA is convinced that Atta’s terrorist group must have been led by professionals from an intelligence service, perhaps Iraq’s. U.S. experts believe that during the two aforementioned Prague visits, the execution of the terrorist action was to be confirmed. Atta was to visit Prague a third time in April 2001. The Czech secret service received from one of its informers a warning that Al-Ani, the Iraqi consul, was to meet with a “distinguished Arab student” from Hamburg—this is information that up until now was top secret. BIS monitored the meeting: The men met in a Prague restaurant on the evening of April 8. To this day, it remains unclear whether this “Hamburg student” was Atta. Yet again, three days after that meeting, $100,000 arrived in Atta’s Florida account.

    In his report a year ago, Glenn A. Fine, the inspector general of the U.S. Justice Department, rejected the possibility of Atta’s April visit. In the document, he asserted that two days before the supposed Prague meeting, Atta flew from Virginia Beach to New York and, 70 hours later, was again in Florida. Atta could have managed the Prague meeting only with difficulty. Yet, according to new and as yet unpublished information from U.S. security services, there exists no record of Atta’s movement from the beginning of March 2001 to the end of April of that year.

    “At first we checked only two days around April 8, when Al-Ani had the meeting with the supposed student who is believed to be Atta. Considering new information from the United States about Atta’s six-week disappearance, we have broadened our inquiry to an extended time frame; that means checking tens of thousands of records of airplane passengers and hotel guests,” a BIS operative asserts. “Atta could have simply come here a lot sooner than when he met with Al-Ani. He could have had a series of meetings in Germany and then in Prague, where the final details of the action were worked out,” he adds.

    The Capture of Al-Ani

    On July 9 of this year, the Americans captured Ahmed al-Ani in Baghdad, and he has been held since then in a temporary jail at the Baghdad airport. “Al-Ani refuses to make a statement. We have information that he was an intelligence officer with the power to direct foreign operations,” is the terse and only report from American authorities, published some time ago by AFP. Epstein says: “My American colleagues and I are very much interested in Al-Ani’s statement. Despite all sorts of contacts, we haven’t learned anything. Either the CIA and FBI don’t know anything, or they are keeping it top-secret.”

    Iraq’s liberators obtained an array of documents from offices there. The most important was material from the Foreign Ministry and the secret police. A portion of the archives was destroyed, and the allies supposedly don’t have any proof yet that Iraq directed terrorist operations abroad. Nor, according to secret service sources, have any documents been found that would prove that Iraq was actually planning an attack against Prague-based Radio Free Europe. Iraqi spy Jabir Salim informed the BIS of such a plan at the end of 1998 and later informed Britain’s MI6 [intelligence service]. Saddam Hussein supposedly gave him an order to attack the radio station and provided him with $150,000 to carry out the action. Salim (whom the British hastily brought to London from Prague in 1998, after former Foreign Minister Jan Kavan scandalously blew his cover) went to the side of his “enemy,” supposedly because he did not want to have innocent lives on his conscience, and his testimony was regarded by both secret services as absolutely credible. “We have come to the conclusion that either the Iraqis destroyed important papers or hid them someplace,” representatives of the secret services assert.

    At the end of this March, right after the beginning of the allied attack on Iraq, the Czech Foreign Ministry expelled the last two Iraqi diplomats serving at the local embassy from Prague. They had only 40 hours to leave. The deadline was deliberately difficult: Officials wanted to give the Iraqis the least possible time to destroy documents. What remained at the embassy is now in the hands of local [Czech] security units. “There are a lot of interesting things there, but I can’t go into any greater detail,” says one Czech diplomat. But he will say that no documents were found in those archives proving a meeting between Atta and Al-Ani or an Iraqi role in the terrorist attacks of September 2001.

    Thus, so far, there exists only a single official statement linking Iraq, Atta, and Al-Ani with Sept. 11. This May, Manhattan U.S. District Judge Harold Baer allowed damages in the amount of $104 million for the families of two victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center. The families named Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and Saddam Husein and his regime as parties to pay damages. Although the decision is a formality, it is nevertheless important, for in the United States, the word of a court carries weight. One of the pieces of evidence supporting Saddam Hussein’s participation in the Sept. 11 attack was the information of the Czech Interior Ministry regarding Atta’s visit to Prague and his alleged meeting with Al-Ani.

  3. Cathy Henry Says:

    This is from the US government memo to the Senate. It says that the Iraqi intelligence paid M. Atta while he was in Prague.

    “The Czech counterintelligence service reported that the Sept.

    11 hijacker [Mohamed] Atta met with the former Iraqi intelligence chief in

    Prague, al Ani, on several occasions. During one of those meetings, al Ani

    ordered the IIS [Iraq Intelligence Service] finance officer to issue Atta

    funds from IIS financial holdings in the Prague office.”

    Here is the full article with the quote:

    New York Times


    Missing Links Found


    November 24, 2003

    WASHINGTON – Two blockbuster magazine articles last week revealed evidence

    that Saddam’s spy agency and top Qaeda operatives certainly were in frequent

    contact for a decade, and that there is renewed reason to suspect an Iraqi

    spymaster in Prague may have helped finance the 9/11 attacks.

    On, you can find chunks of a 16-page letter by Under

    Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith, responding to a Senate Intelligence

    Committee request for evidence of Saddam-bin Laden collaboration. Fifty

    specific instances from C.I.A., N.S.A., F.B.I. and Pentagon files are

    described, many from “sensitive reporting” never made public.

