Did "Anonymous" Condi Join the Neocons
and Cheney in Pushing the Saddam-9/11 Connection?
October 12, 2004
By Dennis Hans
days before Vice President Dick Cheney insisted, in his debate with
John Edwards, that he had "not suggested there's a connection between
Iraq and 9/11," National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told
CNN's Wolf Blitzer that the administration as a whole has steered
clear of linking Saddam to 9-11:
RICE: Wolf, no one has ever said that Saddam Hussein operationally
planned 9/11 or maybe even knew about 9/11, but nobody's tried
to make that link.
BLITZER: Well, there are people who have made that link.
RICE: The administration has not made that link. And I
think the president has said, I have said, Colin Powell has said,
there's no evidence of Saddam Hussein with a direct link to 9/11.
Since the vice presidential debate, it has been widely reported
that Cheney has in fact "suggested" a link; see, for example, the
Newsweek story "Rewriting
History." Cheney has never said that Saddam's Iraqi regime definitely
played a role in 9/11, but it's fair to say that Cheney has "suggested"
it may have.
Consider the Dec. 9, 2001 edition of Meet
the Press. Tim Russert asked, "Do you still believe there is
no evidence that Iraq was involved in September 11?"
Cheney replied, "Well, what we now have that's developed since
you and I last talked, Tim, of course, was that report that's been
pretty well confirmed, that he did go to Prague and he did meet
with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia
last April, several months before the attack. Now, what the purpose
of that was, what transpired between them, we simply don't know
at this point. But that's clearly an avenue that we want to pursue."
(Cheney's "pretty well confirmed" point was false, as I show here.)
Seeing that Cheney is indeed a member of the Bush administration,
it appears that Dr. Rice has been caught in another falsehood. But
Cheney is not the only senior official who has promoted the Saddam-9/11
Connection. An anonymous "senior Bush administration official" who
quite possibly is known to her friends as "Condi" pushed the story
to the Los Angeles Times, just a few weeks before the administration
rolled out its anti-Saddam "marketing campaign" in late-summer 2002.
The timing of the push seemed preposterous, as just a few months
earlier a flurry of press reports cited FBI and CIA officials who
said they were all but certain that Atta was in the U.S. at the
time of the alleged meeting. The Prague Connection looked dead,
even if such grassy-knoll neocons as Richard Perle, James Woolsey,
Frank Gaffney and Ken Adelman, along with demented New York Times
columnist William Safire, continued to either believe or pretend
to believe it.
On August 2, 2002, the Los Angeles Times reported that
the Bush administration had decided to breathe new life into the
so-called "Prague Connection" meeting, despite the absence at that
very time of confirming evidence - and the presence of substantial
(but not 100 percent conclusive) evidence that hijacker Mohammed
Atta never met a Prague-based Iraqi intelligence officer. (The original
link is unavailable, but the story is reproduced here.)
The story is headlined, "White House says Sept. 11 skyjacker had
met Iraqi agent." Here are its first two paragraphs:
Despite deep doubts by the CIA and FBI, the White House is now
backing claims that Sept. 11 skyjacker Mohamed Atta secretly met
five months earlier with an Iraqi agent in the Czech capital,
a possible indication that President Saddam Hussein's regime was
involved in the terrorist attacks.
In an interview, a senior Bush administration official said that
available evidence of the long-disputed meeting in Prague "holds
up." The official added, "We're going to talk more about
On the other hand, reported the Times, "the CIA and FBI
concluded months ago that they had no hard evidence to confirm Czech
claims that the Prague meeting took place."
The lengthy story is based on named and unnamed sources. Of the
unnamed sources, one is identified at first as a "federal law enforcement
official," but then as "he," as in "He said." Likewise, an anonymous
"U.S. intelligence official" is soon revealed to be a gent, with
another "He said."
But we never learn the gender of the "senior Bush administration
official." Twice, this person is identified by that description,
once as the "U.S. official," and seven times as "the official."
