On CNN's The Situation Room, anchor Wolf Blitzer falsely claimed that Vice President Dick Cheney “never said hard and fast” that 9-11 ringleader Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague in 2001. In fact, Cheney asserted the now-discredited claim without hedging or qualifying on numerous occasions.
On the December 14 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, anchor Wolf Blitzer falsely claimed that Vice President Dick Cheney “never said hard and fast” that 9-11 ringleader Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague in 2001. In fact, on numerous occasions, Cheney asserted the now-discredited claim without hedging or qualifying.
The December 14 Situation Room featured Democratic strategist Paul Begala and former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK) to discuss President Bush's speech that day at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington:
BEGALA: Look at the record. The president does a very artful thing. He wants to take credit for appearing like he's taking responsibility, but he says, “I was given bad intelligence.” And you know, I went and looked it up just from newspaper sources. He told us -- Vice President Cheney told us that Mohammed Atta, the leader of 9-11, had met with Iraqi intelligence. Our intelligence had told the White House that wasn't true. They said so anyway. They said there were links to Al Qaeda, they had been trained in chemical and biological warfare. The CIA told the president that wasn't reliable. He said so anyway. Again and again they made a case that there was a threat, not simply WMD, and they repeated those four words today: “Iraq was a threat.” That was the falsehood.
BLITZER: I think if you take a look at how the vice president phrased all those contacts, alleged contacts, between Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi official in Prague, he was always a little bit more cautious. He was talking about reports, unconfirmed reports, speculation. He never said hard and fast, I don't believe, that there was a meeting.
Cheney did, in fact, discuss the alleged meeting as an unqualified certainty. From Cheney's November 14, 2001, appearance on CBS's 60 Minutes II:
GLORIA BORGER (CBS News contributor): Well, you know that Mohammed Atta, the ringleader of the hijackers, actually met with Iraqi intelligence.
CHENEY: I know this. In Prague, in April of this year, as well as earlier. And that information has been made public. The Czechs made that public. Obviously, that's an interesting piece of information.
From the December 9, 2001, edition of NBC's Meet the Press:
TIM RUSSERT (host): The plane on the ground in Iraq used to train non-Iraqi hijackers. Do you still believe there is no evidence that Iraq was involved in September 11?
CHENEY: 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.
As Media Matters for America noted, the claim that Atta met with Iraqi intelligence in Prague has long since been discredited by a variety of intelligence officials and newspaper accounts. Moreover, the 9-11 Commission concluded in 2004 that no such meeting had taken place.