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Saudi officials supported 9/11 hijackers


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The Guardian  /  May 12, 2016

First serious public split revealed among commissioners over the release of the secret ‘28 pages’ that detail Saudi ties to 2001 terrorist attacks

A former Republican member of the 9/11 commission, breaking dramatically with the commission’s leaders, said Wednesday he believes there was clear evidence that Saudi government employees were part of a support network for the 9/11 hijackers and that the Obama administration should move quickly to declassify a long-secret congressional report on Saudi ties to the 2001 terrorist attack.

The comments by John F Lehman, an investment banker in New York who was Navy secretary in the Reagan administration, signal the first serious public split among the 10 commissioners since they issued a 2004 final report that was largely read as an exoneration of Saudi Arabia, which was home to 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11.

“There was an awful lot of participation by Saudi individuals in supporting the hijackers, and some of those people worked in the Saudi government,” Lehman said in an interview, suggesting that the commission may have made a mistake by not stating that explicitly in its final report. “Our report should never have been read as an exoneration of Saudi Arabia.”

He was critical of a statement released late last month by the former chairman and vice-chairman of the commission, who urged the Obama administration to be cautious about releasing the full congressional report on the Saudis and 9/11 – “the 28 pages”, as they are widely known in Washington – because they contained “raw, unvetted” material that might smear innocent people.

The 9/11 commission chairman, former Republican governor Tom Kean of New Jersey, and vice-chairman, former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton of Indiana, praised Saudi Arabia as, overall, “an ally of the United States in combatting terrorism” and said the commission’s investigation, which came after the congressional report was written, had identified only one Saudi government official – a former diplomat in the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles – as being “implicated in the 9/11 plot investigation”.

The diplomat, Fahad al-Thumairy, who was deported from the US but was never charged with a crime, was suspected of involvement in a support network for two Saudi hijackers who had lived in San Diego the year before the attacks.

In the interview Wednesday, Lehman said Kean and Hamilton’s statement that only one Saudi government employee was “implicated” in supporting the hijackers in California and elsewhere was “a game of semantics” and that the commission had been aware of at least five Saudi government officials who were strongly suspected of involvement in the terrorists’ support network.

“They may not have been indicted, but they were certainly implicated,” he said. “There was an awful lot of circumstantial evidence.”

Although Lehman said he did not believe that the Saudi royal family or the country’s senior civilian leadership had any role in supporting al-Qaida or the 9/11 plot, he recalled that a focus of the criminal investigation after 9/11 was upon employees of the Saudi ministry of Islamic affairs, which had sponsored Thumairy for his job in Los Angeles and has long been suspected of ties to extremist groups.

He said “the 28 pages”, which were prepared by a special House-Senate committee investigating pre-9/11 intelligence failures, reviewed much of the same material and ought to be made public as soon as possible, although possibly with redactions to remove the names of a few Saudi suspects who were later cleared of any involvement in the terrorist attacks.

Lehman has support among some of the other commissioners, although none have spoken out so bluntly in criticizing the Saudis. A Democratic commissioner, former congressman Tim Roemer of Indiana, said he wants the congressional report released to end some of the wild speculation about what is in the 28 pages and to see if parts of the inquiry should be reopened. When it comes to the Saudis, he said, “we still haven’t gotten to the bottom of what happened on 9/11”.

Another panel member, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of offending the other nine, said the 28 pages should be released even though they could damage the commission’s legacy – “fairly or unfairly” – by suggesting lines of investigation involving the Saudi government that were pursued by Congress but never adequately explored by the commission.

“I think we were tough on the Saudis, but obviously not tough enough,” the commissioner said. “I know some members of the staff felt we went much too easy on the Saudis. I didn’t really know the extent of it until after the report came out.”

The commissioner said the renewed public debate could force a spotlight on a mostly unknown chapter of the history of the 9/11 commission: behind closed doors, members of the panel’s staff fiercely protested the way the material about the Saudis was presented in the final report, saying it underplayed or ignored evidence that Saudi officials – especially at lower levels of the government – were part of an al-Qaida support network that had been tasked to assist the hijackers after they arrived in the US.