Why, it's almost as if the reporters (Bob Drogin, Paul Richter and
Doyle McManus) knew that the only way to keep their pledge of hiding
the official's identity was to remain mum on the official's gender.
You see, using the pronoun "she" would narrow the list of possibilities
considerably. There just aren't that many women working at the "senior"
level of national security. I'm not sure there is more than one.
Another clue that Rice is the source is found on pp. 151-52 of
Stephen Hayes's book The Connection. A reporter for the neoconservative
Weekly Standard, Hayes has excellent sources among administration
hawks. Here's the passage explaining how various officials regard
the likelihood of a Prague Connection:
Still, there are several details of the investigation that have
never been publicly revealed. According to Bush administration
sources, they are compelling enough to have convinced several
top officials on the Bush administration national security team
that the April 8, 2001 meeting took place. National security adviser
Condoleezza Rice strongly believes that al Ani met with Atta.
Vice President Dick Cheney is less certain, but thinks it more
likely than not that the two got together. Deputy secretary of
defense Paul Wolfowitz, often portrayed as the most hawkish among
top administration officials, is more skeptical.
Funny how the Bush administration keeps a lid on all the "details"
that lend credence to the Connection, especially after a spate of
stories in the mainstream press, based on FBI and CIA sources, poured
cold water on the Connection. An alternative explanation is that
the administration kept those details under lock and key because
they could not withstand the light of day. You can PRETEND TO BELIEVE
indefinitely so long as you're not required to publicly present
the "evidence" upon which your alleged belief is based.
Despite what Hayes heard from his sources, I have my doubts that
Rice truly "strongly believes" that the meeting in Prague took place.
She's smart and she reads enough to have been aware of the FBI and
CIA's grave-and-gathering doubts. At most, someone as bright as
Rice might think, "probably no meeting, but we can't rule it out."
My hypothesis is that Rice was assigned the role in the summer of
2002 of "pretending to believe."
I'm no expert on Rice's life and career, but I don't believe she
had a reputation pre-2001 for repeatedly saying things she knew
or strongly suspected were false. It's possible that, for Rice,
going to work for George W. Bush "changed everything."
Recall that several weeks after the Los Angeles Times story
appeared, Rice went on CNN and insisted
that those aluminum tubes are "only really suited for nuclear weapons
programs," even though she knew that such a view was strongly contested
by government experts. If she had been a senior official of, say,
the Chuck Hagel administration, I believe she would have told CNN's
Wolf Blitzer in 2002, "The tubes are either for a nuclear program
or for a non-nuclear purpose. Because there are no weapons inspectors
in Iraq, we can't say for sure."
Even today, Rice is clinging to the bogus notion that there's
still a serious debate - nuke or non-nuke use - about the tubes.
That's what she said
on ABC October 3. If Rice served under President Hagel, she wouldn't
have told the 9/11 Commission that the August 6, 2001 Presidential
Daily Brief from the CIA was basically a rehash of old al-Qaeda
history, with nothing that would suggest we'd better watch out right
now. From the get-go, Rice would have leveled with the Commission
about the contents of that frightening PDB.
Yes, it's possible that Rice (assuming she's the Los Angeles
Times' source) believed the things she told one or more of its
reporters. But I think it's more plausible that this was just one
more lie that this unfortunate woman was cajoled into telling by
Bush or his inner circle.
"Be a team player, Condi," someone might have said. "No one likes
to lie, but the only way we can build public support to take out
that monster Saddam is to give Americans a reason to hate him deep
in their guts. It's not like we're asking you to frame Mother Teresa.
And remember, it may well be impossible to prove that the Prague
Connection meeting DIDN'T take place, so you've got a ready alibi.
Look, if you won't put your name behind this belief, would you at
least push the story anonymously? You don't have to do it with a
tough reporter who knows the story inside and out, like Michael
Isikoff We'll arrange a not-for-attribution interview with a crème-puff
Washington insider. How about we get Doyle McManus of the L.A. Times?
Real pleasant fellow, and a good friend of your friend Gwen Ifill.
