On October 21, 2002, the New York Times reported on its front page that "The Czech president, Vaclav Havel, has quietly told the White House he has concluded that there is no evidence to confirm earlier reports that Mohamed Atta, the leader in the Sept. 11 attacks, met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague just months before the attacks on New York and Washington."

This scoop, which the Times' attributed to anonymous "Czech officials," suggested that the alleged meeting between Atta and the Iraqi official had not occurred, and, even worse, that President Bush had learned of the misunderstanding from the phone conversation with President Havel but he had failed to disclose it.

As it turned out, the scoop itself, and not the meeting, was the fabrication. On October 21st (after the story appeared) President Havel stated through his spokesman that he had never spoken to President Bush or the "White House" about this meeting. His spokesman, Ladislav Spacek, stated unequivocally that the Times claim that Havel had called Bush, or any other high-ranking officials of his Administration, about the Atta meeting was "a fabrication." And that "Nothing like this has occurred."

Even so, on October 23rd, the Times again used the fabricated phone conversation between Havel and the White House. This time as the basis of an editorial, entitled "The Illusory Prague Connection," that argued that all the evidence from Prague linking Iraq to terrorism was wholly illusionary.

My question: Is there evidence that was found in Prague connecting Iraq to terrorist activities directed against the US?


Yes. First, in 1998, Czech and British intelligence received detailed information from a high-ranking Iraqi official in Prague that the government of Iraq had provided $150,000 to finance the recruitment of terrorists to detonate a truck bomb in front of the headquarters of Radio Free Europe. The Iraqi official, Jabir Salim, who was the Iraqi consul in Prague, defected to England in December 1998. Since Radio Free Europe occupied the former Czech parliament building in the center of Prague, where a truck-bomb attack could cause casualties on the order of the Oklahoma City bombing, the Clinton Administration asked the Czechs to greatly increase security around the building.

Consequently, when al-Ani replaced Salim at the Iraq Embassy, the Czech intelligence service, BIS, kept close tabs on his activities in Prague to determine if he was continuing Salim's mission of recruiting terrorists. Then, in April 2001, al-Ani was seen meeting with a foreign national who had been a resident of Hamburg. The matter was brought to the attention of Hynek Kmonicek, the deputy foreign minister. Since, as Kmonicek put it,"It is not a common thing for an Iraqi diplomat to meet a student from a neighboring country," he ordered al-Ani's expulsion. Al-Ani was the only Iraqi diplomat ever expelled from the Czech Republic.

Kmonicek, who had gone on to become the Czech Ambassador to the UN, confirmed that the "student" from Hamburg whom al-Ani was meeting in April 2001 was Mohamed Atta. On October 26th, 2002, in response to the NY Times story, he told The Prague Post not only that "the meeting took place," but that "the Czech government collected detailed evidence of the al-Ani/Atta meeting."

The meeting had been previously confirmed both by Jiri Ruzek, the head of the BIS, and Stanislav Gross, the Minister to whom Ruzek reports in May 2002. So all the officials that had been involved in the case, and its review, were satisfied that the evidence existed.

If these Czech government officials are correct in their assessment, then Atta came to Prague to meet with an Iraqi official 5 months before September 11th. Whatever their business may have been, the meeting would have been further evidence that two consecutive Iraqi intelligence officers, Salim and Al-Ani, had been involved with terrorists.