Nov 22 2005

Able Danger Update, Atta In Prague

Published by at 3:44 pm under Able Danger/9-11,All General Discussions

I do not have the time right now to link back to the specific posts on this subject, but today’s Wall Street Journal article on Atta in Prague is a bombshell.

Why? Well it is more believable than relying on Al Qaeda’s Mastermind for 9-11 regarding Atta’s whereabouts! And that is who the 9-11 commission chose to believe.

The article today is by Edward Jay Epstein and is the result of his independent reporting and contacts with the key Czech intelligence personnel.

To sort out the confusion, I met earlier this month in Prague with Jiri Ruzek, chief at the time of the Czech counterintelligence service, BIS. Mr. Ruzek is in a position to know what happened. He personally oversaw the investigation of Iraq’s alleged covert activities that began, with full American collaboration, nearly two years before Mr. Bush became president and resulted, some five months before the 9/11 attack, in the expulsion of Ahmad al-Ani, the Iraqi intelligence officer alleged to have met with Atta. I also spoke with ex-Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, who headed the intelligence committee to whom Mr. Ruzek reported, and to Ambassador Hynek Kmonicek, who, as deputy foreign minister at the time, handled the al-Ani expulsion for the foreign ministry.

That’s a lot of collaboration. What makes this more believable it the Atta connection was a serendipitous offshoot of something else all together:

Mr. Salim said in his debriefings that the Mukhabarat, Iraq’s intelligence service, had given him $150,000 and tasked him with carrying out a covert action against an American target in the Czech Republic: Using a freelance terrorist, he was to blow up the headquarters of Radio Free Europe in Wenceslas Square, in the heart of Prague.

The BIS did what counterintelligence services do in such circumstances: It sought to penetrate the Iraq Embassy by recruiting Arabic-speaking employees familiar with its operations.

Ahmad al-Ani was Jabir Salim’s replacement at the embassy. Soon after he arrived in March 1999, he was picked up by U.S. countersurveillance cameras. The interest in him intensified after the BIS learned from its penetration of the embassy that he was attempting to acquire explosives and contact foreign-based Arabs. Then, on April 9, 2001, the BIS’s source in the embassy reported that al-Ani had gotten into a car with an unknown foreign Arab. After the car managed to elude BIS surveillance, concern mounted that he was in the process of recruiting his bomber, and, since the BIS could not find the mystery Arab, Mr. Ruzek decided to act pre-emptively. He recommended to Foreign Minister Kavan that al-Ani be immediately expelled from the Czech Republic. He was given 48 hours to get out of Prague on April 19–and he returned to Baghdad.

On Sept. 11, Mohamed Atta’s picture was shown on Czech television, and the next day the BIS’s source in the Iraqi Embassy dropped a bombshell. He told his BIS case officer that he recognized Atta as the Arab who got in the car with al-Ani on April 9.

Yes, intelligence is luck and odds. The more you monitor targets the more likely you are to luck out and find something of interest. This seems to be the case here. A simple accident of coincidence. So, is this to be believed? There are some confirming indicators:

The FBI sent an interrogation team to Prague, which, after questioning and testing the source, concluded that there was a 70% likelihood that he was not intentionally lying and sincerely believed that he saw Atta with al-Ani. The issue remained whether he had mistaken someone who resembled Atta for the 9/11 hijacker. Meanwhile, records were found showing that Atta had applied for a Czech visa in Germany in 2000, and made at least one previous trip to Prague (from Bonn, by bus, on June 2, 2000, flying to Newark, N.J., the next day).

Interestingly enough, you would think there would be hotel receipts – unless he stayed at a safe house. The lack of hotel receipts on both trips would give me pause. Anyway, back to the story and our news media’s greed for ratings stabbing the country in the back security-wise.

Less than a week after Mr. Ruzek shared the BIS’s confidential information with American intelligence, it was leaked. The Associated Press reported, “A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States has received information from a foreign intelligence service that Mohamed Atta, a hijacker aboard one of the planes that slammed into the World Trade Center, met earlier this year in Europe with an Iraqi intelligence agent.” CBS named al-Ani as the person meeting with Atta in Prague.

While we are investigating leaks – where is the special prosecutor for this leak?

This is telling though:

Meanwhile, pressure on Mr. Ruzek mounted. Richard Armitage, Colin Powell’s deputy, complained to Prime Minister Zeeman that Mr. Ruzek was not cooperating in resolving the case, even though Mr. Ruzek had extended unprecedented access to the FBI and CIA, access that included allowing their representatives to sit on the task force reviewing the case. He was also warned by a colleague in German intelligence that he could become entangled in a heated hawk-versus-dove struggle over Iraq.

Hmmm. Is Armitage Woodward’s Deep Throat II? Is there a coverup of missed information? Anyway, back to Prague…

So he threw the ball back in the CIA’s court, taking the position that if al-Ani did meet Atta for a nefarious purpose, it would have been not on his own initiative but as a representative of the Mukhabarat. The answer was not in Prague but in Iraq’s intelligence files; and the CIA and FBI would have to use their own intelligence capabilities to obtain further information about al-Ani’s assignment. That more or less concluded the Czech role in the investigation.

