Feb. 9—A blockbuster court filing on Feb. 3, in the case of the 9/11 families versus the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has triggered unprecedented attention to the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks, and is intensifying the pressure on President Barack Obama to declassify the suppressed 28-page section of a Congressional investigation which reportedly documents Saudi sponsorship of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.
This is a fight which EIR has led since our 2007 exposure of the joint British-Saudi “Al-Yamamah” slush fund used to finance terrorism around the world. Over the past two years we have focussed on the demand for declassification of the 28 pages from the 2002 Congressional Joint Inquiry. With the breakout of international and national news coverage since Feb. 3, the genie is out of the bottle, and will be impossible to put back in. As much as Obama and the White House would like to make the issue go away, it won’t.
4,000 Pages of Evidence
Although the press coverage of the 4,000-page court filing on Feb. 3 emphasized testimony by would-be 9/11 hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui, far more important were other elements of the filing by lawyers for the 9/11 families. These were affidavits from two former 9/11 Commissioners, and from former Senate Intelligence Commission chairman Bob Graham, debunking Saudi claims that they were exonerated by the 9/11 Commission, and 9/11 Commission member John Lehman, who called for release of the 28 pages. Also included were thousands of pages of documentary evidence laying out the long history of Saudi sponsorship of jihadist movements and al-Qaeda up through the 1990s, and detailed evidence on the Saudi support network which protected and financed two future hijacker-pilots in San Diego in the period leading up to the September 2001 attacks.
It should be recalled that in 2013-14, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia & Herzegovina (SHC), were reinstated as defendants by actions of the U.S. Appeals Court in New York and the U.S. Supreme Court. As a result, the Kingdom and the SHC are now desperately trying to get themselves dismissed from the lawsuit again. An extensive pleading filed last September—incorporated into the Feb. 3 filing—states that the success of the 9/11 attacks “was made possible by the lavish sponsorship al Qaeda received from its material sponsors, including the Kingdom and SHC, over more than a decade leading up to September 11, 2001.” It not only contains detailed evidence of how Saudi-sponsored “charities” financed al-Qaeda in the years leading up the 9/11 attacks, but it also describes how Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz al Saud (now King Salman), was put in charge of the SHC, and how he personally directed the arming and financing of al-Qaeda during the 1990s.
For example, one of the exhibits attached to the Feb. 3 filing, is a copy of the “Matrix of Threat Indicators” used by the U.S. military at Guantanamo. According to an affidavit by attorney Sean Carter, one of the lawyers for the 9/11 families, “The Matrix of Threat Indicators identifies the ‘Saudi High Commission for Relief’ as one of the organizations within a list of ‘terrorist and terrorist support entities’ and indicates that ‘through associations with these groups and organizations, a detainee may have provided support to al-Qaida or the Taliban, or engaged in hostilities against U.S. or Coalition forces.’ ” A number of other exhibits also deal with the role of the Salman-run SHC in financing and arming al-Qaeda.
The affidavits which were submitted in support of the 9/11 families in their lawsuit against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, from former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, who served on the 9/11 Commission; from former Senator Bob Kerrey (also a 9/11 Commissioner); and from former Senator Bob Graham, who co-chaired the Joint Inquiry, have received insufficient attention in press coverage of the filing.
Lehman is adamant in his statement to the court, that the 9/11 Commission did not exonerate Saudi Arabia from either culpability for the 9/11 attacks, or financing al-Qaeda in the years leading up to the 9/11 attacks—as has been claimed repeatedly by Saudi officials and their backers.
Lehman says that he was, and remains, deeply troubled by the evidence the 9/11 Commission developed concerning the support given to two future hijackers in San Diego by Saudi citizen Omar al-Bayoumi, and also by an official of the Islamic Affairs Department of the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, Fahad al-Thumairy. Lehman notes that the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs is run by Wahhabi imams, who have fueled the rise of jihadism, and whose teachings provide the ideological basis of al-Qaeda, ISIL, etc. All of this warrants further examination, Lehman asserts, adding that he read the 28 pages while a member of the 9/11 Commission, and that there is nothing in them harmful to national security.