In fact, there were repeated showdowns, especially over the Saudis, between the staff and the commission’s hard-charging executive director, University of Virginia historian Philip Zelikow, who joined the Bush administration as a senior adviser to the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, after leaving the commission. The staff included experienced investigators from the FBI, the Department of Justice and the CIA, as well as the congressional staffer who was the principal author of the 28 pages.

Zelikow fired a staffer, who had repeatedly protested over limitations on the Saudi investigation, after she obtained a copy of the 28 pages outside of official channels. Other staffers described an angry scene late one night, near the end of the investigation, when two investigators who focused on the Saudi allegations were forced to rush back to the commission’s offices after midnight after learning to their astonishment that some of the most compelling evidence about a Saudi tie to 9/11 was being edited out of the report or was being pushed to tiny, barely readable footnotes and endnotes. The staff protests were mostly overruled.

The 9/11 commission did criticize Saudi Arabia for its sponsorship of a fundamentalist branch of Islam embraced by terrorists and for the Saudi royal family’s relationship with charity groups that bankrolled al-Qaida before 9/11.

However, the commission’s final report was still widely read as an exoneration, with a central finding by the commission that there was “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually” provided financial assistance to Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network. The statement was hailed by the Saudi government as effectively clearing Saudi officials of any tie to 9/11.

Last month Barack Obama, returning from a tense state visit to Saudi Arabia, disclosed the administration was nearing a decision on whether to declassify some or all of the 28 pages, which have been held under lock and key in a secure room beneath the Capitol since they were written in 2002. Just days after the president’s comments however, his CIA director, John Brennan, announced that he opposed the release of the congressional report, saying it contained inaccurate material that might lead to unfair allegations that Saudi Arabia was tied to 9/11.

In their joint statement last month, Kean and Hamilton suggested they agreed with Brennan and that there might be danger in releasing the full 28 pages.

The congressional report was “based almost entirely on raw, unvetted material that came to the FBI”, they said. “The 28 pages, therefore, are comparable to preliminary law enforcement notes, which are generally covered by grand jury secrecy rules.” If any part of the congressional report is made public, they said, it should be redacted “to protect the identities of anyone who has been ruled out by authorities as having any connection to the 9/11 plot”.

Zelikow, the commission’s executive director, told NBC News last month that the 28 pages “provide no further answers about the 9/11 attacks that are not already included in the 9/11 commission report”. Making them public “will only make the red herring glow redder”.

But Kean, Hamilton and Zelikow clearly do not speak for a number of the other commissioners, who have repeatedly suggested they are uncomfortable with the perception that the commission exonerated Saudi Arabia and who have joined in calling for public release of the 28 pages.

Lehman and another commissioner, former Democratic senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, filed affidavits last year in support of a lawsuit brought against the Saudi government by the families of 9/11 victims. “Significant questions remain unanswered concerning possible involvement of Saudi government institutions and actors,” Kerrey said. Lehman agreed: “Contrary to the argument advocated by the Kingdom, the 9/11 commission did not exonerate Saudi Arabia of culpability for the events of 11 September 2001 or the financing of al-Qaida.” He said he was “deeply troubled” by the evidence gathered about a hijackers’ support network in California.

In an interview last week, congressman Roemer, the Democratic commissioner, suggested a compromise in releasing the 28 pages. He said that, unlike Kean and Hamilton, he was eager to see the full congressional report declassified and made public, although the 28 pages should be released alongside a list of pertinent excerpts of the 9/11 commission’s final report. “That would show what allegations were and were not proven, so that innocent people are not unfairly maligned,” he said. “It would also show there are issues raised in the 28 pages about the Saudis that are still unresolved to this day.”

Asked on Thursday if he had any comment on Lehman’s claim about individuals working for the Saudi government, White House press secretary Josh Earnest gave a two word answer: “I don’t.”

