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