News reports about the recently released 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry into the 9/11 attacks are typically dismissive: this is nothing new, it’s just circumstantial evidence, and there’s no “smoking gun.” Yet given what the report actually says – and these news accounts are remarkably sparse when it comes to verbatim quotes – it’s hard to fathom what would constitute a smoking gun.
To begin with, let’s start with what’s not in these pages: there are numerous redactions. And they are rather odd. When one expects to read the words “CIA” or “FBI,” instead we get a blacked-out word. Entire paragraphs are redacted – often at crucial points. So it’s reasonable to assume that, if there is a smoking gun, it’s contained in the portions we’re not allowed to see. Presumably the members of Congress with access to the document prior to its release who have been telling us that it changes their entire conception of the 9/11 attacks – and our relationship with the Saudis – read theunredacted version. Which points to the conclusion that the omissions left out crucial information – perhaps including the vaunted smoking gun.
In any case, what we have access to makes more than just a substantial case: it shows that the Saudi government – including top officials, such as then Saudi ambassador to the US, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and other members of the royal family – financed and actively aided the hijackers prior to September 11, 2001.
Support for at least two of the hijackers when they arrived in the US was extended by three key individuals:
- Omar al-Bayoumi – Bayoumi was clearly a Saudi intelligence agent: the FBI all but identifies him as such. His salary was paid for by companies directly owned and operated by the Saudi government, although he apparently rarely showed up for “work.” He was directly subsidized by the wife of then Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar, and these subsidies were substantially increased when the hijackers arrived in the US. It was Bayoumi who hovered over two of the hijackers – Nawaf al-Hamzi and Khalid al-Midhar – as soon as they arrived in the United States. He got them an apartment, co-signed the rental agreement, chauffeured them around – and helped them obtain information on flight schools.
- Osama Bassnan – This individual, who, according to the report, has “many ties to the Saudi government,” boasted to an informant that he did more for the two hijackers than Bayoumi. He was certainly in a position to do so, since he lived directly across the street from them in San Diego. The FBI characterized him as “an extremist and supporter of Osama bin Laden”: like Bayoumi, his longtime associate – with whom he was in constant communication at the time of the hijackers’ American sojourn – Bassnan was subsidized by the Saudi royal family, and specifically Prince Bandar and his wife. A search of Basnan’s apartment turned up indications that he had cashiers checks amounting to $574,000. Bandar’s wife’s account had a standing arrangement to send monthly checks to Basan’s wife for “nursing services.” There is no evidence that such services were ever performed. The suppressed 28 pages cite direct payments from Prince Bandar to Basnan:“On at least one occasion, Bassnan received a check directly from Prince Bandar’s account. Accordion to the FBI, on May 14, 1998, Bassnan cashed a check from Bandar in the amount of $515,000. Bassnan’s wife also received at least one check directly from Bandar She also received one additional check froth Bandar’s wife, which she cashed on January 8,1998 for 510,000.”
- Shayk Fahah al-Thumairy – He was a diplomat at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles and imam of the King Fahad mosque, which is a focal point of Muslim-Saudi activity in the area. US intelligence avers that “initial indications are that al-Thumairy may have had a physical or financial connection to al-Hamzi and al-Midhar.” Both attended the King Fahad mosque. Thumairy was interviewed by US law enforcement after fleeing to Saudi Arabia, and denied having any contact with the two hijackers – in spite of evidence that he was in telephonic contact with them. This, he asserted, was an attempt to “smear” him.
The two hijackers had extensive contacts with Saudi naval officers in the United States, according to telephone records. And when Abu Zubaydah, one of the 9/11 conspirators, was captured in Pakistan, they found the phone number of a Colorado company that managed “the affairs of the Colorado residence of the Saudi Ambassador.” Prince Bandar is practically the star of the suppressed 28 pages – no wonder the Bush administration, which had close ties to him, fought so hard to keep this secret.
The 28 pages also reveal that an individual – name redacted – associated with al-Qaeda and the hijackers sneaked into the US, avoiding Customs agents and the INS due to the fact that he was traveling with a member of the Saudi royal family. We are also told that “Another Saudi national with close ties to the Saudi Royal Family, [redacted], is the subject of FBI counterterrorism investigations and reportedly was checking security at the United States’ southwest border in 1999 and discussing the possibility of infiltrating individuals into the United States.”
The Saudi government’s financial and operational ties to at least two of the 9/11 hijackers are myriad, and largely substantiated. Furthermore, although some of these links as detailed in the 28 pages are tentative, it’s important to remember that this report was written in 2002, and that the intelligence community was strongly admonished to follow up because lawmakers deemed the lack of investigation into the Saudi connection “unacceptable.” So what did they find out in the fourteen years after that admonition was delivered? Inquiring minds want to know….
Prince Bandar went on to become head of Saudi intelligence: his personal relationship with the Bush family is well-known, and his access to US government officials – and his powerful influence in Washington – makes his starring role in the nurturing of the two hijackers into a gun that, while not quite smoking, is exuding vapors of a highly suggestive nature.
“Circumstantial evidence”? Perhaps – but people have been convicted of murder on the basis of such evidence, and, in this case, there is such a preponderance of evidence that a guilty verdict is unavoidable.
And the part that I disagree with:
It would not be stretching the evidence to bluntly state that the suppressed 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry report on the 9/11 terrorist attacks places agents of the Saudi government at the epicenter of the plot. In short, there’s no two ways about it: the Saudis did 9/11.
Why did our government cover up this shocking evidence for so long?
The reason is because they had no desire to retaliate against the real perpetrators of 9/11. Instead, as we now know, they were determined to pin the blame on Saddam Hussein: indeed, the Bush administration pressed this talking point relentlessly, until it was forced to backtrack. We attacked Iraq, in the words of neocon grise eminence and top Bush administration official Paul Wolfowitz, because it was “doable.” A years long neoconservative campaign to target Iraq gained new impetus in the wake of 9/11, and the administration and its journalistic camarilla pushed the lie that Iraq was behind the attack. The evidence that the Saudis were involved had to be suppressed – because the Bush administration’s war plans depended on it.
I suspect the truth is much, much more complicated, and horrible. I don’t think the Saudis were alone in perpetrating the terrorist attacks. They were certainly involved in some sort of intelligence operation, but they weren’t alone, and I doubt that they knew how things would end up, or that they supported or wanted the outcome that eventuated on September 11, 2001.
From all that I’ve read, I suspect there was a joint operation between the US intelligence agencies and the Saudis, for whatever reason, which involved the 19 accused hijackers, but which they lost control of. And I suspect they lost control of it because this joint operation was just part of a larger, more secret, operation, of which they were ignorant – they were being used. They were pawns in a much larger and more sordid, cold-blooded game.
Who was behind that game remains mysterious, although there are some ‘usual suspects’ who have been identified, but without strong evidence I am reluctant to name – this stuff remains in the realms of conspiracy theory, where in the absence of solid investigation and sound information it can neither be proven or disproven.
My hope is that, having been named and all but blamed, the Saudis will respond by ‘telling all’, or something approaching all, about what they were doing and how they were involved, in an effort to absolve themselves. If that attempt at absolution points the finger at others, and a wider plot, then we have a chance at moving to an investigation.
But I’m an independent consultant, a long way from the centres of power. I have no idea what deals have been done to sew this up and prevent the truth from leaking out. I am certain, though, that there is much more to the story than we have been told, and that powerful and ruthless people will take great pains to ensure that this story is never told.