    The Defense Department acknowledged the Oct. 27 letter included a classified

    annex of “raw reports or products” of U.S. intelligence agencies on “the

    relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda,” cautioning that it “drew no

    conclusions.” But with so much connective tissue exposed – some the result

    of “custodial interviews” of prisoners – the burden of proof has shifted to

    those still grimly in denial.

    Remember how anti-liberation politicians and journalists pooh-poohed Colin

    Powell’s February 2003 speech to the U.N. about the presence in Iraq of a

    Qaeda associate, identified in this space as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi? Powell’s

    assertion had this “sensitive reporting” basis: “As of Oct. 2002 al Zarqawi

    was setting up sleeper cells in Baghdad to be activated in case of a U.S.

    occupation of the city.”

    Deniers derogate as “cherry picking” Feith’s intelligence summary available

    to senators: “The Czech counterintelligence service reported that the Sept.

    11 hijacker [Mohamed] Atta met with the former Iraqi intelligence chief in

    Prague, al Ani, on several occasions. During one of those meetings, al Ani

    ordered the IIS [Iraq Intelligence Service] finance officer to issue Atta

    funds from IIS financial holdings in the Prague office.”

    If true, that would implicate Saddam’s regime in the murder of 3,000

    Americans. Though the C.I.A. can confirm two Atta trips to Prague, in 1994

    and 2000, it cannot confirm the two other visits the Czechs reported,

    including one on April 9, 2001, with Saddam’s top European agent, al-Ani,

    then vice consul in Prague. C.I.A. chief George Tenet testified that the

    meeting reported by the Czech service was “possible,” but the F.B.I. floated

    hints that car rental records showed Atta to be traveling between Virginia

    and Florida that week.

    Enter the writer Edward Jay Epstein in the liberal online journal Slate:

    “All these reports attributed to the FBI were, as it turns out, erroneous.

    There were no car rental records in Virginia, Florida, or anywhere else in

    April 2001 for Mohamed Atta, since he had not yet obtained his Florida

    license.” You cannot rent a car without a driver’s license.

    Epstein went to Prague this month to interview Czech officials who want to

    cooperate with the U.S. to get to the bottom of the Atta-Iraqi story but

    have been stiffed by the F.B.I., whose bureaucracy is sensitive to charges

    of failed surveillance. Read his detailed Slate report and subsequent

    commentary on

    Since July, al-Ani has been in U.S. Department of Justice custody and I

    wonder how effectively he is being interrogated. Have we learned the

    whereabouts of his Prague and Baghdad aides and secretaries, and taken their

    testimony? Have we asked M.I.5 to let us speak to Jabir Salim, his Prague

    station-chief predecessor, who defected to Britain and may know which

    employees and which banks could transfer $100,000 to an account accessible

    to Atta?

    Did al-Ani order any payment to “the student from Hamburg” or his

    co-conspirators, as Czech intelligence believes, and did the paymaster carry

    out the order? To what superior in Baghdad did al-Ani report, and who worked

    most closely with him, and are they in custody and do their stories jibe?

    What have we offered al-Ani, in protection or immunity or plea bargain, to

    turn state’s evidence?

    F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller is duty-bound to examine the full transcript

    of the interrogation to see how seriously this is being pursued; same with

    Senate Intelligence. I’d also assign new agents to follow up leads in


    Intrepid journalists will ultimately bring the full story of the Saddam-bin

    Laden connection to light. In the meantime, the F.B.I. should stop treating

    9/11 as a cold case.

  4. Cathy Henry Says:

    I think it is possible that Al Ani may have reported to the number 2 in the Iraqi government Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri.

    I think Al Douri was in charge of Iraq’s ties to Al Qaeda. Recently there was a report from the Iraqi provisional government that he had been captured, but the US denied it.

    Al Douri often travelled to Vienna for treatment at a Vienna clinic for his Leukemia. He needed transfusions.

    Still, for a sick person, he was all over the place and could have used his medical travels for espionage/terrorist purposes.

    He is like Bin Laden that way.

    Bin Laden was supposedly on dialysis for kidney disease, but I think such a sick person could not travel like Bin Laden does.

  5. Ken Olufs Says:

    Although the 9-11 Commission seems a bit of a joke because of the politicization of the process, they still poke a big hole in the Bush administrations fantasy about Saddam having any involvement in in 9-11. He didn’t. They knew it… and always knew it. If they had ANY PROOF whatsoever, don’t you think they’d be blairing it from the hightest mountains!? Of course they would! They don’t have the proof and it become more obvious every day that they attempted to trump up intelligence to make their case for war. According to their rules of evidence, they should have gone after Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, as well as Afghanistan for aiding, abetting and harboring terrorists. But if that lie doesn’t get you, how about all the rest of them… starting with now proven “rigged” Florida election, The Medicare bill, (135 Billion Dollars OVER the accepted amount), the promises to Veterans, (And then slashed their budget by Billions), The No Child Left Behind Program that does precisely the opposite, abandoning the Kioto treaty, appointing energy industry lobbyists to run the agencies they once lobbied against… The tax cuts for the wealthy, putting the burden of that and the Iraqi War Lie on future generations of the poor and middle class… who happen to be the pawns in Bush’s War for Oil. If you love our brave men and women of the military, if you love the United States of America, then you’ve got to vote these clowns out of office. The world, let alone this country… cannot afford another 4 years of this.

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