Alleged Meeting Between 9/11 Hijacker and Iraqi Official Was Debunked by U.S. Intelligence Agencies Before It Was Trumpeted As War Justification … U.S. Pressured Czech Government to Lie
There is extensive evidence that the U.S. government intentionally lied us into the Iraq war.
Here’s a quick refresher:
The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (Carl Levin) provided a new piece of evidence this week:
Bush administration officials misled the nation in advance of the Iraq War ….
Levin will introduce a letter he received from CIA Director John Brennan, declassifying for the first time some details of a March 2003 CIA cable warning the Bush administration against references to the allegation that Mohammad Atta, the leader of the 9/11 hijackers, had met before the attacks in Prague, Czech Republic, with an Iraqi intelligence officer. He also introduced a translated excerpt from a book by the former head of Czech counterintelligence, describing U.S. pressure to confirm that the meeting took place. In fact, no such meeting occurred. And he called on Brennan to fully declassify the CIA cable.
On March 6, 2003, just two weeks before U.S. troops would cross the Iraqi border, President Bush held a prime-time televised press conference. In that press conference he mentioned the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks eight times, often in the same breath as Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. There was a concerted campaign on the part of the Bush administration to connect Iraq in the public mind with the horror of the Sept. 11 attacks. That campaign succeeded. According to public polls in the week before the Iraq war, half or more of Americans believed Saddam was directly involved in the attacks. One poll taken in September 2003, six months after we invaded Iraq, found that nearly 70 percent of Americans believed it likely that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. Americans who believed in a link between Iraq and 9/11 overwhelmingly supported the idea of invading Iraq. Of course, connections between Saddam and 9/11 or al Qaeda were fiction.
America’s intelligence community was pressed to participate in the administration’s media campaign. Just a week after the President’s prime-time press conference, on March 13, 2003, CIA field staff sent a cable to CIA headquarters, responding to a request for information about a report that Mohammad Atta, the leader of the Sept. 11 hijackings, had met in 2001 with an Iraqi intelligence official in the Czech capital of Prague. In stark terms, this CIA cable from the field warned against U.S. government officials citing the report of the alleged Prague meeting.
Yet the notion of such a meeting was a centerpiece of the administration’s campaign to create an impression in the public mind that Saddam was in league with the al Qaeda terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. On multiple occasions, including national television appearances, Vice President Dick Cheney cited reports of the meeting, at one point calling it “pretty well confirmed.” Officials from Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, who set up a sort of rogue intelligence analysis operation, briefed senior officials with a presentation citing the Prague meeting as a “known contact” between Iraq and al Qaida.
Here is what the Vice President said on December 9, 2001, in an interview on “Meet the Press:” “It’s been pretty well confirmed that he [Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack.”
Far from “pretty well confirmed,” there was almost no evidence that such a meeting took place. Just a single unsubstantiated report, from a single source, and a mountain of information indicating there was no such meeting, including the fact that travel and other records indicated that Atta was almost certainly in the United States at the time of the purported meeting in Prague.
It was highly irresponsible for the Vice President to make that claim. Calling a single, unconfirmed report from a single source “pretty well confirmed,” as he did on Dec. 9, 2001, was a reckless statement to make on such a grave topic as war, in the face of overwhelming doubt that such a meeting occurred.
Yet Vice President Cheney’s reckless statements continued, even as evidence mounted that there was no Prague meeting.
The Vice President made those statements in the face of a July 2002 Defense Intelligence Agency analysis, which reported that there was no evidence that Atta was in the Czech Republic at the time. He made those statements despite a Defense Intelligence Agency memorandum in August 2002 rejecting the claims by a rogue intelligence analysis shop at the Pentagon that the meeting was an example of a “known contact” between Iraq and al Qaida.
Tenet writes in his memoir that he had to object to the President that the speech went “way beyond what the intelligence shows. We cannot support the speech and it should not be given.”
The [recent] letter [from CIA director Brennan] contains no indication that he had asked the Czech government for its view, as he committed to do. But Director Brennan’s letter includes, and therefore finally declassifies, this very clear statement from the cable: “[T]here is not one USG [counterterrorism] or FBI expert that … has said they have evidence or ‘know’ that [Atta] was indeed [in Prague]. In fact, the analysis has been quite the opposite.
Again, that cable was sent to CIA headquarters on March 13, 2003 – a week before our invasion of Iraq. But the Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney, continued to suggest the meeting may have taken place.
There is a second recent revelation about how the “Prague meeting” progressed from unsubstantiated report to justification for war. It comes from Jiri Ruzek, who headed the Czech counterintelligence service on and after 9/11. Mr. Ruzek published a memoir earlier this year, which we have had translated from Czech. It recounts the days after the terror attack, including how his nation’s intelligence services first reported a single-source rumor of a Prague meeting between Atta and al-Ani, how CIA officials under pressure from CIA headquarters in turn pressured him to substantiate the rumor, and how U.S. officials pressured the Czech government when Czech intelligence officials failed to produce the confirmation that the Bush administration sought.
Mr. Ruzek writes, “It was becoming more and more clear that we had not met expectations and did not provide the ‘right’ intelligence output.” Mr. Ruzek goes on: “The Americans showed me that anything can be violated, including the rules that they themselves taught us. Without any regard to us, they used our intelligence information for propaganda press leaks. They wanted to mine certainty from unconfirmed suspicion and use it as an excuse for military action. We were supposed to play the role of useful idiot thanks to whose initiative a war would be started.”
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