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Former senator: Release the uncensored truth about 9/11

By Bob Graham – The Washington Post  /  May 11, 2016

Bob Graham, a Democrat, represented Florida in the U.S. Senate from 1987 to 2005.

Nearly 15 years after the horrific events of 9/11, President Obama must decide whether to release 28 pages of information withheld as classified from the publicly released report of the congressional inquiry into the terrorist attacks that killed thousands of Americans.

On April 10, the CBS program “60Minutes” aired a story about the missing 28 pages. I was one of several former public officials — including former House Intelligence Committee chairman and CIA director Porter Goss (R-Fla.) ; Medal of Honor recipient and former senator Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.); former Navy secretary John Lehman; and former ambassador and representative Tim Roemer (D-Ind.) — who called on the White House to declassify and release the documents.

Two days after that broadcast, I received a call from a White House staff member who told me that the president would make a decision about the 28 pages no later than June. While that official made no promises as to what Obama would do, I viewed the news as a step in the right direction.

My optimism about the administration’s action on this critical issue was short-lived. On May 1, when CIA Director John Brennan appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” I watched with astonishment as he argued that the 28pages should not be released because the American people are incapable of accurately evaluating them.

When asked by host Chuck Todd to make the case against releasing the information, Brennan replied, “I think some people may seize upon that uncorroborated, unvetted information that was in there that was basically just a collation of this information that came out of FBI files, and to point to Saudi involvement, which I think would be very, very inaccurate.”

With all due respect, that argument is an affront not only to the American public in general but also to all those who lost family members, loved ones and friends on that fateful September day in 2001. Americans are fully capable of reviewing the 28 pages and making up their own minds about their significance.

As co-chair of the Joint Inquiry Into the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, I have read the 28 pages. My oath of confidentiality forbids me from discussing the specifics of that material. But while I cannot reveal those details, I strongly believe the American people deserve to know why this issue is so important. All of the references below are from the declassified, public version of the Joint Inquiry’s final report.

For the first time in more than 200  years, Congress merged two standing committees from different houses of Congress: the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The Joint Inquiry had an impressive staff selected due to its members’ experience serving or overseeing key intelligence agencies.

The first order we gave was for the intelligence agencies to preserve any information that might be useful in understanding what happened before, on and after 9/11. While reviewing these files, our experienced staff found documents that raised concerns about the possible involvement of foreign individuals and foreign sources of support for the hijackers. In several instances, agency leadership conceded that they became aware of this evidence through the probing of the Joint Inquiry staff. On Oct. 10, 2002, then-FBI Director Robert Mueller testified, “I think the staff probed and, as a result of the probing, some facts came to light here and to me, frankly, that had not come to light before, and perhaps would not have come to light had the staff not probed.”

The fruit of that probing constitutes the bulk of the material that remains classified. Our final Joint Inquiry Report, released in July 2003 minus the missing 28 pages, reprimanded the agencies for a lack of attention to and action on information in their own files. This data included “information suggesting specific sources of foreign support for some of the September 11 hijackers while they were in the United States.” At the time, “neither CIA nor FBI officials were able to address definitively the extent of such support for the hijackers.” Given the magnitude of the potential risk to national security, the Joint Inquiry found that gap in intelligence coverage “unacceptable” and referred the information summarized in the 28 pages to the FBI and CIA for investigation “as aggressively and as quickly as possible.”

The release of the 28 pages would allow the American people to evaluate important questions, such as:

●Should we believe that the 19 hijackers — most of whom spoke little English, had limited education and had never before visited the United States — acted alone in perpetrating the sophisticated 9/11 plot?

●Did the hijackers have foreign support? If so, who provided it?

●Brennan stated the 28 pages contain information that is “uncorroborated, unvetted” and “inaccurate.” What is the investigatory basis for his conclusion?

