Czech intelligence officials said they had a report shortly after 9/11 that Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence official in April 2001. U.S. media reports, the FBI and the CIA subsequently revealed that the report was unsubstantiated. We speak with New York Times reporter Chris Hedges. [Includes transcript]
Debunking Cheney: Part IV of a Four-Part Special
- Part I: Cheney Claims Again Iraq Tried To Acquire Uranium From Niger__
- Part II: Cheney Claims No Knowledge That White House Helped Evacuate 24 Members of the Bin Laden Family Days After 9/11__
- Part III: Cheney Suggests Iraq Linked To ’93 WTC Bombing Through Wanted Iraqi-American__
- Tim Russert questioning Vice President Dick Cheney on "Meet the Press" September 14, 2003:
Vice President Dick Cheney: With respect to 9/11, of course, we’ve had the story that’s been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we’ve never been able to develop anymore of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don’t know.
This story came shortly after 9/11, when Czech intelligence officials did say they had a report from a source—a single source—that Atta had met with an Iraqi intelligence official in April 2001. Subsequent media reports in the United States revealed that the source was actually an Arab student who was not considered particularly reliable. The FBI investigated and found nothing to substantiate the report of the meeting. In fact, the FBI concluded that Atta was most likely in Florida at the time of the supposed meeting, and the CIA questioned the existence of this meeting.
Also, on October 21, 2002, The New York Times reported that Czech President Vaclav Havel "quietly told the White House he has concluded that there is no evidence to confirm earlier reports" of the meeting. And it seemed that Atta had gone to Prague in June 2000, not April 2001.
Cheney did not mention any of this on "Meet the Press". Nor did he note that U.S. forces had nabbed this Iraqi intelligence official in July and that there has been no word — no leaks — about him confirming the supposed meeting.
- Chris Hedges, reporter for The New York Times. In December 2001 he wrote an article for the Times entitled "New Clue Fails to Explain Iraq Role in Sept. 11 Attack" regarding Iraq’s alleged link to 9/11.
AMY GOODMAN: As we turn to the last statement of Dick Cheney that we will refer to today, this on "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
DICK CHENEY: With respect to 911 of course we’ve had the story that’s been public out there that Czechs alleged that Muhammad Atta the lead attacker met in Prague with the senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we never have been able to develop any more of that either, in terms of confirming or discrediting it. We just don’t know.
We could establish a direct link between hijackers of September 11th and Saudi Arabia.
We know that many of the attackers were Saudi. There was also an Egyptian in the bunch. That doesn’t mean those governments had anything to do with the attack, that’s a different proposition than saying the Iraqi government or Iraqi intelligence service had a relationship with Al Qaeda that developed throughout the decade of the nineties, that was clearly official policy.
AMY GOODMAN: That is Vice President Dick Cheney speaking to Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" this story came shortly after 911 when Czech intelligence officials said they had a report from a single source that Atta met in April of 2001 in Prague. Subsequent media reports in the United States revealed the source was actually an Arab student who was not considered particularly reliable, the F.B.I. investigated, found nothing to substantiate the report of the meeting, in fact the F.B.I. concluded Atta was most likely in Florida at the time of the supposed meeting and C.I.A. questioned existence of this meeting.
Also on October 21, 2002, the New York Times reported that the Czech President said, quote, quietly told the White House he’s concluded there is no evidence to confirm earlier reports of the meeting. It seemed Atta had gone to Prague in June 2000 not April 2001. Cheney did not mention any of this on "Meet the Press" nor note U.S. forces nabbed this Iraqi intelligence official in July that there has been no word, no leaks about him confirming the supposed meeting. Chris Hedges is our last guest today, reporter for the New York Times, in December 2001 wrote an article for the Times [on this]: Your comment on once again Vice President Dick Cheney raising this issue of Muhammad Atta meeting with Iraqi official in Prague.
CHRIS HEDGES: Well of urse it’s an old charge, one that was made as you pointed out by a very, frankly not a very credible source. This was picked up on by the Czech prime minister at the time who made public statement about it, spoke to Americans about it. There was immediate back pedalling on the part of the Czech officials, the then President personally conducted quite an exhaustive campaign out of his office to find out whether there was any substance to this charge at all, concluded that there was not. There are all sorts of, in the investigation that we did there were all sorts of disparities, for instance, the meet was supposed to have taken place in April of 2000 and from records that we have from that American intelligence officials sort of smoke to us, that they put Atta in Virginia beach, Virginia, in early April. He wasn’t even in Prague. Did he make a trip through Prague in June, very briefly to make a connection to Newark. But the assumption is that this is because he could get a cheap ticket out of there, that there was no meeting.
This is something that’s been reported on extensively in the New York Times and other papers as you mentioned, I and reporter Don McNeil spent quite a bit of time interviewing intelligence specials in Europe making trips to Prague. I, frankly had thought this had sort bf laid to rest and pretty much debunked.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you make of the vice president raising it again as one of the chief reasons for Iraq being invaded this past year.
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, I think I was surprised to hear it. Because even at the time that we were investigating it and interviews that were done with American intelligence officials, they cast a lot of doubt about that claim. They were very reluctant to embrace it. And I think as you pointed out, not only initially were they doubtful about the claim but then when they looked into it as well, they decided that there was no there was no credible evidence to make that charge. And you had Tenet who told Congress that the C.I.A. could find no evidence to confirm that the meeting took place.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s the director of intelligence George Tenet.
CHRIS HEDGES: In October of 2002.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, on that note I want to thank you very much, Chris Hedges, for joining us. Reporter for the New York Times. author of What Every Young Person Should Know About War and War is a Force Which Gives Us Meaning". That does it for the show if you want to get a copy call 1-800-881-2359. www.democracynow.org is our website.