Attorney General John Ashcroft (search) said Friday that U.S. authorities investigated Nicholas Berg (search) for a possible connection to terrorists but determined there was no link.

Berg, a 26-year-old American civilian who was beheaded in Iraq, was investigated by the FBI in 2002 after an e-mail address traced to him was used by an unidentified person believed acquainted with Zacarias Moussaoui (search), an Al Qaeda adherent now in federal custody and awaiting trial on conspiracy charges stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks.

"The suggestion that Mr. Berg was in some way involved in terrorist activity, or may have been linked in some way to terrorist activity, is a suggestion that we do not have any ability to support and we do not believe is a valid one," Ashcroft said at a news conference.

The 2002 investigation determined that an e-mail address once used by Berg apparently was obtained by the Moussaoui acquaintances while Berg was briefly an engineering student at the University of Oklahoma in 1999.

Moussaoui came to the United States in February 2001 and enrolled at a flight school in Norman, Okla., also the home of the university. The Moroccan-born French citizen left that flight school later in 2001 to attend one in Minnesota, where he was arrested on an immigration violation shortly before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Ashcroft told reporters there is no evidence that Berg knew Moussaoui or any of Moussaoui's contacts in Oklahoma.

Berg was detained by Iraqi police in late March, interviewed three times by the FBI and then released on April 6 after it was determined he was there to pursue business opportunities. He was advised to leave the country and offered a government flight home but refused, Ashcroft said.

Three days after Berg's body was found on Saturday, an Islamic Web site released a video, titled "Sheik Abu Musab al-Zarqawi slaughters an American infidel with his own hands."

U.S. authorities consider al-Zarqawi an ally of Usama bin Laden and say he is running his own terrorist operation.