Experts say the bentonite discovery doesn't rule out a very well-equipped lab using the Iraqi technique. In fact, commercial spray dryers that Iraq used to produce its biological weapons were bought on the open market from the Danish subsidiary of a U.S. company for about $100,000 a piece.
Starting Thursday, FBI agents began asking company officials in Columbia, Md., if anyone suspicious in this country had recently acquired one of them. — Brian Ross, Christopher Isham, Chris Vlasto and Gary Matsumoto
Atta Met Iraqi Spy
Raising new questions about whether Saddam Hussein was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, officials in the Czech Republic now confirm for the first time that a key hijacker met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague.
Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross said Mohamed Atta, believed by U.S. investigators to be a ringleader of the hijackers, met an Iraqi diplomat shortly before the consul was expelled. Czech intelligence officials were troubled by Al-Ani's photographing of the Radio Free Europe building in the city.
"At this point we can confirm," Gross said, "Mohamed Atta made contact with Iraqi intelligence officer Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir Al-Ani, who was expelled from the Czech Republic for conduct incompatible with his diplomatic status on April 22, 2001."
"The details of this contact are under investigation," Gross said.
The meeting took place on Atta's second known visit to Prague. A year earlier, on June 2, 2000, he had came to Prague from Germany by bus in the morning hours. The next day, Gross said, Atta left for the United States.
Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz had previously denied Al-Ani had any contact with Atta in Prague. In recent weeks, Minister Gross also had said there was no evidence to support Prague media reports citing Czech intelligence officials who said Atta had met Al-Ani.
The meeting, along with Iraq's stockpiles of biological weapons, have led some to question whether Atta — and Hussein — were not somehow behind the anthrax attacks in the United States.
"There are reports that one of the things that may have happened at that meeting was that [Atta] was given by the Iraqi some sample of anthrax," former U.N. weapons inspector Richard Butler told ABCNEWS. "We do not know if that is true. I believe it is something that should be investigated."
For his part, Gross would not give further details on the Atta meeting.
"At this point, neither I nor anyone else from the police or Czech intelligence services will provide any further information concerning this contact and [Atta's] stay and movement on the territory of the Czech Republic until the investigation is finished," he said.
This weekend, FBI agents in Florida were conducting anthrax tests on two cars Atta had owned.