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The Case Officer

Ten Questions For al-Ani


In early July 2003, the U.S. military captured Iraqi intelligence officer Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani in Iraq. This arrest had great potential importance because al-Ani had been the Iraqi official in the Czech Republic accused of meeting with the 9-11 terrorist, Mohammed Atta.

Al-Ani had been dispatched by Iraq to Prague in March 1999 as the replacement for another Iraqi intelligence officer named Jabir Salim. Salim, in a shock to Saddam Hussein's covert networks in central Europe, had defected to the British Secret Service in December 1998. Even more damaging, he revealed in his debriefings that he had been ordered by his superiors in Baghdad to organize a car-bomb attack on the headquarters of Radio Free Europe in the heart of Prague. This disclosures resulted in a shake-up of Czech counterintelligence that included the public firing of its director, and calls for tighter scrutiny of Iraqi diplomats.
So when al-Ani arrived in Prague in March 1999 as the Iraqi vice-counsel in Prague (the same diplomatic cover used by Salim,) he was under surveillance by the Czech counterintelligence service.

During the 23 months that al-Ani operated in Prague, Atta visited Prague. According to the Czech counterintelligence service, Atta made one trip to Prague in June 2000 and a the second trip in April 2001.

On April 22, 2001 al-Ani was expelled from the Czech Republic. Since he was the first Iraq diplomat to be expelled by the Czech Republic, it was no routine event. But no details were provided until after the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. ThenForeign Minister Jan Kavan informed Secretary of State Powell that Czech counterintelligence had reported that al-Ani had met with Atta in April 2001 in Prague.

US intelligence was unable to resolve this matter. The last word from the CIA was on June 18, 2002 when George Tenet testified before the Joint Inquiry Into Terrorists Attacks that "Atta allegedly traveled outside the U.S. in early April 2001 to meet with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague; we are still working to confirm or deny this allegation. It is possible that Atta traveled under an unknown alias since we have been unable to establish that Atta left the U.S. or entered Europe in April 2001 under his true name or any known aliases."

Al-Ani is a person who can now clarify, if not resolve, this CIA investigation. He has, or can be given, compelling incentives to cooperate in clarifying this matter. The Iraq regime he loyally served no longer exists, and the American government can offer him rewards for truthfulness which include his freedom, safety, positive incentives for his cooperation such as freedom, safety, immunity from war crime prosecution, resettlement abroad for himself and family and money. In determining his veracity, his interrogators can also take advantage of the prisoner's dilemma he is in since he does not know what his former associates or captured records and archives, both in Baghdad and Prague, might have revealed. Since intelligence officer are usually required to file written reports and expense statements, he cannot safely lie about what he reported because, for all he knows, his interrogators already have copies of the reports.

The Necessary Interrogation: Ten Questions

1) Before you were dispatched to Prague in March 1999, what briefing did you receive on the Salim defection in December 1998? Include specifically what the Mukhabarat and foreign office told you about Salim's assignments and his agent-managing responsibilities? What were you told in this regard about his organizing the bombing of Radio Free Europe?

2) Were you told to avoid agents and other operatives who had been blown by Salim's defection? If so, who were they and what were their assignments?

3) Which of his tasks were you assigned to continue? Did these include the bombing of Radio Free Europe? Were you expected to recruit new agents for these and other tasks?

4) In recruiting agents were you instructed to approach individuals who could not be traced back to Iraq? If so, did these include Moslem extremists? What ground rules did you operate under? Was it permitted to disguise your own identity and use a false flag to facilitate such recruitments?

5) Were you aware of the scrutiny of Czech counterintelligence? Were you instructed to take precautions to counter or evade it? If so, what were they?

6) Did you receive any medals or commendations for your work during this period? If so, explain why you were so rewarded?

7) What were your activities on or about Friday, June 2, 2000? Who did you meet with? How were these meetings arranged in advance? Did you file reports about them? Did you file expense statements?

8) What were your activities in Prague between April 7 and April 14th 2001? Who did you meet with during this period? Were these meetings arranged in advance? If so, how? Had you met with any of them before? If not, what measures did you take verify their identities? Did you meet with Mohammed Atta or anyone using his passport or identity? If so, what was the purpose and outcome of the meeting?

9) Which of your activities brought you to the attention of Czech counterintelligence in April 2001?

10) Did you file a report with either the Embassy or Mukhabarat on these activities prior to your expulsion from the Czech Republic? How was this report received by your superiors both before and after your expulsion on April 22, 2001? Were you further debriefed on your mission and expulsion when you returned to Baghdad? If so, how did you explain the activities that led up to your expulsion? Did you have further assignments abroad? If so, what was their purpose? After it became known in October 2001 that Czech intelligence had identified you as having been in contact with Atta, were you further briefed by your superiors in Baghdad? If so, what did you tell them. Were you required to change any of your report?

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