Sadly, this should not be how it ended. We need cooperation from our allies, not bullying from the State Department. And since when do we believe blatant lies from Saddam’s assassins?

Al-Ani was captured by the CIA in Baghdad in 2003, and he remains in detention in Iraq. Though no one has been allowed to interview him, he told the CIA that he was not anywhere near Prague at the time of the meeting.

Hold the presses. Al-Ani’s location is not in doubt! He was under surveillance. The question was who did he meet with, not where he was. Only an idiot (and Saddam’s henchmen were truly brutal idiots) would make an over the top lie when all he had to say it was not Atta.

Although Mr. Ruzek termed al-Ani’s claim of being elsewhere “pure nonsense,” the CIA had evidently found it could go no further with the vexing case.

But the CIA did not want to connect Iraq to 9-11. All the VIPS and Larry Johnsons and Rand Beers make clear that was the last connection they wanted (in other words they wanted absolute proof). We should be bringing more people to task for leaking to the media and destroying key investigations into Al Qaeda and 9-11. The press, in its quest for ratings, is bordering on treason here.

There is more on this at Mac Ranger’s, and check out this statement by 9/11 family member Debra Burlingame at the Able Danger Blog on the news the 9-11 Omission is closing shop (or is that cutting and running). The post also includes a repulsive parting shot from a 9-11 commissioners to Louis Freeh:

We understand that Mr. Freeh, like other federal officials whose agencies’ pre-9/11 failures we documented, may not agree with the facts and findings in our report..

Well, that was childish at best.

8 responses so far

8 Responses to “Able Danger Update, Atta In Prague”

  1. Jeff says:

    Great analysis, AJ…I saw that article too and thought it important. Especially important is the bit about the effect of the CIA leak–more than ever I think the Agency should be turned upside down, shaken severely, and rebuilt from the ground up. Those leaks have got to stop.

  2. AJStrata says:

    Thanks Jeff. Yeah, the more I hear about CIA leaks t0 their insurgent media comerades (just kidding) the more I realize the place needs a clean sweep.

  3. smh10 says:

    AJ: Terrific job as always. It is a shame the MSM for the most part won’t take the time to truthfully educate the general public. Maybe you, Mac, and TM could band together and be the truth squad. What a novel concept in today’s climate don’t you think?

  4. Snapple says:

    It was new information that the BIS had an agent inside the embassy who says he saw Atta get in a car with Al Ani.

  5. MerryJ1 says:

    “We understand that Mr. Freeh, like other federal officials whose agencies’ pre-9/11 failures we documented, may not agree with the facts and findings in our report.” (Did anyone agree with all or most of the “facts and findings” in their report?)

    In his book, “My FBI,” Freeh wrote about leaks in the Wen Ho Lee case and said he tried to persuade Attorney General Janet Reno to convene a grand jury and ‘put everyone who could have leaked under oath’, then prosecute those responsible. Reno refused.

    I agree a “clean sweep” of the CIA would be a good start, but the broom is also needed for the FBI, US Attorney’s Offices, and probably every (security-related) agency and bureau in the US Government … not to mention relevant committees of the House and Senate.

  6. It sounds like Atta was in Prague after all

    … and did meet with an Iraqi agent there. A J Strata has an excellent analysis of the matter here. I’m too tired to try to pick out the best parts right now; just go read it, and don’t

  7. LuckyBogey says:

    AJ- I agree with you on the leaks however how do we know what Al-Ani has told the CIA? Why is this same Epstein article coming out two years later again?

    The Prague Connection By Edward Jay Epstein
    Slate November 17, 2003
    This month, I went to Prague to meet with Czech officials who had directly handled the pre-9/11 expulsion of a senior Iraqi diplomat, a case that would became known as the Prague Connection . Because it goes to the heart of the issue of whether Saddam Hussein might have played a role in the attack on the World Trade Center, this controversy has continued to rage, without any satisfying conclusion, for more than two years…..

  8. Snapple says:

    Here is my theory about why this story is coming out again. And it is only a theory. I don’t work for the government or in an intelligence field. So Caveat Emptor!

    I think that the government may have had information about Atta’s travels and contacts from Able Danger. I bet this information, even if destroyed, was quickly reconstituted and the legalities cleaned up when people realized that Atta was tracked by Able Danger.

    This information implicated Iraq, so the government wanted to tell it.

    On the other hand, revealing that Iraq was complicit in 9-11 would have called for a lot of explanations about how this happened.

    The government may have been trying to use Able Danger to track-back Atta’s movements and the other terrorists’ movements so they could identify, neutralize and perhaps arrest 9-11 collaborators in the US. Saddam had a lot of money. He could have used people he bought in America to help the 9-11 suicide teams.

    I hope that Able Danger has not been exposed prematurely. And I hope the information can be used to arrest terrorists or set traps for them.