“I believe that the disclosure of those 28 pages from the Joint Inquiry report would greatly assist policy-makers and the public in better understanding many of the threats we now confront,” Lehman states. Therefore, says Lehman, he fully supports the 9/11 families in their efforts to obtain full disclosure of the records of both the Congressional Inquiry and the 9/11 Commission.
In his book The Commission, author Philip Shenon quoted Lehman on his inability to get any information out of the White House about the Saudis. “They were refusing to declassify anything having to do with Saudi Arabia,” Lehman said. “Anything having to do with the Saudis … it had this very special sensitivity.”
Graham and Kerrey Affidavits
Senator Graham’s affidavit includes his statements made to the same court in 2012, that he is convinced that there is a “direct line” between some of the 9/11 terrorists and the government of Saudi Arabia, and that he believes that al-Bayoumi was operating under the direction of the Saudi government and the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, and was in fact an agent of the Saudi government. Graham states that this evidence has never been fully explored.
Graham adds the Sarasota, Florida story to his previous statements, pointing out that three of the 9/11 hijackers were linked to the al-Hijjii family, who abruptly fled from the U.S. shortly before the Sept. 11 attacks. Also new, are Graham’s charges about the role of Saudi “charities” in providing financial support to al-Qaeda. The 9/11 attacks could not have been planned and executed without a support infrastructure, he says, adding: “I applaud the 9/11 Plaintiffs for their efforts to use the civil justice system to enlighten the American public concerning those important issues.”
Bob Kerrey’s the same as he submitted to the court in 2012, states that the claims by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia & Herzegovina, that the 9/11 Commission exonerated them, are “fundmentally inaccurate and misleading.” Those claims by the Saudis are one of the principal grounds on which they are attempting, once again, to get the 9/11 families’ case against them thrown out of court.
Leading the news coverage of the Feb. 3 filing, has been the release of the more than 100 of sworn testimony by would-be hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui, describing how wealthy Saudis and members of the Saudi royal family provided financial support to him and other terrorists in the late 1990s. Although Moussaoui was declared mentally ill by his own lawyers in his 2006 trial in Alexandria, Va., and his public behavior was wild and errratic, nonetheless 9/11 families’ attorney Sean Carter told the New York Times that his impression during the taking of Moussaoui’s deposition was that Moussaoui “was of completely sound mind —focussed and thoughtful.”
Among those named by Moussaoui in his deposition were former Saudi intelligence head Prince Turki bin-Faisal and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., who has previously been identified as providing support to the San Diego hijackers, and whom EIR put in the center of the British-Saudi al-Yamamah terrorist-funding slush fund.
Moussaoui also named Prince Salman—now King Salman—as one of those with whom he met in Riyadh in which he carried letters between Osama bin Laden and the Saudi royals. Moussaoui described how he had created a computerized database of donations made to bin Laden and al-Qaeda in 1998-99, and he named many of the names of prominent Saudi donors. He described the network of Saudi “charities” that provided funds, and sometimes weapons, to al-Qaeda, and he stated that bin Laden was operating with the express advice and consent of, and at the direction of, the Saudi ulema—the Wahhabi religious leadership.
In a Feb. 7 interview with CNN host Michael Smerconish, attorney Carter was asked about the Saudi Embassy’s claim that Moussaoui is a “deranged criminal.” Carter responded that, in fact, “that’s what makes him a knowledgeable witness.” Carter went on to explain: “Now, in Moussaoui’s case, the fact of the matter is that our claim against Saudi Arabia doesn’t rise and fall on Moussaoui’s testimony. It’s part of a much bigger mosaic of evidence that documents strong ties between Saudi government actors and hijackers here in the United States, and the filing this week included 4,000 pages of evidence in support of our claims. It wasn’t just Moussaoui’s testimony.”
