The New York Times reported in its Week in Review section (p.3) on March 2,

"Czech intelligence officials said for more than a year that they had
credible evidence of a meeting in Prague between one Sept. 11 hijacker and
an Iraqi agent. The Czech government later said the information was false."

Is it factually true or a journalistic invention, that the government of the
Czech Republic later, or ever, said "the information was false?"


No, it is a journalistic invention, exclusive to the New York Times.

The prelude to this invention came in an earlier New York Times erroneous
scoop, one that the Times had failed to correct after it had been impeached
by its sole authority. On October 21, 2001 the Times had reported on its
front page that "The Czech president, Vaclav Havel, has quietly told the
White House he has concluded that there is no evidence to confirm earlier
reports that Mohamed Atta, the leader in the Sept. 11 attacks, met with an
Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague." Within hours of its publication,
President Havel denied that he had ever spoken to President Bush about the
meeting. His spokesman, Ladislav Spacek, termed the New York Times "a
fabrication," adding "Nothing like this has occurred."

Although Havel had declared its scoop a "fabrication", the Times used it
again as the basis of an editorial on October 23, entitled "The Illusory
Prague Connection." So it remained in its clip file.

Unlike Havel, who had not been directly involved in the expulsion of Iraq
Consul Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani from Prague on April 22, 2001,
Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman, Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, Interior
Minister Stanislav Gross, BIS Intelligence chief Jiri Ruzek and UN
Ambassador Hynek Kmonicek were involved in this unprecedented expulsion.
These officials have all stated that the Czech intelligence service (BIS)
had reported a meeting in Prague between hijacker Mohamed Atta and Iraq
Consul al-Ani in April 2001 and none of these men have since stated that the
intelligence about the meeting was "false."

The last statement to date was made on October 26th, 2002 by Ambassador
Kmonicek, who who was deputy Foreign Minister at the time and served the
expulsion notice on al-Ani. He flatly told the Prague Post that "the meeting
took place" and that "the Czech government collected detailed evidence of
the al-Ani/Atta meeting." If anything, the government had confirmed the

To be sure, because the Czech government claims to have collected detailed
evidence of the meeting, does not mean that it necessarily took place. By
its very nature, intelligence reports may be inaccurate, flawed or
disinformation. Even if it is accurate that a 9-11 hijacker met with an
Iraqi official in April 2001, the subject of their meeting is unknown. They
might have discussed something else or, if it was the attack, al-Ani might
have refused to help Atta. All that is known is that Kmonicek expelled
al-Ani after that April incident on the basis of Czech intelligence reports
collected by the BIS and which have not been made public.

But that qualification hardly gives the New York Times license to falsely
report as a fact that "The Czech government later said the information was

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