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Mr. Atta Goes to Prague
The New York Times ^ | 05/09/2002 | William Safire

Posted on 05/08/2002 7:49:22 PM PDT by Pokey78

WASHINGTON — In pro football, an adept offensive lineman tricks his opponent in what is called a "misdirection play." He blocks his man toward the center; as the defender pushes back hard, the misdirecting lineman gives way, seemingly overcome by the counter-charge — as his running back scoots through the hole near the center left by the defender.

A misdirection play is under way in the C.I.A.'s all-out attempt to discredit an account of a suspicious meeting in Prague a year ago. Mohamed Atta, destined to be the leading Sept. 11 suicide hijacker, was reported last fall by Czech intelligence to have met at least once with Saddam Hussein's espionage chief in the Iraqi Embassy — Ahmed al-Ani, a spymaster whom the Czechs were keeping under tight surveillance.

If the report proves accurate, a connection would exist between Al Qaeda's murder of 3,000 Americans and Iraq's Saddam. That would clearly be a casus belli, calling for our immediate military response, separate from the need to stop a demonstrated mass killer from acquiring nuclear and germ weapons. Accordingly, high C.I.A. and Justice officials — worried about exposure of the agency's inability to conduct covert operations — desperately want Atta's Saddam connection to be disbelieved.

They are telling favored journalists: Shoot this troublesome story down. In March, a Washington Post columnist obliged with: "hard intelligence to support the Baghdad-bin Laden connection is somewhere between `slim' and `none.' " In April, Newsweek headlined: "A spy story tying Saddam to 9-11 is looking very flimsy," and its Michael Isikoff wrote: "the much touted `Prague connection' appears to be an intriguing, but embarrassing, mistake."

Everybody jumped aboard the C.I.A. bandwagon. The Washington Post's Walter Pincus followed up with a "senior administration official's finding that eliminates a once-suggested link between the terrorist attacks and the government of President Saddam Hussein." Time magazine this week labels the Czech report about Atta "discredited."

The C.I.A.-Justice misdirection is masterly; even White House staff members have bought the Tenet-Chertoff line about "serious doubts." The New York Times reported all too accurately that "a senior Bush administration official appeared to close the matter, saying F.B.I. and C.I.A. analysts had firmly concluded that no meeting had occurred."

Notice how this parade of pooh-poohing never has an official's name attached to it. Rarely do you see such skillful manipulation by anonymous sources whose policy agenda is never revealed to readers.

I carry around a clipping of Atta's movements reported in The Times of Oct. 26, 2001, attributed to federal law enforcement officials: "On April 2 he 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."

Unreported (except on, the Web site of my unfazed Angletonian friend) is this week's response to the hidden policy-driven doubters by the Czech interior minister, Stanislav Gross: "I believe the counterintelligence services more than journalists." Did his agents have new information that would cast doubt on the Atta meeting they reported with Saddam's paymaster and controller of agents in Prague? He checked with Jeri Ruzek, his intelligence chief: "The answer was they did not. Therefore, I consider the matter closed."

Whom do you believe — a responsible official on the scene speaking on the record, with no ax to grind, or U.S. spooks who may be covering up a missed signal from Prague about Sept. 11 and are also fearful of revealing their weakness in Iraq?

Hard-liners can play this background game, too. A "senior Bush administration official" not in the protect-Saddam cabal tells me: "You cannot say the Czech report about a meeting in 2001 between Atta and the Iraqi is discredited or disproven in any way. The Czechs stand by it and we're still in the process of pursuing it and sorting out the timing and venue. There's no doubt Atta was in Prague in 2000, and a subsequent meeting is at least plausible."

Someday, after Baghdad interrogations and tell-all memoirs, we'll learn the truth about any Saddam connection with Al Qaeda. In the meantime, why won't responsible officials take public stands? In the C.I.A.'s misdirection play, which way is the running back headed?

TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: czechatta
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1 posted on 05/08/2002 7:49:22 PM PDT by Pokey78
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To: Pokey78
This is a pure disinformation play, just like it is too hot now to attack Iraq because the Chemical Suits are way to hot to wear.
2 posted on 05/08/2002 7:56:23 PM PDT by appeal2
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To: Pokey78
Even if they met, there's no evidence of what they said. It's quite possible that the Iraqi rep said: "Are you f***ing crazy? Destroy the World Trade Center? No way do we want to be involved in stuff like that! That's just what Bush needs to blow us off the map--look at how they reacted when we took Kuwait".
3 posted on 05/08/2002 7:57:45 PM PDT by proxy_user
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To: keri; The Great Satan; Mitchell; tymesup; Alamo-Girl; Shermy; aristeides; nimdoc; Fabozz...
4 posted on 05/08/2002 7:59:39 PM PDT by Nogbad
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Comment #5 Removed by Moderator

Comment #6 Removed by Moderator

To: proxy_user
"Even if they met, there's no evidence of what they said."


For all we know, they could have even been exchanging shish-ke-bob recipes. Or camel trading tips.

But, somehow, I doubt it...

7 posted on 05/08/2002 8:08:51 PM PDT by okie01
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To: Nogbad; right_to_defend
Thanks for the heads ups!
8 posted on 05/08/2002 8:10:16 PM PDT by Alamo-Girl
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To: Pokey78
On this one, I'm more inclined to believe Safire than Tenet. Bush should have fired Tenet long since.
9 posted on 05/08/2002 8:12:43 PM PDT by Cicero
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To: okcsubmariner; plummz; thinden; atticusX; aristeides; gumbo; betty jo; nita nupress; Sal; Boyd
Notice how this parade of pooh-poohing never has an official's name attached to it.

Bill Safire says what I felt to be true. I have to learn to watch the unnamed officials angle more carefully.

10 posted on 05/08/2002 8:23:59 PM PDT by Fred Mertz
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To: Cicero
The Washington Post's Walter Pincus followed up with a "senior administration official's finding that eliminates a once-suggested link between the terrorist attacks and the government of President Saddam Hussein."

Whatever Pincus says, you can be sure the truth is not in it. Clinton gave his wife a cozy job and Pincus tried to smear John Bolton during the Florida recount.

11 posted on 05/08/2002 8:25:58 PM PDT by LarryLied
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To: Dark Wing
12 posted on 05/08/2002 8:46:50 PM PDT by Thud
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Are there blue frogs in Prague?
13 posted on 05/08/2002 9:05:51 PM PDT by Diddle E. Squat
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To: right_to_defend; Okie01; Mitchell; LarryLied
This is getting weirder all the time. I don't know about the other articles, but the Isikoff Newsweek article wasn't convincing. All it might have proved, although by broad language tried to "prove" more, is that one meeting might be mistaken. Assume true, so what? Weren't their others? How would the Czechs make up something like that so soon after 9/11? And who's disinformation game is it? And is it not about 9/11, but anthrax? Assuming supplied to Atta, where did it come from? Russian mob? Corrupt officials? Corrupt officials who sold germ stock to Iraq? etc. etc.

I will take Safire's article for telling that "something's up", but I don't know where he gets his conclusions. Someone's hiding something. Maybe the Bush Admin./Justice Department was getting close to developing the history of Anthrax (or something else) and someone didn't like it. Notice Safire's comments about sources in the Admin. starting to believe it.

14 posted on 05/08/2002 9:14:49 PM PDT by Shermy
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To: right_to_defend; Okie01; Mitchell; LarryLied
Here's what I posted on April 28 at post #10 in Czech Officials Say Story That Atta Met with Iraqi Agent in Prague May Be Wrong

.... BTW, I see some references that CNN mentioned way back in Sept. 19 that Atta met Iraqis in Prague, but don't have the direct link.

