The Connections Missed

As the Able Danger scandal continues to unfold with more witnesses coming forth to say that the Department of Defense did ID September 11 ringleader Mohammad Atta, Captain Ed is doing an excellent job of analyzing the holes in the 9/11 Commission’s Atta timeline. There have been persistent rumors that in early April 2001 Mohammad Atta travelled to Prague where he may have met with an Iraqi intelligence agent by the name of Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani. Al-Ani was very likely to have been involved in a plot to blow up the Radio Free Europe transmitter in Prague – a plot that has both Iraqi and al-Qaeda ties. (The Prague meeting has been covered on this site previously.)

Czech intelligence maintains that Atta was in Prague, while the 9/11 Commission has said that the evidence points to Atta being in the United States. However, the Commission’s Atta timeline is full of gaping holes. For instance, they state that Atta’s cellphone was used in Florida during the time of the Prague meeting – which doesn’t mean that Atta was the one using it. The Commission also could not find evidence that Atta left the US and arrived in Prague at that time. However, they assume that Atta did not use an alias to travel, and they assume that Atta wouldn’t have been able to escape detection while in Prague. However, we know that Atta was in Prague on May 30, 2000, but he was only spotted by cameras for a few minutes. Atta did not have a visa to enter the Czech Republic, so he could not leave the transit lounge. That suggests two things: first that Atta (or his contact) knew enough about security in Prague that he could avoid being spotted by security, and second that he had a contact in Prague so important that an airport meeting was advisable — and had to be made on a very specific date and time.

Was that contact the Iraqi intelligence agent al-Ani? We don’t know, and it seems as though the groupthink in the intelligence community has stalled any investigation of these ties. US intelligence has not coordinated with the Czechs to try to get to the bottom of this affair.

Furthermore, Captain Ed also notes some curious connections between Spain and the 9/11 hijackers. We know that Atta met with now-captured 9/11 conspirator Ramzi bin al-Shibh in Spain in July of 2001. However, that meeting seems to make little sense, and even bin al-Shibh doesn’t seem to fully understand why Atta met with him in Spain rather than Germany where their al-Qaeda cell was originally based.

However, we now know that German counterintelligence had busted an Iraqi intelligence ring operating inside Germany at the same time. If Atta believed that Germany was simply too hot to arrange a meeting, that would explain the unusual side trip through Madrid. Spanish intelligence also contradicts the 9/11 Commission’s assertions that the only person Atta met with during his stay in Spain was bin al-Shibh.

The connections are murky, but the blanket assertion that Iraq and al-Qaeda are totally and completely unconnected keep crumbling more and more as new evidence comes to light. We have an Iraqi intelligence officer in Kuala Lumpur during the meeting in which the USS Cole and 9/11 attacks were planned. We have the April 2001 meeting in Prague, then a sudden and unusual meeting in Spain rather than Germany which just happens to coordinate with a major German counterintelligence operation against Iraqi agents.

Does this mean that Iraq and al-Qaeda somehow worked together on the 9/11 attacks. It is far, far too early to make that assertion. What this evidence does is prove that the “official” timeline of the 9/11 Commission is full of holes, and the findings of that body should be treated as suspect. The fact that there are all these open questions is in itself indicative of just how little we know about the circumstances leading up to the September 11 attacks.

It is time to reopen the file on September 11. If Able Danger did ID Atta, that is critical to understanding the multiple failures of intelligence that occurred before September 11. If Atta travelled to Prague, why did he do so. Who did he meet with on at least two occasions and for what purpose? Why would he travel there without a valid visa, and who gave him the information to avoid Prague airport security? If Atta did meet with al-Ani, there’s a major connection between an Iraqi intelligence agent and the ringleader of the September 11 cell. Is it mere coincidence that Atta’s next meeting was relocated at the same time German intelligence was moving against Iraqi spies in Germany? Or is there a connection between Atta, al-Ani, Prague, and Madrid?

It is time that these connections get the scrutiny and investigation they deserve. If the answers end up being far more prosaic than they appear, then at least we’ll know the truth. However, if this evidence indicates a much deeper connection, then the history of the last few years needs to be completely rewritten.

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