According to the New York Times, Senator Carl
Levin (Democrat-Michigan) stated in late October 2004
that the C.I.A. had become skeptical by June 2002 "about
a supposed meeting in April 2001 in Prague between Mohamed
Atta." Senator Levin is in a position to
know since the CIA Director testified on this very issue
a number of times between June 2002 and February 2004.
Does CIA director George Tenet's testimony support the
senator's allegation or is the Senator rewriting history?
prove that one way or another.
Senator Levin is rewriting history. On
June 18, 2002, Tenet testified before a Joint Committee
of Congress : “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.”
So it was still, according
to Tenet, an opened investigation. The leads included
an eye witness who saw Atta and the Iraqi Consul, al-Ani,
together on April 9, 2001, and the fact that Atta withdrew
$8,000 in cash from his SunTrust account after he checked
out of the Diplomat Inn in Virginia Beach on April 4,
2001. Since the FBI could not account for why
Atta withdrew the money, Atta had made two previous
trips to Prague, and no witnesses (except the one in
Prague) had seen Atta between April 4 and April 11,
2001, it was "possible," as Tenet testified,
Atta was in Prague at the time of the alleged meeting.
Some 20 months
later, on Feb 24, 2004, CIA director Tenet again testified
on the status of the case before the Senate Armed service
Committee, and was question by Senator Levin.
SENATOR LEVIN: What is the Intelligence Committee's
assessment of whether or not 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta
met with Ahmed al-Ani, an alleged Iraq intelligence
officer in Iraq in April of 2001. What is your assessment?
MR. TENET: Sir, I know you have a paper up here that
outlines all that for you. It's a classified paper.
My recollection is we can't prove that one way or another.
So again, Tenet testified again
that the CIA was not aware of any evidence that either
conforms or refutes the alleged meeting.
Five months later, Senator Levin
asked Tenet in a letter
a very different question. He asked him not whether
the CIA had evidence disproving the possibility of the
alleged Prague meeting, but whether it was likely
that Atta had met al-Ani in Prague.
On July 1, 2004, Tenet answered:
"Although we cannot rule it out, we are increasingly
skeptical such a meeting occurred." Tenet
gave a number of reasons for his assessment of the probability,
including the uncertain veracity of the eye witness,
the denial of al-Ani that he met Atta, and his opinion
"that Atta would have been unlikely to undertake
the substantial risk of contacting any Iraqi official
as late as April 2001, with the plot well along to execution."
So Tenet at this late date did not exclude
the possibility the meeting took place (since unlikely
events can occur.)