9/11: A Special Slide Show

Why did some Bush administration officials--including Vice President Dick Cheney--still lend credit to disputed reports of an April 2001 Prague meeting between 9/11 leader Muhammad Atta and an Iraqi spy even after the 9/11 Commission concluded the encounter probably didn't occur? Administration critics have long suspected that a secret briefing on an alleged Iraq-Qaeda connection, prepared by the Pentagon in 2002, helped keep the tale alive.

NEWSWEEK has obtained declassified copies of slides made for the briefing. There are three sets: a version for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, one for the then CIA Director George Tenet and one shown at a White House session attended by the then deputy national-security adviser Steven Hadley and Lewis (Scooter) Libby, Cheney's chief of staff at the time. The White House materials include a slide, not part of the other briefings, devoted to the alleged Atta meeting. Dated September 2002, it cites publicized allegations from a post-9/11 Czech intel report that Atta met the April before 9/11 with Iraqi spy Ahmed al-Ani and asserts the United States had "no other" intel contradicting the report. The slide offers purported details about Atta's activities in Prague (including two earlier, confirmed visits). It says that during one visit al-Ani ordered an Iraqi intelligence officer to "issue funds to Atta." The slide also includes previous unpublished allegations that Atta met the Iraqi Embassy charge d'affaires and that "several workers at Prague airport identified Atta following 9/11 and remember him traveling with his brother Farhan Atta."

Four former senior intel officials who monitored investigations into Atta's alleged Iraqi contacts say they never heard the airport anecdote. One official (all asked not to be named while discussing intel issues) says intel analysts had "rejected" the anecdote about al-Ani's giving Atta money.

--Mark Hosenball

As Sino-Japanese rhetoric heats up, Europe's talks with Turkey and Iran will grow cooler. Meanwhile, Hamas still prefers bombs to banter.

JapanNew legislation will secure offshore oil projects. But insecurity will reign in the region as Japanese drilling gets too close to China's own gas projects.

TurkeyCharges against novelist Pamuk hurt Ankara's rep. And with Turkey-skeptic Austria assuming the EU presidency in Jan., accession talks may stall.

Iran Tehran is talking to Europe again, but don't expect a nukes agreement. If Russia can't cut a deal, the United Nations may take up sanctions.

Palestinian AuthorityAs allies abandon Mahmoud Abbas and weaken his Fatah Party, Hamas will get stronger. Heightened tensions will lead to regular clashes.

Before angrily resigning his post last week, Andrei Illarionov was one of a dwindling group of liberal economic advisers in the Kremlin. While his boss, Russian President Vladimir Putin, spent much of Russia's oil-revenue windfalls on popular social programs and steadily increased the power of the Russian state over business, Illarionov advocated privatization as the cure for Russia's ills and proposed strict budget controls.

At first blush, Illarionov's departure marks a decisive shift in the Kremlin's economic direction from the Yeltsin-era free market to more state control. Over the last year and a half, the Russian state has been voraciously gobbling up more and more private businesses. Mincing no words as he tendered his resignation, Illarionov accused Putin of creating a "corporatist state" that has "ceased to be politically free."

Perhaps, but Putin does seem to have ushered in a new age of prosperity, and foreign investors and Russian businessmen are so far enjoying the president's new corporatist model. "The stock market is up 82 percent," says Eric Kraus, chief strategist at Sovlink Securities. "You have to admit that Putin's model is working, whereas the old one didn't." When it comes to choosing between prosperity and democracy, it seems most Russians will happily opt for the former.

--Owen Matthews

Liberal Egyptian presidential candidate Ayman Nour has had it tough of late. After running a distant second to President Hosni Mubarak in September's presidential poll, he lost his own Cairo constituency in the country's parliamentary elections. He has endured months of vicious personal attacks at the hands of his political opponents, and he was convicted on forgery charges on Dec. 24 and sentenced to five years of hard labor.

It gets worse. The Mubarak regime, leaving nothing to chance, is now trying to take over Nour's El Ghad party. Another party with the same name--but stocked with Mubarak supporters--is attempting to wrest control from Nour followers at a party congress. And this week, the courts will hear a petition from the ersatz El Ghad party leader, Musa Mustafa, to replace Nour at the helm of the original El Ghad. Given his forgery conviction, there is little doubt about how the court will rule.

Nour's supporters have poured into the streets to protest his conviction. The international community, too, has condemned the ruling as well as Mubarak's latest moves. "Clearly, these actions send the wrong signal about Egypt's commitment to democracy and freedom," said a U.S. State Department spokesman recently. Nour is appealing his conviction to Egypt's high court, but the appeal is expected to take years. Meanwhile, his ill health will exempt him from the hard-labor part of his sentence; instead, he is expected to be assigned to clean the toilets of the hardened criminals with whom he'll be imprisoned.

Like an oversize jewel with a fiery tail, the Soyuz missile carried the Giove A satellite into the heavens last Wednesday. Transporting a 600-kilogram satellite over the Russian space base at Baykonur, Kazakhstan, it also bore Europe's hopes of breaking into a billion-dollar Global Positioning System business currently monopolized by the United States.