September 27

Czechs to boost security at U.S. radio in Prague

PRAGUE, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Czech security forces will deploy armoured cars at the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) building in Prague following the devastating attacks in the United States, interior ministry officials said on Thursday. The radio station, which is based in the former Czech parliament building, broadcasts news programmes in a number of languages, including Arabic, to audiences from Albania to Iraq and Tajikistan. ... "We must not underestimate the risk of a potential terrorist attack on the Radio Free Europe building in Prague," Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said on Czech state radio. ... The spokesman refused to say if the decision was based on any specific threat. Early on the Czechs feared an attack on RFE. Might have nothing to do with Atta, though - but the revealing of Atta and the 9/11 events heightened review of information previously gained.

October 4, 2001

Atta meets Iraqi intelligence service agent in Prague - press

Mohammad Atta, one of the terrorists who attacked New York with a hijacked aicraft on September 11, met at least one agent of the Iraqi intelligence service either at Prague airport or in its neighbourhood in June 2001 [sic -- Global News Wire notes: "read in first para, fourth June 2000...instead June 2001"], the daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) writes today. This information was confirmed by a high representative of the Czech intelligence service and by a government representative who is close to the investigation of the attack, the daily says. [Interesting typo about the years--is this source the origin of confusion about the meetings today?]

The possible meeting between Atta and an Iraqi intelligence agent had been speculated about earlier. However, Iraq dismissed all the speculations.

Atta arrived in Prague from Germany where he studied at the Technical University in Hamburg. He spent only one day in the Czech Republic and left on a regular Czech Airlines (CSA) flight to New Jersey, the paper says.

"There is no doubt that Atta met an Iraqi agent. It might have been then or earlier on a different occasion," the daily quotes the government representative as saying.

He added that there had been information about the activities of the Iraqi intelligence service in Prague both before the attack and after it.

This statement is one of the strongest hints of the connection between Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the terrorist attacks against the USA, the paper says....

October 12

Atta met Iraqi intelligence in Prague-U.S. source

WASHINGTON, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Mohamed Atta, one of the suspected hijackers of the first plane that crashed into the World Trade Center, met with an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague in June 2000 and April 2001, a U.S. source said on Thursday.

But the source cautioned, as have U.S. officials privately since the attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, that Atta's meeting with an Iraqi intelligence official was not evidence that Iraq was connected to the attacks.

"There is no reason to indicate that it is related to the Sept. 11 attack," the source told Reuters. [The "source." Of course, since this is "Reuters", especial care must be taken reading it.]

Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross last month said Atta had made a one-day stop in the Czech Republic in the summer of 2000 while in transit. Atta had lived in neighboring Germany while studying city planning at Hamburg's Technical University.

A U.S. source had told Reuters last month that Atta had met an Iraqi intelligence official in Europe earlier this year. Intelligence analysts have said it would not be unusual for someone with Atta's alleged connections to extremist groups to meet with an Iraqi intelligence official.

October 12 (Czech media source, but dateline in "Washington")

Atta's Prague meetings not evidence of Iraqi involvement

WASHINGTON, Oct 12 (CTK) - Muhammad Atta, one of the terrorists suspected of having attacked the World Trade Center on September 11, met twice an agent of the Iraqi secret service in Prague, but the meetings are not evidence of Iraq's involvement in the attacks, Reuters news agency writes today.

An unnamed U.S. source has told Reuters that Atta had met the agent in Prague in June 2000 and April 2001. However, the source said that Atta's meeting with the Iraqi spy was not evidence that Iraq had taken part in the terrorist attacks a month ago. There is no reason to hint that this was connected with the attacks, the source said.

Intelligence experts said that there was nothing unusual in the fact that people like Atta, who was probably connected with extremist groups, met an Iraqi intelligence agent, Reuters said.

Some Czech dailies carried the news about Atta's meeting in Prague last week. The U.S. news agency AP wrote on Thursday, referring to a senior Czech official, that Atta had met several times former Iraqi diplomat in Prague Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir Ani.

