FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

9/11: the Saudi Connection

by

In his New Yorker article, posted on the magazine’s web site last week, Lawrence Wright tells how the Bush administration deleted 28 pages in the 2002 report of the Joint Congressional Inquiry on 911 probably because they describe in detail the Saudi connection to the Al Qaeda attack and Saudi financing of its operatives in the United States—people who knew two of the hijackers, and may well have been used as conduits for Saudi cash. Some of the money may have come from the royal family through a charity.

In removing the 28 pages Bush said the publication of the information would damage American intelligence operations. The Saudis deny all this.

In fact no one would be talking about it now were it not for families of victims of the attack and insurers, who are suing the Saudis.

Wright goes on to report:

“There’s nothing in it about national security,” Walter Jones, a Republican congressman from North Carolina who has read the missing pages, contends. “It’s about the Bush Administration and its relationship with the Saudis.” Stephen Lynch, a Massachusetts Democrat, told me that the document is “stunning in its clarity,” and that it offers direct evidence of complicity on the part of certain Saudi individuals and entities in Al Qaeda’s attack on America.   “Those twenty-eight pages tell a story that has been completely removed from the 9/11 Report,” Lynch maintains. Another congressman who has read the document said that the evidence of Saudi government support for the 9/11 hijacking is “very disturbing,” and that “the real question is whether it was sanctioned at the royal-family level or beneath that, and whether these leads were followed through.” Now, in a rare example of bipartisanship, Jones and Lynch have co-sponsored a resolution requesting that the Obama Administration declassify the pages.

But there are other questions here, and they involve the story of how the Bush administration sought to suppress evidence that would reveal how much it knew of the attack plot —and didn’t do anything to stop it.

To resume the story briefly:

Two of the flight 77 hijackers—Khalid al-Mihdhar, a Saudi who fought for al-Qaeda in Bosnia and Chechyna, and Nawaf al Hazmi, another Saudi with battle experience in Bosnia, Chechyna and Afghanistan, met at an al-Qaeda  strategy meeting in Kuala Lumpur in January, 2000. The CIA had asked the Malaysian intelligence service to conduct surveillance, but it proved not to be very effective. The two left that meeting, went to the airport and boarded a commercial flight to Bankok on January 8, and subsequently took a United Airlines flight from Bangkok to Los Angeles, landing without incident and passing through US immigration.

By that time, according to the Joint Inquiry Report, “the CIA and NSA had sufficient information available concerning future hijackers al-Midhar and al-Hamzi to connect them to Usama Bin Laden, the East Africa embassy bombing and the USS Cole attack…and they should have been placed on the State Department TIPOFF watch-list and the INS and Customs watch-list.’’

By July 2001, analysts operating on their own confirmed the two had landed in the US and notified the FBI. The Bureau alerted its offices in New York, but not in Los Angeles or San Diego. And no one thought to tell the FAA, INS or Customs Service not to let these men fly on planes.

Once in the US, the two hijackers passed unnoticed beneath noses of the CIA and FBI. They went from Los Angeles to San Diego, where they rented an apartment, got Social Security cards, drivers licenses, credit cards and a car. They soon began flight training.

The two had contact with a radical iman, who the FBI was watching and with a leader in the local Saudi community who was believed to be a Saudi financial conduit to the hijackers.

Perhaps most significant they had contact with a local FBI informant, in fact, living in his house. This man was charged by the FBI with keeping tabs on the local Saudi community. “He stayed at the home of a source of ours,’’ an FBI counterterrorism official later told James Bamford, author of the book A Pretext for War.  “Had we known about them we would have followed them and said, ‘Hey,these guys are going to aviation school.’’’

The Joint Inquiry concluded that the informants contacts with the hijackers, had they been followed up, would have given the FBI’s San Diego office the best chance to unravel the plot. Later efforts by the Joint Inquiry to interview the informant were thwarted by the FBI and Justice Department.

According to former Florida Senator Bob Graham, in his book Intelligence Matters, when the Joint Inquiry asked the FBI for all its files on the informer, the members were denied access to him and when the Joint Inquiry subpoened him, the FBI stalled. Graham called a meeting with CIA director George Tenet, FBI director Robert Mueller and Attorney General John Ashcroft. They suggested Graham question the informant in writing. But by the time the FBI sent out their questions, the informant had retained a top lawyer, a former employee of the Justice Department. The lawyer demanded immunity for the informant before testifying. Graham writes in his book, “It seemed strange that an individual who claimed to have done nothing wrong and who the FBI argued continued to be a valuable source of information would request immunity.’’

The committee turned down the request.

Graham wrote, the FBI  ”insisted that we could not even in the most sanitized manner, tell the American people that an FBI informant had a relationship with two of the hijackers.” The Bureau opposed public hearings, deleted any reference to the situation from the Joint Inquiry’s unclassified report. Only a year later did the FBI allow a heavily-redacted version of the story in the public report.

Finally in his book Graham describes a letter from a member of the FBI’s congressional staff explaining the Bureau had been uncooperative on orders of the administration.  “We were seeing in writing what we had suspected for some time. The White House was directing the coverup.

“Later, when the 911 Commission conducted its own investigation, both Bush and Cheney met with them in a private, off-the-record conversation.”

This story and the new piece by Wright strongly suggest the President, Vice President and head of the FBI were engaged in obstruction of justice. If so, that would call for the convening of a federal grand jury. Would the Justice Department, which runs the FBI, do that? Probably not.

So it is left to the families suing the Saudis to find and publish the truth.

James Ridgeway is an investigative reporter in Washington, DC. He co-edits Solitary Watch.

James Ridgeway is an investigative reporter in Washington, DC. He co-edits Solitary Watch.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail