Family members of the 9/11 victims have been impatiently waiting for justice. It’s been 15 years since the worst terrorist attack on US soil that launched the perpetual “War on Terror.” But some in Congress are looking to end the wait. Pending legislation would compel the White House to release information collected by the 9/11 Commission that could open-up the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to potential lawsuits.
However, last week President Obama threatened to break out his pen and veto the legislation seeking to release 28 classified pages of an 838 page—autopsy report on 9/11. The headlines followed President Obama to the Middle East where he met with Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to offer his personal assurances the US would not sell out its long time frenemy. The still-classified pages allegedly disclose high-ranking Kingdom affiliates funded several of the 15 Saudi hijackers’ that flew airplanes into the World Trade Towers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field killing more than 3,000 Americans.
A Rasmussen Report released today says most Americans want the information released, so why have both the Bush and Obama administrations tried to deep-six the classified pages? Lawmakers who have read the entire report say the evidence is powerful and it’s about time to let the American citizenry decide for themselves if KSA funded efforts to attack the homeland. Adding to the mystery is the federal government’s insistence on keeping another 80,000 thousand documents in Florida, surrounding the lead hijacker Mohamed Atta’s movements from the general public.
“Twelve years after the United States suffered a horrendous attack on our own soil, the families of the victims deserve to know all the facts concerning that tragic day,” said America’s Congressman Walter B. Jones, 2013 circa. “Furthermore, the information contained in the redacted pages is critical to our foreign policy moving forward and should thus be available to the American public.”
Former Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), who authored the 2002 joint House and Senate Intelligence Committee report said: “To me, the most important unanswered question of 9/11 is did these 19 (hijackers) conduct this very sophisticated plot alone, or were they supported? I think it’s implausible to think that people who couldn’t speak English, had never been in the United States before, as a group were not well-educated could have done that. So who was the most likely entity to have provided them that support? All the evidence points to Saudi Arabia. We know that Saudi Arabia started al-Qaeda. It was a creation of Saudi Arabia.”
Ever the partisan, Democrat minority leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement on the release of the 28 pages. “As the former Ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and top the House Democrat on the Joint Congressional investigation looking into the 9/11 attacks, I agree with former Senator Bob Graham that these documents should be declassified and made public, and that the Bush Administration’s refusal to do so was a mistake. I have always advocated for providing as much transparency as possible to the American people consistent with protecting our national security.”
As the old adage goes, if one follows the money, it’s a safe bet that a jackpot awaits and Graham is confident the same is true when it comes to the 9/11 plotters.
“That is a very murky line. Saudi Arabia has made it murky by its own legal action. Whenever a US group sues a Saudi Arabian entity, whether it’s a bank, a foundation, a charity, immediately, the defense of sovereign immunity is raised. The Saudis don’t recognize the difference between a royal decision and a societal decision in the same way that other countries might. So I think it covers a broad range, from the highest ranks of the kingdom through these, what would be private entities.”
In an effort to move the litigating part of the 9/11-terror attack forward, the Senate introduced the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. The proposed law passed the Judiciary Committee and strips sovereign immunity defenses from foreign governments in cases “arising from a terrorist attack that kills an American on American soil.”
Once the Saudis discovered the immunity clause, they chastised President Obama, resorted to threats, and told Americans they would promptly dump their $750 billion in US holdings in an effort to create an economic kerfuffle. However, since this dollar amount is equivalent to the annual GDP of Saudi Arabia, the economic holocaust would most likely hurt the Kingdom, not its desired target – the US.
But could the royal family of Saudi Arabia really have funded the country’s worst terrorist attack? The truth may be hidden in the testimony of the 20th hijacker.
During 2005 testimony, Zacarias Moussaoui, said in a sworn statement that the late 1990s he was asked by Osama bin Laden to generate a computer database cataloging al Qaeda’s donors. “Every day for two or three months, he says, he entered names of the group’s donors into a Toshiba computer, along with how much they gave.” The list included Prince Turki al-Faisal Al Saud, former director-general of Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Intelligence Service and ambassador to the United States. Moussaoui claimed, “Shaykh Osama wanted to keep a record who give money … who is to be listened to or who contribute to — to the jihad.”
Coincidentally, neither the FBI nor the intelligence community have been forthcoming in disclosing what the government recovered from emails or computers of Moussaoui or for that matter Khalid Sheik Mohammad, the mastermind of 9/11.
Perhaps a clue lies in the computers recovered in the Bin Laden raid. Admiral William McRaven, the commander of the SEAL raid that successfully killed Osama bin-Laden, purportedly moved all the computers and data seized from the Defense Intelligence Agency and into the CIA vault where American’s have zero access to the files. (Did General Flynn resign over this?)
Released portions of the 9/11 commission report highlighted that absolute proof remains unclear. “It does not appear that any government other than the Taliban financially supported al Qaeda before 9/11, although some governments may have contained al Qaeda sympathizers who turned a blind eye to al Qaeda’s fund-raising activities. Saudi Arabia has long been considered the primary source of al Qaeda funding, but we have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.”
After that 2005 testimony, the US government has remained steadfast and refuses to hold the Kingdom personally responsible; it does leave the door open to private individuals. “This conclusion does not exclude the likelihood that charities with significant Saudi government sponsorship diverted funds to al-Qaeda.”
Reacting to allegations, the Saudi Embassy in Washington DC released a statement that read: “There is no evidence to support Moussaoui’s claim. The Sept. 11 attack has been the most intensely investigated crime in history and the findings show no involvement by the Saudi government or Saudi officials.”
But Senator Graham remains unconvinced. “The 28 pages primarily relate to who financed 9/11 and they point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as being the principal financier,” he said. “I am speaking of the Kingdom, or government, of Saudi Arabia, not just wealthy individual Saudi donors. … This is a pervasive pattern of covering up the role of Saudi Arabia in 9/11 by all of the agencies of the (US) federal government which have access to information that might illuminate Saudi Arabia’s role in 9/11.”
And for those who have read the 28-pages, not only do the intelligence documents directly implicate both the Saudi Embassy in Washington but also the Consulate in Los Angeles that was purportedly used to move sensitive materials to carry out the attacks, but they also referred to 9/11 not only as an act of terrorism, but an act of war.
These findings also back up other commentary tying the hijackers directly to several Saudi officials and agents during which time they quietly organized the terrorist attack. In fact, the New York Post reported that the hijackers worked with the Kingdom inside the US. “Saudi consulate official Fahad al-Thumairy allegedly arranged for an advance team to receive two of the Saudi hijackers — Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi — as they arrived at LAX in 2000. One of the advance men, Omar al-Bayoumi, a suspected Saudi intelligence agent, left the LA consulate and met the hijackers at a local restaurant. (Bayoumi left the United States two months before the attacks, while Thumairy was deported back to Saudi Arabia after 9/11.)
“Bayoumi and another suspected Saudi agent, Osama Bassnan, set up essentially a forward operating base in San Diego for the hijackers after leaving LA. They were provided rooms, rent and phones, as well as private meetings with an American al Qaeda cleric who would later become notorious, Anwar al-Awlaki, at a Saudi-funded mosque he ran in a nearby suburb. They were also feted at a welcoming party.”
Meanwhile in Washington “then-Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar and his wife sent checks totaling some $130,000 to Bassnan while he was handling the hijackers. Though the Bandars claim the checks were ‘welfare’ for Bassnan’s supposedly ill wife (was this code for the operation), the money nonetheless made its way into the hijackers’ hands.
Other al Qaeda funding was traced back to Bandar and his embassy — so much so that by 2004 Riggs Bank of Washington had dropped the Saudis as a client.
The next year, as a number of embassy employees popped up in terror probes, Riyadh recalled Bandar.”
