The investigation of the September 11 attack has produced
to date only a single instance of an observed liaison
between a hijacker and a hostile intelligence service.
It was the meeting on April 8, 2001 between Mohamed
Atta and Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, the second
Secretary of the Iraqi Consul in Prague, and an officer
in the Iraqi foreign intelligence service. This meeting
was "seen" through the surveillance of the
Czech counter-intelligence service, BIS. Why did the
BIS have surveillance in place that detected this particular
The Czech surveillance of al-Ani grew out an earlier
incident. In December 1998, Jabir Salim, a 43-year-old
Iraqi intelligence officer, serving as Iraq's consul
in Prague, was compromised in a homosexual scandal.
He defected, along with his family, to Britain. In his
subsequent debriefings by MI6, he revealed that Baghdad
had provided him with $150,000 to organize a car bomb
attack on the Prague headquarters of Radio Free Europe,
Radio Free Liberty, the American facility in Prague
that broadcast in Iraqi.
When the British informed the Czech government of this
bomb plot, it caused a furor over the BIS paying too
little attention to a dangerous Iraqi intelligence operation
in Prague. Consequently, the head of the BIS was fired.
The new head of the BIS, now alerted to the danger
of a bomb plot against the Radio Free Europe building,
instituted intense surveillance on Salim's replacement,
who was none other than Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani.
Like Salim, al-Ani was the Iraqi Consul in Prague, which
afforded him diplomatic immunity.
The Czech surveillance of al-Ani was therefore a full-court
press. It presumably involved not just watching his
movements but monitoring communications directed to
him through broadband channels, including faxes, emails
and cell phone calls. Since the BIS was concerned about
a resumption of the planned bomb attack on the American
facility, it would pay particular attention to any attempt
to set-up a clandestine liaison in Prague with a foreign
visitor outside of Embassy compound , which would give
al-Ani a better chance to evade routine surveillance
of Embassy visitors.
So when Atta arranged the meeting with Al-Ani at a
remote location, which involved some prior communications
before Atta flew to Prague, the BIS had every reason
to surveil the meeting.
According to the Czech interior ministry, which oversaw
the BIS, the BIS was not able to pick up the conversation
between Atta and al-Ani. Presumably, the BIS did not
have either the means or opportunity to install a listening
device at this remote location. It was able, however,
to establish the identity of the visitor Mohamed
Atta either though his prior communications or
physical tailing of him back to his hotel.
When the BIS informed the Czech government about the
al-Ani-Atta meeting, officials assumed (wrongly, as
it turned out) that the suspicious liaison might concern
another bombing attempt on Radio free Europe. The Czech
government greatly increased police protection of the
facility in Prague. It also expelled al-Ani from the
Czech Republic. Al- Ani departed later that month (April
2001). According to Radio Free Europe officials, the
extra security remained at their facility until September.
When Atta was identified as one of the perpetrators
of the destruction of the World Trade Center did it
become clear that they were concerned with the wrong
Since Atta had returned to the US in April, and the
suspected target, Radio Free Europe, was of concern
to the CIA, the BIS had reason to inform the CIA about
the meeting of Atta and al-Ani. Did the BIS provide
this information to the CIA or other American intelligence