Asked if he found Moussaoui to be credible, Carter answered: “I did, as well as the other lawyers and investigators who were out with us. We actually brought some subject-matter experts, counterterrorism experts, with us so that we would be able to sort of gut check what he was saying throughout the testimony. And he provided incredibly detailed testimony about al Qaeda’s operations during that period, the organizational structure and who was responsible for certain activities, the nature of al Qaeda’s facilities within Kandahar at that time, and everything he said when he was providing this very detailed, directly responsive testimony checked out for us.”
Carter went on to say that there doesn’t seem to be any justification for withholding the 28 pages on national security grounds. But, he added, “what we think this all reflects, the interest in Moussaoui’s testimony, the interest in seeing the 28 pages released, is this overwhelming sense among the American people that we still haven’t got a full and transparent accounting of Saudi Arabia’s role in the emergence of al Qaeda and the events of September 11th. And that’s what we really need. We don’t simply need the 28 pages. We need all of the evidence available to assess whether or not the Saudis had something to do with that.”
In his regular column in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philly.com, posted Feb. 8, Smerconish related more of what Carter said about Moussaoui and the Saudis: that Moussaoui had explained that he had created a database of al-Qaeda’s donors, which included senior Saudi officials and members of the royal family. “He explained to us that it was his understanding that they were making donations to bin Laden in order to maintain their legitimacy in the eyes of the Saudi ulema, who are the Wahhabi religious clerics,” Carter said. “The Saudi state itself is the product of a pact between the House of Saud and the Wahhabi ulema, and the continuing legitimacy of that government resides very much on maintaining that bargain.”
Fight in Congress Intensifies
The reverberations of the Feb. 3 court filing are not only increasing the pressure on Obama, but are also pressing members of the House and Senate to call for declassification of the 28 pages. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), who has been leading the fight in Congress, told Fox News on Feb. 5 that the Moussaoui claims are more “justification” to release the pages. “This is all the more reason to declassify the information,” Jones said. “Let the people see the 28 pages.”
Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Jones’s leading co-sponsor on the bill calling for declassification, told Fox that Moussaoui’s testimony “mirrored” what he had read in the classified 28 pages about the Saudis’ financial connections to the 9/11 attacks. Lynch also said there is some new discussion in Congress about the 28 pages, and Jones said that Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) has expressed “renewed interest” in seeking declassification.
An indication of the expansion of attention on the 28 pages was the fact that the lead story in the New York Times on Feb. 5 (the second day of front-page coverage) was entitled “New Light Cast on Secret Pages of 9/11 Report.” Reporter Carl Hulse (who had attended the Jan. 7 Capitol Hill press conference on the 28 pages) writes that the new claims by Moussaoui have brought renewed attention to the withheld section of the Congressional report, and then quotes Representative Lynch saying “it is the right thing to do… Let’s put it out there,” and former Senator Graham, who “has repeatedly said that it shows Saudi Arabia was complicit in the Sept. 11 attacks.”
Obama’s failure to follow through on his promise to declassify the 28 pages is highlighted by Bill Doyle, whose son was killed in the World Trade Center, and Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband was killed. They related how President Obama had promised them in 2009 that he would get the 28 pages released—but has since refused to do so.
The Times then cited Representative Jones saying that the Moussaoui claims could give momentum to the declassification drive; Jones reported that on Feb. 4, he was approached on the House floor by members wanting to know how they can view the 28 pages (as is their right as Congressmen). Putting the onus where it belongs, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), said, “The authority to declassify this document lies with President Obama.” The Times took note of the fact that advocates of declassification have been frustrated by Obama’s refusal to act, and notes that Democrats were much more aggressive in pushing for disclosure when George W. Bush was President, than they are now.
The Times story concluded with a White House spokesman saying that they have asked the intelligence community to conduct a declassification review of the 28 pages, and that this process “is ongoing.” That may be true, but now, the pressure on Obama is now far greater—and the stakes much higher—than a week or a month ago.
posted by: Rhea Razon