●Has the 13-year delay in empowering the American people with the information in the 28 pages affected national security, delayed justice to the families of the nearly 3,000 Americans killed on 9/11 or undermined the confidence of the American people in their federal government?

Former Illinois governor and two-time presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson put it best: “As citizens of this democracy, you are the rulers and the ruled, the law-givers and the law- abiding, the beginning and the end.” That unique status gives the American people all the authority and capability needed to review the 28 pages and determine the truth. It is long past time they had the opportunity.

 

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  • 2 years later...

The Guardian  /  August 5, 2018

Hamza bin Laden, the son of the late al-Qaida leader, has married the daughter of Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker in the 9/11 terror attacks.

Osama bin Laden’s half-brothers, Ahmad and Hassan al-Attas, said they believed Hamza had taken a senior position within al-Qaida and was aiming to avenge the death of his father, shot dead during a US military raid in Pakistan seven years ago.

Hamza bin Laden is the son of one of Osama bin Laden’s three surviving wives, Khairiah Sabar, who was living with her husband in a compound in Abbottabad, near a large Pakistani military base, when he was killed. He has since made public statements urging followers to wage war on Washington, London, Paris and Tel Aviv and is seen as a deputy to the terrorist group’s current leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

“We have heard he has married the daughter of Mohammed Atta,” said Ahmad al-Attas. “We’re not sure where he is, but it could be Afghanistan.”

Western intelligence agencies have been increasingly focusing on the whereabouts of Hamza bin Laden over the past two years, seeing him as more likely than anyone else to galvanise followers. His marriage to the daughter of Atta, an Egyptian national, appears to confirm that the 9/11 alumni remains a central hub of al-Qaida and that the organisation itself continues to be organised around Osama bin Laden’s legacy.

Another of Bin Laden’s sons, Khalid, was killed in the US raid in Abbottabad. A third, Saad, was killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan in 2009. Letters purportedly written by Osama bin Laden and seized from the compound suggested he was grooming Hamza to replace him, partly to avenge the death of Saad.

Bin Laden’s wives and surviving children have returned to Saudi Arabia, where they were given refuge by the former crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef. The women and children remain in close contact with Bin Laden’s mother, Alia Ghanem, who told the Guardian in an interview that she remained in regular touch with surviving family members.

“When we thought everyone was over this, next thing I knew was Hamza saying I am going to avenge my father,” said Hassan al-Attas. “I don’t want to go through that again.

“If Hamza was in front of me now, I would tell him: God guide you. Think twice about what you are doing. Don’t retake the steps of your father. You are entering really negative and horrible parts of your soul.”

The family claimed they did not have any contact with Osama bin Laden from 1999 until his death in 2011. They said they had not heard from Hamza bin Laden.

In recognition of his apparent status within al-Qaida, the US government labelled him a specially designated global terrorist in January 2017, meaning his assets could be blocked and anyone who dealt with him faced arrest.

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  • 1 month later...

RT  /  October 1, 2018

A fiery speech by an Iranian representative, responding to Saudi accusations at the UN General Assembly, blamed terrorist activity around the globe on Riyadh – and even quoted Hillary Clinton to back that up.

Accusing Iran of supporting terrorism was a “strange and outlandish claim” by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir the Iranian representative said. He was addressing the United Nations in Arabic, explaining that he was doing so in order “to make sure that our position is rendered clear” to Riyadh.

“Everybody knows that Saudi Arabia supports terrorism in a very blatant and widespread manner,” the diplomat said. He then added, unexpectedly, that “in the framework of WikiLeaks in 2009, Hillary Clinton is said to have stated that Saudi Arabia is the greatest donor to terrorist groups around the world.”

WikiLeaks did publish a memo by Clinton – which she put together in 2009, while being the US Secretary of State – that said that donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide… Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for Al-Qaida, the Taliban… and other terrorist groups.”

Tehran accuses Riyadh of being responsible for terrorist attacks “in the Middle East, north Africa and Europe” as well as of backing Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Al-Qaeda.

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