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04:06 - Source: CNN

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Cable refutes claim that 9/11 hijacker meet with Iraqi official before attacks

Bush administration had used alleged meeting to link Iraq to September 11 attacks

CNN  — 

A recently released CIA cable casts heavy doubt on a key claim used by the Bush administration to justify the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

It discounts intelligence that said Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 ringleaders, met with an Iraqi official in the Czech Republic a few months before the attacks.

The Bush administration – which maintained that Atta had met with Iraqi agent Ahmad al-Anian in Prague in April 2001 – had used the report to link the September 11 attacks to Iraq.

CIA Director John Brennan included a portion of the cable in a letter to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan. Levin, the retiring chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, made the letter public on Thursday.

The cable reads that “there is not one USG (counterterrorism) 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.”

In a 2001 interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” then-Vice President Dick Cheney said, “It’s been pretty well confirmed that (Atta) did go to Prague, and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in (the Czech Republic) last April, several months before the attack.”

Cheney repeated those claims, which were based on a single source, as the nation prepared for war.

The FBI and CIA had both warned that they were “skeptical that Atta was in Prague,” according to Brennan’s letter. He noted that both organizations had said previously that “identifications” such as the one initially made by the single source who reported the meeting “could be faulty and would require further evidence.”

The March 13, 2003, cable sent by the CIA represents a last known attempt to refute any existence of the meeting and, with it, a 9/11 link to Iraq. An invasion force led by the United States entered Iraq one week later.

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