Remember the fuss about the alleged meeting between Mohammed Atta of 9-11 fame and an Iraqi agent in Prague? William Safire has been boosting the story, and virtually calling officials who dismissed it and reporters who covered those dismissals incompetents and liars. Glenn Reynolds posted about it here, and it’s been around the right half of the blogosphere. It’s one of the very few pieces of actual evidence backing up the warhawks’ assertion that SH and ObL are in cahoots. (Note that one could — as I do, on even-numbered days — support taking out SH while disbelieving in the al-Qaeda connection, but politically it’s been an important theme.) Richard M. Smith lays out a careful history of the story up until June.

A front-page story in today’s New York Times says that Czech President Vaclav Havel told “senior officials” in the Bush Administration “earlier this year” that the story didn’t stand up. It occurred to me that it might have been nice if the administration had shared this tidbit with the rest of us, or even with the Congress, rather than leaving the denials in the form of leaks from unamed officials, as Safire documents, but I can’t say I was surprised; if a probably false story is politically useful, why not let it run, while backing off far enough not to get splattered?

Now the question arises, what do the people who helped put the original story around do now? Anyone who would like to bet that Safire retracts, let alone apologizing, may call collect. I’ve spent some time today searching the warblogosphere for references to this story. None yet on Instapundit or the Volokh Conspiracy, but there is one, with a link to the Times story, on Little Green Footballs.

Since Glenn Reynolds reads LGF — he has a post today defending the site from charges of bigotry, which is how I found the reference tot the Prague story — it will be interesting to see how long it takes him to inform his 100,000 readers per day that the assertion in his earlier post doesn’t seem to stand up.


Tom McGuire at JustOneMinute has a nice post on this, under a title I wish I’d written.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

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