The New York Times reported in its Week in Review
section (p.3) on March 2, 2002:
"Czech intelligence officials said for more than a
year that they had credible evidence of a meeting in
Prague between one Sept. 11 hijacker and an Iraqi agent.
The Czech government later said the information was
Is it factually true or a journalistic invention,
that the government of the Czech Republic later, or
ever, said "the information was false?"
No, it is a journalistic invention, exclusive
to the New York Times.
The prelude to this invention came in an earlier New
York Times erroneous scoop, one that the Times had failed
to correct after it had been impeached by its sole authority.
On October 21, 2001 the Times had 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." Within hours
of its publication, President Havel denied that he had
ever spoken to President Bush about the meeting. His
spokesman, Ladislav Spacek, termed the New York Times
"a fabrication," adding "Nothing like this has occurred."
Although Havel had declared its scoop a "fabrication",
the Times used it again as the basis of an editorial on
October 23, entitled "The
Illusory Prague Connection." So it remained in its
Unlike Havel, who had not been directly involved in the
expulsion of Iraq Consul Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani
from Prague on April 22, 2001, Czech Prime Minister Milos
Zeman, Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, Interior Minister Stanislav
Gross, BIS Intelligence chief Jiri Ruzek and UN Ambassador
Hynek Kmonicek were involved in this unprecedented expulsion.
These officials have all stated that the Czech intelligence
service (BIS) had reported a meeting in Prague between
hijacker Mohamed Atta and Iraq Consul al-Ani in April
2001 and none of these men have since stated that the
intelligence about the meeting was "false."
The last statement to date was made on October 26th,
2002 by Ambassador Kmonicek, who who was deputy Foreign
Minister at the time and served the expulsion notice on
al-Ani. He flatly told the Prague Post that "the meeting
took place" and that "the Czech government collected detailed
evidence of the al-Ani/Atta meeting." If anything, the
government had confirmed the intelligence.
To be sure, because the Czech government claims to have
collected detailed evidence of the meeting, does not mean
that it necessarily took place. By its very nature, intelligence
reports may be inaccurate, flawed or disinformation. Even
if it is accurate that a 9-11 hijacker met with an Iraqi
official in April 2001, the subject of their meeting is
unknown. They might have discussed something else or,
if it was the attack, al-Ani might have refused to help
Atta. All that is known is that Kmonicek expelled al-Ani
after that April incident on the basis of Czech intelligence
reports collected by the BIS and which have not been made
But that qualification hardly gives the
New York Times license to falsely report as a fact that
"The Czech government later said the information was