The Giove A is the first of two test satellites to be launched over the next six months. And starting in 2008, Europe will send up a constellation of 30 practical-use satellites, creating a network that will make up the Galileo navigation system. It will be able to nail down locations to as little as 10 centimeters and send regular signals to civil aircraft. The EU estimates that the GPS market will be worth as much as 250 billion euros by 2020, allowing Europe to dream of grabbing 10 billion euros per year between 2011 and 2020. The launch is "proof that Europe can realize ambitious projects," said EU Transportation Commissioner Jacques Barrot. Of course, the real proof will come when the satellite constellation is up and running. But at least Europe's space program, which has suffered several setbacks in recent years, is reaching for the stars again.

... than nannies and/or Jude Law:

1 Corsets. It's like Vivien Leigh in "Gone With the Wind"--you have to hold onto a pole to get strapped in. I lost a few intestinal organs making "Casanova," but the upside was the cleavage, which I've never had before.

2 "Casanova." It's a really uplifting comedy. In these times we live in, it's good to have a bit of escapism.

3 The perils of the Internet. I think that it's had a really detrimental effect on celebrities. One bored person can sit there and make up something, put it on the Internet--and two minutes later it's everywhere.

4 Doing "as you like It" onstage in Lon-don. I don't know if it's a rule that English actors have to do Shakespeare, but you do get a lot of kudos if you do theater. I think they don't really take you seriously until you do that.

5 Poetry. I've got this group of friends that are quite bohemian, and we get drunk, get the poetry books out and read. It sounds so pretentious, but it's one of my favorite things.

6 The rewards of family. My mum is a real Jewish mother, even though she isn't Jewish. She cooks and clucks and takes care of me. My ex-stepmother is an interior designer, so I can get stuff at cost--it's the upside of having a father who remarries a few times.

7 Dressing to express. I don't dress for anybody but myself. I see it as self-expression. I'm not trying to make it sound profound. I get it really horribly wrong at times. I think if I started dressing for anybody else, it would all go tits up.

It's 3 a.m. in a dim cellar in downtown Moscow, and the 90-seat auditorium of the Praktika Theater is packed. One actress declaims fierce and beautiful Chechen poetry in Russian translation; another sings a bittersweet love song to Vladimir Putin. The theatergoers seem both fascinated and disturbed in equal measure.

It's called the New Drama, a vibrant generation of avant-garde theater that is putting Moscow back at the cutting edge of Europe's theater world. After years of failing to get their work performed in the Russian capital's underfunded state theaters, Moscow's playwrights have moved underground into small basement and courtyard theaters reminiscent of Edinburgh's Fringe Festival. The result: hot, groundbreaking performances, a mix of topical contemporary drama with politically subversive undertones. The dialogue of "September.doc," by playwrights Mikhail Ugarov and Elena Gremina, is composed entirely of quotes from Internet chat rooms in the aftermath of the 2004 Beslan school siege. Other plays this season deal with the pain and pathos of everyday post-Soviet life.

The New Drama movement is proving incredibly popular--over the past year Moscow has seen three new minitheaters spring up in courtyards and cellars. A staggering 442 productions are planned for Moscow's fall theater season, rivaling London's 45. And it's finding favor abroad, too--earlier this year "Terrorism," a play by Oleg and Vladimir Presnyakov, had its U.S. premiere in New York, where it was staged by Will Frears's New Group and the Play Company. Expect to see even more challenging fare made in Moscow soon.

Will Young is making his big-screen debut. That, of course, means zilch to much of the world. But Young was the winner of the first "Pop Idol" (the U.K.'s version of "American Idol") in 2002. He topped the charts with his single "Anything Is Possible/ Evergreen," and his second album sold 1.6 million copies.

In "Mrs. Henderson Presents," Young plays a World War II stage performer. He croons. He dances. Considering Young's costar is Dame Judi Dench, he's got reason to celebrate. But how much? "I'm so hung over, I can't move," he told NEWSWEEK on a recent visit to L.A. Young's performance is very good--but director Stephen Frears had his doubts about casting an ex-"Idol" for a period piece. Young eventually won him over, and later even invited him to a concert. "I don't know enough about music," says Frears. "But onstage he was just dazzling. The girls adore him."

Being openly gay hasn't hurt Young's music career. But what about acting? "I play a gay man in my first film," he says. "But I wouldn't want to continue playing gay men." For now, however, it's back to the singing full time. Young is launching an international tour--mostly through Europe.

It may go down as the high-low moment with the steepest peak and deepest valley. Recently, chef Daniel Boulud invited journalists to his Park Avenue apartment. There, a server passed canapes of tuna tartare and lobster atop avocado puree. What was Boulud drinking? He was swirling and sipping a glass of crisp Chardonnay that--ready?--was pumped from a box. Yes, Daniel Boulud, four-star restaurateur, was drinking boxed wine.

Or, rather,tubedwine. Boulud, Daniel Johnnes (an author and Boulud's wine director) and vintner Dominique Lafon have partnered on an inventive wine concept: a three-liter cylinder that holds the equivalent of four bottles of wine--wine you actually want to drink. (They call it dtour.) Once opened, it keeps fresh for four weeks; at $37, it comes to about $9 a bottle. "I've gotten into discussions saying, 'Would you ever drink boxed wine?'" says Johnnes. "It usually comes down to 'Not that crap.' But it's crap because it's crap in the box. Find a good-quality wine, it's brilliant technology."

--Bret Begun

9/11: A Special Slide Show | News