Saudi Arabia and 9/11.

In the 9/11 attacks, 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia.[1]  Osama bin Laden was a Saudi who had begun his career in “jihad” by raising money and recruiting men for the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.  This came to be called the “Golden Chain.”  It is now a commonplace to note that Saudi Arabia has promoted the Puritanical form of Islam known as Wahhabism and that there is a striking similarity between Wahhabism and the ideology of ISIS.  Immediately after 9/11, the Saudi Arabian government flew 160+ Saudi Arabians out of the US on chartered jets, while the rest of America was grounded.[2]  So, inquiring minds want to know, did Saudi Arabia have anything to do with the 9/11 attacks?

Conspiracy theorists aren’t the only ones to ask the question.[3]  In 2002, a Joint Congressional Inquiry investigated intelligence failures on the road to 9/11.  President George W. Bush felt it necessary to bar release of 28 pages of the report which dealt with Saudi Arabian involvement.  (The Congress People[4] are allowed to read the pages under supervision, but they are barred from talking about what they have read.)

Did ObL’s “Golden Chain” continue to operate after the war in Afghanistan?  Did Saudi donors finance the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?  Did Saudi government officials facilitate the work of the terrorists?  In response to these questions, equivocation is rife.  The Saudi government emphatically denies having anything to do with 9/11.  The 9/11 Commission declared that there was “no evidence” of Saudi government involvement at the upper levels.  What about at the lower levels?  What about rich guys not in government?

People who are privy to the various investigations dissent from the qualified answers offered by the government.  John Lehman, a member of the 9/11 Commission, said that “there was an awful lot of participation by Saudi individuals in supporting the hijackers, and some of these people worked in the Saudi government.”  Bob Graham, a co-chair of the group investigating intelligence failures, said that the question of financing of 9/11 “points a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia.”

At what do people look specifically?  First, at Omar al-Bayoumi, who is suspected of being a Saudi intelligence officer posted in Southern California with a watching brief on Saudi dissidents living in America.  In January 2000, two of the future hijackers (who had slipped through the many cracks in American intelligence before 9/11) arrived in Los Angeles.  Neither spoke any English, yet they managed to disappear for two weeks.  Then they met Bayoumi.  He drove them down I-5 to San Diego, found them an apartment (co-signing the lease) and fronted them the rent, and put them in touch with a local imam, Anwar al Awlaki.  (See “Just like Imam used to make.”)  Second, at Fahad al-Thumairy, a Saudi consul and imam in Southern California.[5]  He had contact with Bayoumi; he was deported in 2003; and he was interviewed by the EffaBeeEye several times in 2004.  Thumairy denies everything.

On the one hand, one of the implicated Saudi officials says “Saudi Arabia has nothing to hide.”  On the other hand, Saudi Arabia recently said that it will sell $750 billion of its American assets (mostly US Treasury bonds) if the secret 28 pages are de-classified.  That seems likely a testy response if there’s “nothing to hide.”  Still, American officials cringe before the threat.

[1] “Noted,” The Week, 15 July 2005, p. 18.

[2] There were 84,436 Saudis in the United States that year.   Why fly out only 160 or so of them?

[3] “Saudi Arabia and 9/11,” The Week, 24 June 2016, p. 13.

[4] See their hit song “White-House-C-A.”

[5] Mark Mazetti and Scott Shane, “28 Pages May Not Unlock Mystery of Saudis and 9/11,” NYT, 18 June 2016.

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