2000-2001: The often-refuted meetings in Prague in June 2000 and in April of 2001 between 9-11 hijack captain Mohammed Atta and Iraqi diplomat Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, did indeed take place. The August 2, 2002 edition of the Los Angeles Times quotes an unnamed high official in the Bush Administration as saying that evidence of the Prague meetings holds up. A Czech intelligence agent has stated publicly that he witnessed and reported al-Samir and Atta hugging goodbye in the airport following the 2001 meeting.
No matter what the MMC repeatedly says, since Czech interior minister Stanislas Gross made it official on October 26, 2001 and was later corroborated by prime minister Milos Zeman, the only wavering on the matter has come from Vaslav Havel after intense pressure from the Media Left in Europe (and possibly a tad from the White House). All Havel finally said was that the meeting MAY not have happened. Naturally the MMC has taken this one inconclusive statement as conclusive evidence that the meeting never happened, conveniently ignoring far weightier evidence to the contrary.
Some in the media also cite CIA sources that say there is no record of Atta leaving the country during April 2001, and that he may have rented a car in Florida at that time. First, this completely ignores the June 2000 meeting, which the CIA itself has confirmed publicly. Second, it conveniently ignores that Atta routinely traveled on false passports and that his operatives may have purposely rented a car with his ID to establish an alibi presence in Florida, when he was indeed in Czechoslovakia.
The Czechs, it should be noted, spurred by the last Atta meeting with al-Ani, expelled the Iraqi agent not long after he saw Atta off at the airport. The reason was his suspected involvement in a plot to bomb Radio Free Europe. Radio Free Europe is an icon and entity of the United States of America.
And then there is the alleged contact between lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague. The reporting on those links suggests not one meeting, but as many as four. What's more, the memo reveals potential financing of Atta's activities by Iraqi intelligence.
The Czech counterintelligence service reported that the Sept. 11 hijacker [Mohamed] Atta met with the former Iraqi intelligence chief in Prague, [Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir] al Ani, on several occasions. During one of these meetings, al Ani ordered the IIS finance officer to issue Atta funds from IIS financial holdings in the Prague office.
And the commentary:
CIA can confirm two Atta visits to Prague--in Dec. 1994 and in June 2000; data surrounding the other two--on 26 Oct 1999 and 9 April 2001--is complicated and sometimes contradictory and CIA and FBI cannot confirm Atta met with the IIS. Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross continues to stand by his information.
It's not just Gross who stands by the information. Five high-ranking members of the Czech government have publicly confirmed meetings between Atta and al Ani.
Then there were the visits to Prague by Atta. On two separate occasions, Atta--not a man given to the earthly pleasures of sightseeing--traveled to Prague to meet Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, an Iraqi agent later expelled from the Czech Republic as a spy. Since the information surfaced last fall, there have been numerous efforts to bury the story--the most tangible evidence linking Sept. 11 to Baghdad. The Czech government, however, had little reason to question its own intelligence on the Atta trips and stood by the story. Last month, a high-ranking White House official confirmed the meeting.