“Our investigations contributed to the ambassador’s departure,” an investigator who worked with the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Washington told the NY Post. Nevertheless Bandar claims he left America for personal family reasons.
During the same time, the infamous American cleric (who was killed in a drone strike in Yemen) Anwar al-Awlaki and the San Diego hijackers where tracked to the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, a Pentagon-area mosque built with Saudi Embassy money. It’s been reported that Awlaki was recruited by the KSA and primed to lead the strict-Islamist mosque. The newly minted imam, prudently assisted the 9/11 hijackers acquire apartments and identification before the attack on the Pentagon.
Back in Florida, the ringleader, Mohamed Atta, and other hijackers often visited the home owned by Esam Ghazzawi, King Fahd’s adviser. Ongoing FBI investigations confirmed visitor logs for the gated community as well as photos of license plates that matched vehicles used by the hijackers. FBI agents also noted that two weeks before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the luxury Saudi home was abandoned. This information didn’t escape Senator Graham, the former Florida senator who claims, “It’s a cover up.”
Many journalists have tried to get a hold of the information concerning the Saudi connection in Florida through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The FBI’s Tampa office has been ordered to turn over more than 80,000 pages of documents. So far the judge in the case is sorting through the documents to determine what information should remain classified as most of them are marked “SECRET/NOFORN” — a classification reserved for highly sensitive materials.
“The report provides no plausible explanation for the contradiction between the FBI’s current claim that it found nothing and its 2002 memo finding ‘many connections’ between the Sarasota family and the 9/11 terrorists,” claimed Thomas Julin, an attorney handling the FOIA lawsuit against the FBI. “The panel’s report also doesn’t explain why visitor security logs for the gated Sarasota community and photos of license tags matched vehicles driven by the hijackers, including 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta are being whitewashed.”
In an added PR effort, according to the Washington Post, “The Saudi government and its affiliates have spent millions of dollars on U.S. law, lobby and public relations firms to raise the country’s visibility in the United States and before the United Nations at a crucial time. And some of Washington’s premier law and lobby firms — including Podesta Group (a Clinton employee), BGR Government Affairs, DLA Piper and Pillsbury Winthrop — have been tasked with the job, according to a review of Justice Department filings. Five lobby and PR firms were hired in 2015 alone, signaling a stepped-up focus on ties with Washington.”
Josh Stewart, of the Sunlight Foundation, an organization that tracks money and influence in DC politics said, “Saudi Arabia is consistently one of the bigger players when it comes to foreign influence in Washington…That spans both what you’d call the inside game, which is lobbying and government relations, and the outside game, which is PR and other things that tend to reach a broader audience than just lobbying.”
But after 15 years Americans are no closer to the end of the perpetual war. They have allowed civil liberty restrictions, government spying, continual military interventions and the worst terrorist group ever—ISIS, who takes the export of the fundamentalist Saudi interpretation of Islam – Wahhabism to new extremes.
Why is America so reluctant to cut Saudi Arabia loose? Forbes magazine elucidates it’s the oil stupid. “Saudi Arabia, which commands the world of petrodollars… Then there’s the super trade gap… The U.S. had a tiny $2.3 billion trade deficit with Saudi Arabia in 2015 thanks to shale oil, but it had averaged between $20 billion and $30 billion since 2005.”
Whether or not the US relationship with the Saudis will prevent the complete release of the long-classified pages remains to be seen. The latest spin from DC insiders of the Obama administration’s Ben Rhodes says their national security Director James Clapper is reviewing the documents and will make a decision by June.
“When that’s done we’d expect that there will be some degree of declassification that provides more information,” Rhodes told reporters in Riyadh during President Obama’s chilly meeting with King Salman and other Saudi leaders.
National security classifications cannot be used to shield the public from government misconduct, stupidity or potential political footballs … disclosure of the 9/11 material is not a privilege– it is a duty.