Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Murtaza Hussain / The Intercept – 2016-07-16 18:02:13
(July 15, 2016) — The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has finally released the notorious “28 pages” from the 9/11 Report, which had been kept classified, and which detail more or less exclusively with the culpability of the Saudi Arabian government in the attacks.
Though the White House claimed, even after the release, that the pages “proved” the Saudis had nothing to do with it, they did anything but that, providing considerable evidence that the hijackers had contact with two probable Saudi intelligence officers in advance of the attacks, and had received support from those officers.
The information centers on two men, Omar Bayouni and Osama Bassman. Bayouni was said to have provided “substantial assistance” to the hijackers in 2000, and had extensive contact with the Saudi government at the same time.
Bayouni was nominally an employee of Ercan, a subsidiary of a company with substantial ties to the Saudi Defense Ministry, and was in frequent contact with a Defense Ministry official responsible for air traffic control.
Though he was only confirmed to have ever actually gone to Ercan one time, he received a $465 per month “allowance” from them, which was increased to $3,700 a month after he met with the hijackers.
In addition to the money he got from Ercan, Bayouni’s wife also received $1,200 a month from Princess Haifa Bint Sultan, the wife of the then Saudi Ambassador to the United States. The two kept receiving this money after Bayouni’s contact with the 9/11 hijackers right up until late July or early August of 2001, when they left the country.
Bassman, on the other hand, lived across the street from the hijackers, and says he was introduced to them by way of Bayouni. The CIA says they believe he got a fake passport from the Saudi government, and the FBI says he was a known support of al-Qaeda who spoke of bin Laden “like a god” as far back as 1992.
He and his wife also received significant financial support from Princess Haifa, to the tune of $74,000 for “nursing services” that there is no evidence were ever provided.
The FBI also reported millions of dollars in wire transfers from Saudi Arabia, purportedly laundered through the Tamiyah Mosque in Culver City, delivered to al-Barakaat, a Somali company affiliated with Osama bin Laden. The FBI said they believed this was a way for the Saudi government to covertly and indirectly fund al-Qaeda.
The 28 pages also mention that several active-duty Saudi Naval officers had contact with the hijackers in the lead-up to 9/11. Interestingly, however, despite the high-profile “declassification” of this documents, essentially this entire section is redacted in the final release, meaning the details are still secret.
FBI officials ultimately conceded they hadn’t focused on Saudis in the lead-up to 9/11 because they were supposed to be an American ally, and even by the time of the 9/11 report they told the Joint Inquiry neither they nor the CIA could “definitively” identify the true extent of Saudi government ties to al-Qaeda or terrorism in general, though it had become a priority.
Both agencies also noted the Saudis were extremely uncooperative with their investigations into 9/11, though one FBI official noted this wasn’t out of the ordinary, and that the Saudis were “useless and obstructionist” for years on any investigation they didn’t think was directly in their interest.
The Joint Inquiry ultimately tried to shrug off the myriad evidence provided by the FBI and CIA, saying that independently confirming the reports was beyond the scope of their investigation, and that there were conceivably “innocent” explanations for all the aid provided to the hijackers in the lead-up to the attack.
Still, the document certainly provides more ammunition for families of 9/11 victims who have sought to sue Saudi Arabia over its involvement in the attack, and despite the White House’s protestations, will only fuel the fire of questions about whether this high-profile American ally actually played a role in the largest attack in history on US soil.
READ the redacted pages here.
Saudi Ties to 9/11 Detailed in Documents Suppressed Since 2002
Murtaza Hussain / The Intercept
(July 15, 2016) — After years of political wrangling, the suppressed section of a 2002 congressional report that detailed possible ties between the Saudi government and the 9/11 terrorist attacks was released today. The classified documents have been the source of heated speculation for years, as they highlighted alleged links between high-ranking members of the Saudi royal family and the 9/11 hijackers.
Many political figures who had previously seen the report led the charge calling for its release, including former Sen. Bob Graham, who said the 28 pages “point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia,” and Minnesota Congressman Rick Nolan, who said the pages “confirm that much of the rhetoric preceding the US attack on Iraq was terribly wrong.”
The suppressed pages, redacted in parts, detail circumstantial evidence of ties among Saudi government officials, intelligence agents, and several of the hijackers.
“While in the United States, some of the September 11th hijackers were in contact with or received assistance from, individuals who may be connected with the Saudi government,” reads the report, which added that FBI sources believed at least two of those individuals were Saudi intelligence agents.
The report also mentions that numbers found in the phonebook of Abu Zubaydah, a detainee currently held in GuantÃ¡namo, could be traced to a company in Denver, Colorado, connected to former Saudi ambassador to the US Prince Bandar bin Sultan.
One of the most notable figures mentioned is Omar al-Bayoumi, alleged by the report to have likely been a Saudi intelligence agent. Al-Bayoumi was in close contact with hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Midhar, providing them financial assistance during their time in the United States and even helping them find an apartment.
Bayoumi in turn is believed to have been on the payroll of the Saudi Ministry of Defense and was regularly in receipt of large lump sums of money from the Saudi Ministry of Finance and other undisclosed arms of the government.
Another figure highlighted in the documents is Osama Bassnan, a Saudi citizen who was an associate of al-Bayoumi and lived in an apartment nearby al-Hazmi and al-Midhar. According to the report, Bassnan “made a comment to an FBI source after the attacks suggesting that he did more for the hijackers than al-Bayoumi did.”
Bassnan and his wife received regular payments from the wife of Bandar bin Sultan. On one occasion, Bassnan is said to have received a check directly from Bandar’s account.
Fahd al-Thumairy, a former Saudi consular officer in the United States who served as an imam at a mosque attended by al-Hazmi and al-Midhar, is also mentioned briefly, as is Saleh al-Hussayen, who is described in the report as a “Saudi Interior Ministry employee/official.”
Al-Hussayen stayed at the same hotel as one of the hijackers in the days before the attack. While being interviewed by FBI agents after the attacks, al-Hussayen “either passed out or feigned a seizure,” causing the interview to be terminated. He later managed to successfully flee the country.
Much of the information in the 28 pages is not new and has been mentioned in previously released documents on the 9/11 investigation. As such, the public release of these suppressed pages is unlikely to precipitate major changes in the relationship between the United States and the Saudi government.
In a statement issued on Friday, the Saudi Embassy in the United States said that it “welcomes the release” of the suppressed pages, saying that they exonerate Riyadh of any direct role in the attacks.
While the report does not find any smoking gun pointing to official Saudi involvement, it does highlight one consistently troubling theme of the kingdom’s response to the attacks: its refusal to cooperate with investigators seeking to uncover information about the hijackers.
As the report notes, “In testimony and interviews, a number of FBI agents and CIA officers complained to the [inquiry] about a lack of Saudi cooperation in terrorism investigations both before and after the September 11th attacks.”
Referencing a May 1996 Director of Central Intelligence memo, the report cited agency beliefs that “the Saudis had stopped providing background information or other assistance on Bin Ladin because Bin Ladin had ‘too much information about official Saudi dealings with Islamic extremists in the 1980s for Riyadh to deliver him into US hands.'”
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