According to the source, Atta was not paid much attention by the Czech services which focused on Ani due to his "inadequate" interest in the Radio Free Europe station, stationed in Prague. pv/mr

October 17

Czech Republic: Probe Examines Atta Meetings In Prague

October 19

Police Acknowledge Atta May Have Made Multiple Trips to Prague***This thread has been deleted since I linked to it on April 28.

October 26

Czechs confirm Atta met with Prague-based Iraqi diplomat

Government officials confirmed Friday that suspected suicide hijacker Mohamed Atta traveled twice to the Czech Republic and met with an Iraqi intelligence agent at least once.

Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said the meeting between Atta and Iraqi diplomat Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir Al-Ani took place several weeks before Al-Ani's expulsion from Prague on April 22, 2001 for conduct incompatible with his diplomatic status. [Presumably before "April 2001"]

Gross did not give a precise date or venue of the meeting and declined to answer questions on those topics.

Intelligence sources and government officials revealed Atta's contacts with Al-Ani' on condition of anonymity several weeks ago, but Gross was the first to state on record that such a meeting took place.

Gross said Atta - suspected of being on one of the airliners that smashed into the World Trade Center Sept. 11 - first entered the Czech Republic by bus from Germany on June 2, 2000 and flew to the United States from Prague the next day.

"We can confirm now that during his next trip to the Czech Republic he did have a contact with an officer of the Iraqi intelligence, Mr. Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir Al-Ani," Gross said, again without any details.

Gross said "a certain person" also tried to enter the Czech Republic without a valid visa in May 2000, but there was no hard evidence this person was in fact Atta.

Asked about Atta's suspected business ties in the Czech Republic, Gross said he could not confirm or deny such activities.


See also my post # 9 re: Anthrax

15 posted on 05/08/2002 9:31:07 PM PDT by Shermy
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To: Shermy
Be no surprise that Atta was in the Czech Republic. Czech's provided the Semtex used to bring down Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie. It was also used in the 1998 US Embassy in Kenya. Czech's sold tons of the stuff to everyone from Qaddafi to Syria, Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
16 posted on 05/08/2002 9:32:38 PM PDT by LarryLied
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To: Pokey78
Somewhat off-topic, but I was curious: is the Czech Republic experiencing the "joys of diversity" like their Western European neighbors are? Are there a lot of Attas roaming around Prague? If so, why?
17 posted on 05/08/2002 9:35:15 PM PDT by Phillip Augustus
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Comment #18 Removed by Moderator

To: right_to_defend; Okie01; Mitchell; LarryLied
Good points.

BTW all, I found the Oct. 19 article that was deleted here (maybe for comments?) at this link.

You all should check it out. The investigation.

All sorts of archived links (see bottom of page), though seem to stop at Jan. 4 on this page.

Also other pages at the site are great. Have any of you seen anything like this?

19 posted on 05/08/2002 9:45:46 PM PDT by Shermy
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To: Shermy
"This is getting weirder all the time."

You can say that again.

"And is it not about 9/11, but anthrax?"

I started to post "If it's about Atta, it's about 9/11". Which forced me to consider this insight: Why would Atta, responsible for leading a mission that was meticulously planned and required intensive preparation, get involved in an entirely separate and, essentially, unrelated scheme that had its own planning and preparation requirements?

Wouldn't this be a violation of "tradecraft" -- operational overload? If you were running the entire operation, would you trust a single operative to be in charge of and execute both?

Shouldn't we consider that either a.) Atta had a "controller" in the USA, who also ran the anthrax operation on a parallel basis, and/or b.) Atta was meeting with al-Ani solely concerning the WTC mission?

Anthrax doesn't necessarily have to be the reason Atta met with al-Ani.

20 posted on 05/08/2002 9:47:39 PM PDT by okie01
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