WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A CIA cable disclosed on Thursday showed that U.S. counter terrorism officials in 2003 discounted reports that a leader of the Sept. 11 attacks met an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague just before the attacks, further undermining a Bush administration argument for the invasion of Iraq.
Senator Carl Levin released a newly declassified section of a March 11, 2003 cable that undercut administration statements that Mohammed Atta and Iraqi agent Ahmad al-Anian had met in the Czech capital in April 2001.
“[T]here is not one [U.S. counter terrorism] 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,” said the cable, made available by Levin, retiring chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had earlier linked Iraq with al Qaeda and international terrorism and, incorrectly, said it was in possession of weapons of mass destruction, justifying the March 20, 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Levin said a recent memoir published by Jiri Ruzek, head of Czech counterintelligence in 2001, described the story about Atta’s Prague meeting as a single-source rumor and said the Bush administration pressured officials in Prague to confirm it.
Levin urged CIA Director John Brennan to release the entire March 2003 cable.
Some FBI officials have said evidence the U.S. authorities had indicated Atta was in Florida in early April and the FBI found no evidence that he traveled to Europe around that time, an official familiar with the matter said.
Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by David Storey