As Last Piece of Business, Carl Levin Reiterates that Dick Cheney Lied Us into War

As one of the last things Carl Levin did before retiring, he released a letter he received from John Brennan demonstrating what a liar Dick Cheney is.

For years, Levin has been trying to get the CIA to declassify a March 13, 2003 cable assessing a source’s claim that Mohammed Atta met Iraqi intelligence officer Ahmad Samir al-Ani in Prague before 9/11, a purported meeting Cheney repeatedly used to insinuate a tie between Iraq and al Qaeda justified the war in Iraq. While Brennan still refuses to declassify the cable, but his letter does explain some of CIA’s assessment of that source.

On 13 March 2003, CIA headquarters received a communication from the field responding to a request that the field look into a single-source intelligence report indicating that Mohammed Atta met with former Iraqi intelligence officer al-Ani in Praque in April 20001. In that communication, the field expressed significant concern regarding the possibility of an official public statement by the United States Government indicating that such a meeting took place. The communication noted that information received after the single-source report raised serious doubts about that report’s accuracy.

The context — and CIA’s long refusal to declassify the cable — suggests that the source was yet another planted lead designed to justify the war, a last ditch attempt to create a tie between Iraq and al Qaeda that did not exist.

Brennan’s letter goes on to quote on line from the report.

The field added that, to its knowledge, “there is not one USG [counterterrorism] or FBI expert that … has said they have evidence of ‘know’ that [Atta] was indeed [in Prague]. In fact, the analysis has been quite the opposite. [brackets original]

Four days after this report, Cheney fought mightily to make the Atta claim once more, just before the attack, even though the entire intelligence community thought the claim was not credible.

I raise all this when I should instead be talking about the torture report because it gets to the point I made here, which I keep making in every radio appearance I do on the torture report.

This all was about exploitation, not intelligence. And for over a year, Dick Cheney’s goal for exploitation was to create a fraudulent case for the Iraq war, whether via torture or dubious single source claims in Prague. As Cheney complains that the torture report (which reported on the anal rape done in the guise of rectal rehydration done on his order) is “full of crap,” we should never forget that one end result of this was the disastrous Iraq war.

CIA Continues to Cover Up Dick Cheney’s War-Mongering

10 years ago today, George Bush gave his final warning to Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq or face war. While the first half of Bush’s speech cited Saddam’s purported refusal to give up his WMD program, the second half of the speech was littered with insinuations about Saddam’s terrorist allies.

If Saddam Hussein attempts to cling to power, he will remain a deadly foe until the end. In desperation, he and terrorists groups might try to conduct terrorist operations against the American people and our friends. These attacks are not inevitable. They are, however, possible. And this very fact underscores the reason we cannot live under the threat of blackmail. The terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed.


We are now acting because the risks of inaction would be far greater. In one year, or five years, the power of Iraq to inflict harm on all free nations would be multiplied many times over. With these capabilities, Saddam Hussein and his terrorist allies could choose the moment of deadly conflict when they are strongest. We choose to meet that threat now, where it arises, before it can appear suddenly in our skies and cities.


Terrorists and terror states do not reveal these threats with fair notice, in formal declarations — and responding to such enemies only after they have struck first is not self-defense, it is suicide. The security of the world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now. [my emphasis]

We know that Dick Cheney tried, in the days leading up to this speech and an earlier March 14 one, to boost these vague allegations in part by resuscitating the claim that Mohammed Atta met with Iraqi diplomat-spook Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani in April 2001. The CIA pushed back hard on the claim. An account of that fight is one of the most significant redactions in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2006 assessment of the bullshit lies told to get us into Iraq (see numbered page 96), as explained by Mark Hosenball.

According to two sources familiar with the blacked-out portions of the Senate report that discuss the CIA cable’s contents, the document indicates that White House officials had proposed mentioning the supposed Atta-Prague meeting in a Bush speech scheduled for March 14, 2003. Originated by Czech intelligence shortly after 9/11, the tendentious claim was that in April 2001, Atta, the 9/11 hijack leader, had met in Prague with the local station chief for Iraqi intelligence. The sources said that upon learning of the proposed White House speech, the CIA station in Prague sent back a cable explaining in detail why the agency believed the anecdote was ill-founded. Read more

In July 2001, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Tried to Come to the US

One of the most intriguing details of the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed indictment is this entry:

126. On or about July 23, 2001, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED applied for a U.S.-entry visa, using the name “Abdulrahman A.A. Al-Ghamdi,” which application was denied.

That’s interesting for a number of reasons. Such a reference doesn’t show up in the 9/11 Report, though by that time, a CIA source had already warned that someone named “Khaled” was sending people to the US to carry out terrorist activities for Osama bin Laden; on July 12, 2001, that source IDed a picture of KSM.

It also raises questions about sourcing. Why didn’t the 9/11 Commission know this by spring 2004, when they were finishing their report? Is it possible KSM told us about this attempt to fly to the US after that point? It’s worth noting that at least one piece of intelligence that appears in the indictment–a description of how the muscle hijackers were taught to use short blades by killing sheep and camel–is sourced to the February 23, 2004 interrogation of KSM. Or has the government developed a granular enough understanding of KSM’s movements that it was able to pin this attempted visa application to him via other–perhaps SIGINT–means?

But then the big question is, what was KSM planning to do if he had actually received a visa to travel to the US?

Given the timing and the context–KSM attempted to get the visa just a week after Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Mohammed Atta met in Spain for their last planning meeting before the attack, and therefore presumably right after bin al-Shibh reported back to KSM on what happened at the meeting–it seems that KSM was worried about whether Ziad Jarrah would carry through with the attack. The 9/11 Report describes:

The most significant part of the mid-July conversation [between KSM and bin al-Shibh] concerned Jarrah’s troubled relationship with Atta. KSM and Binalshibh both acknowledge that Jarrah chafed under Atta’s authority over him. Binalshibh believes the disagreement arose in part from Jarrah’s family visits. Moreover, Jarrah had been on his own for most of his time in the United States because Binalshibh’s visa difficulty had prevented the two from training together. Jarrah thus felt excluded from the decisionmaking. Binalshibh had to act as a broker between Jarrh and Atta.

Concerned that Jarrah might withdraw from the operation at this late stage, KSM emphasized the importance of Atta and Jarrah’s resolving their differences. Binalshibh claims that such concern was unwarranted, and in their mid-July discussion reassured KSM that Atta and Jarrah would reconcile and be ready to move forward in about a month, after Jarrah visited his family. Noting his concern and the potential for delay, KSM at one point instructed Binalshibh to send “the skirts” to “Sally”–a coded instruction to Binalshibh to send funds to Zacarias Moussaoui.

On July 20, Jarrah’s girlfriend bought him a one-way ticket to Dusseldorf. On July 23, KSM attempted to get his visa to the US. On July 25, Jarrah flew to Dusseldorf; while bin al-Shibh talked to him right away, they did not have their more substantive conversation until later. And between July 30 and August 3, 2001, Mustafa al-Hawsawi and bin al-Shibh sent money to Moussaoui he used to enroll in flight school (and buy a Leatherman knife).

It’s also worth noting that Atta, Hani Hanjour, and Nawaf al-Hazmi met in Las Vegas on August 13. The 9/11 Report reported it had gotten no explanation as to why they chose Las Vegas. The indictment explains that “in summer 2001, KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED instructed some of the hijackers to meet in Las Vegas to make final preparations.”

Had KSM received his visa, would he have attended the meeting?

In any case, it appears that KSM’s concerns about the plot falling to pieces (or at least losing Jarrah as a pilot) were sufficiently serious that he tried to come to the US himself to deal with the problem.