Thanks, Condi. We owe you one. I mean ten."
Years from now we'll have a much better idea of precisely how
the Bush administration divvied up disinformation assignments. But
don't be shocked if some of it was done just like that.
Let's get back to the LAT report. Here are seven consecutive
paragraphs that present the comments of the mysterious "senior Bush
In the interview, the senior Bush administration official acknowledged
that the White House needs to expand its effort to persuade its
allies and the American public that Hussein poses an immediate
In our discussions with our friends around the world, I cannot
remember a single one who has not said, 'Of course, the world
would be better off without this man in power.' There are those
who are concerned about how to do it, and the consequences," said
the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"We would be the first to say that we need to talk more
about this," the official added. "But when the case is clear,
people will understand in even greater detail why regime change
The official said Hussein poses several threats to U.S. interests.
The Iraqi leader is a "tactical threat," the U.S. official said,
because his Iraqi forces fire on U.S. and British military pilots
patrolling swaths of northern and southern Iraq under mandates
set by the United Nations.
Hussein is also "spreading terror" in the Middle East, by methods
that include offering to pay $25,000 to the families of Palestinian
suicide bombers in Israel and the occupied territories, the official
"He also has links to international terrorism," the official
said. "There is growing evidence that that includes organizations
like Al Qaeda. That would be a mortal threat to the United States."
Asked for specifics, the official cited Atta's alleged meeting
in Prague. "The evidence that was out there holds up," the official
Alas, even at that time, August 2002, the "evidence" was not holding
up. More to the point, the "evidence" never consisted of anything
beyond a single assertion of an untested student informant of the
Czech intelligence services, who was making a claim that seemed
preposterous on its face. Would a seasoned Iraqi intelligence agent
who knows he's under surveillance meet IN PUBLIC with a purported
co-conspirator in a terrorist plot? Now, three years after 9/11,
not one single shred of tangible evidence has emerged to suggest
that Atta was anywhere other than the U.S.
Fortunately for Dr. Rice (if she is indeed the mystery source),
she seemingly faced zero tough questions from the reporter(s). Here's
what she should have been asked after she said the evidence "holds
"What 'evidence'? Tell me one single thing that leads you to believe
that Atta left the US in early April 2001, arrived in Czechoslovakia,
departed Czechoslovakia, or returned to the U.S.? Just one. C'mon,
Dr. Rice. You say 'the evidence' holds up. I'm calling your bluff.
Every other agency of the federal government says there is no evidence
beyond this single unconfirmed sighting by this untested informant.
Every known piece of evidence that is credible leads to the conclusion
that there was no such meeting and that Atta was in the U.S. Either
produce your evidence, or the focus of our story will switch from
Iraq and 9/11 to you. It might begin, 'A senior Bush administration
official has lied to the Los Angeles Times in an attempt to use
the paper to peddle a discredited story that the administration
is cynically reviving to build public support for a war against
Iraq.' Dr. Rice, we don't appreciate being used and lied to, and
now is as good a time as any to put you and the rest of the White
House on notice that you'll pay a severe price any time you do."
Alas, it appears that no LAT reporter pressed the "senior
Bush administration official."
What "holds up" is not the evidence but the Bush administration's
standard operating procedure in framing Iraq to justify an invasion:
pretend to believe a single scrap of highly dubious "evidence" while
ignoring the mountain of credible evidence that undermines or refutes
the explosive allegation.
This is not "certitude"; it's "fake certitude." That's the George
W. Bush way. I don't think it was the Condi Rice way prior to 2001,
and I doubt it will be the Condi Rice way when she's no longer part
of a Bush administration. That doesn't let her off the hook, but
it would explain her role in the many unfolding scandals of this
is a freelance writer who has taught courses in mass communications
and American foreign policy at the University of South Florida-St.
Petersburg; he's also a basketball shooting instructor. Prior to
the Iraq war, Hans penned the prescient essays "Lying
Us Into War: Exposing Bush and His 'Techniques of Deceit',"