If you haven’t heard of the infamous ’28 pages’ from the 2002 Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, now’s your chance. On April 10, 60 Minutes ran a program on the 28 censored pages, which comprised the entire final chapter of the report. The pages are still classified, but several congressman and senators have been able to read them and are currently pushing for their release. They can’t talk about the exact details they contain, but several have made general comments about their contents: they show Saudi financing of several of the 9/11 hijackers, while they were in the U.S. You can watch and read the 60 Minutes report here.
According to former Florida Senator Bob Graham, who co-chaired the investigation and report, the pages implicate Saudi government officials, rich Saudi citizens, and Saudi charities. Graham also made this provocative statement: “I think it’s implausible to believe that 19 people, most of whom didn’t speak English, most of whom had never been in the United States before, many didn’t have a high school education, could have carried out such a complicated task without some support from within the United States.” He’s right, in more ways than he intends.
The Saudi Connection
What do we know about the Saudi connection? The 60 Minutes segment gives the basics. Two of the men identified after 9/11 as being among the hijackers – Saudi nationals Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar – entered the States in January 2000. They had just previously attended an al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia (also attended by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed). What 60 Minutes doesn’t say is that the CIA had been aware of Hazmi and Mihdhar’s visit to the al-Qaeda summit. (Mihdhar had also been implicated in the attack on the USS Cole.) Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the CIA didn’t inform the FBI when these two suspicious individuals entered the United States.
Once in LA, Hazmi and Mihdhar fortuitously ‘met’ a Saudi diplomat, Fahad al-Thumairy, and an associate of al-Thumairy named Omar al-Bayoumi, who drew regular paychecks from the Saudi government and had been listed by the FBI as a Saudi agent. Bayoumi became their benefactor, helping them move to San Diego, cosigning their lease and putting the money down for their security deposit for a place within his own apartment complex. He introduced them to other Muslims in the area, helped them get IDs, English classes, and flight training. On the day of their ‘welcome to San Diego’ party, Bayoumi called Anwar al-Awlaki, who later became infamous as al-Qaeda’s American propagandist in Yemen (later killed by a U.S. drone strike). In January 2001, Awlaki moved to Falls Church, Virginia, and a few months after that, Hazmi, Mihdhar and three more of the hijackers moved in with him.
Bayoumi wasn’t putting up all the cash for Hazmi and Mihdhar. The Islamic Center of San Diego was the mosque he frequented with Hazmi and Mihdhar. The administrator’s bank account was reportedly used to wire $5,000 to Hazmi from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s nephew. (In 1998, Bayoumi delivered $500,000 from Saudi Arabia to build a Kurdish mosque in San Diego, for which he was maintenance manager, but reportedly rarely showed up to do any actual work.) Also, Princess Haifa bin Faisal, wife of Prince Bandar – Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Saudi President of General Intelligence, and a friend of the Bushes – sent regular checks to a woman named Majeda Dweikat, who was the wife of Osama Basnan, living in San Diego. Dweikat then signed over those checks to Manal Bajadr, Bayoumi’s wife, using Riggs bank (of Iran-Contra fame), and then reportedly into the hands of Hazmi and Mihdhar. Bayoumi and Basnan were friends and lived on the same street. Basnan had known ties to radical Islamic groups (Eritrean Islamic Jihad) and like Bayoumi, was thought to be a Saudi agent, and was living in the States illegally since 1980.
None of these connections were revealed in the 9/11 Commission Report. The only relevant words were these: “We have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.” But as Attorney Sean Carter, who represents some family members of 9/11 victims in their suit against the government of Saudi Arabia, notes on the 60 Minutes program, this doesn’t mean that Saudi officials whom the Commission didn’t consider to be “senior” weren’t involved in such things.
60 Minutes neglected several other interesting pieces of information. For example, there’s the “long-suppressed federal investigation of a Saudi family [the man and his father had been on an FBI watchlist prior to 9/11], living in a gated community in Sarasota, Florida, who had fled in great haste just before the 9/11 attacks, leaving their possessions behind.” They fled in a hurry, leaving behind “cars, furniture, clothing, food and other articles”, and had been previously visited by several 9/11 hijackers, including Mohammed Atta and Ziad Jarrah, and from which phone calls were made to 12 of the hijackers in the year prior to the 9/11 attacks. One resident of the household was even taking flying lessons at the same school as some of the hijackers. Graham got in hot water with the FBI for pursuing this lead. WhoWhatWhy‘s Russ Baker did his own investigation, finding out that the owner of the house was a direct lieutenant of Saudi prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, one of the first Saudis to take flying lessons in Florida, and a friend of Jeb Bush. Sultan’s father is the current king of Saudi Arabia.
Another interesting tidbit comes from Richard Clarke, chief counter-terrorism official for Clinton and Bush. According to Baker, Clarke thinks “the CIA made an unsuccessful attempt to recruit two of the hijackers as double-agents before the 9/11 attacks, then scurried to cover up this bungled effort. Clarke thinks evidence points to the spy agency itself allowing the hijackers into the U.S. as part of this scheme.”
This makes sense. Former U.S. diplomat J. Michael Springmann worked at the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the ’80s. He observed gross misconduct, including the rubber-stamping of visa applications for certain individuals. He later found out what was going on: these were mercenaries being sent to the U.S. to train for the Afghani Mujahideen (later known as al-Qaeda). Curiously, 15 of the 19 hijackers got their U.S. visas from this very consulate.
In a sense, all this is huge news. Officially, al-Qaeda acted alone to attack the U.S. on 9/11. The Neocons originally tried to tie in a state-sponsor, Iraq, but that ploy was a total lie and fell apart. Americans (and the world) deserve to know all the individuals involved in the 9/11 attacks. And if some were Saudi officials, that is important, because Saudi Arabia continues to be one of the U.S.’s closest allies in the Middle East.
But this just scratches the surface. The Saudi connection is just one of many, and leads in several directions. For example, 9/11 whistleblower Kevin Ryan recently added another interesting connection:
One very interesting link is that Stratesec, the security company for the World Trade Center and other 9/11-impacted facilities, held its annual meetings in offices leased by Saudi Arabia. That fact highlights the glaring lack of investigation into the men who ran Stratesec.
For example, the Securities and Exchange Commission suspected Stratesec’s CEO, Wirt D. Walker, of 9/11 insider-trading. … Stratesec had security contracts not only for the WTC complex, but also for Dulles airport—where American Airlines Flight 77 took off—and United Airlines, which owned two of the other three hijacked planes. …
Walker was the son of a CIA operative and his activities paralleled those of other known CIA operatives. Today, many of Walker’s colleagues have top-secret clearances, suggesting that, like his father, Walker has ties to U.S. intelligence.
Stratesec held its annual meetings in office space leased by the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission. This was at the Watergate office building in Washington, DC (2600 Virginia Ave, NW), in suite 900. Stratesec’s parent company, the Kuwait-American Corporation, used that Saudi-leased office as its business address.
Walker’s company Aviation General also held its annual meetings in the Saudi-leased offices. What’s more, the operational offices for Aviation General are now occupied by Zacarias Moussaoui’s flight trainer.
Of course, there’s more.
What about the Pakistani, Turkish, and Israeli Connections?
So why now, and why Saudi Arabia? First, given the connections to numerous other governments, including that of the U.S. itself, to the 9/11 attacks, this focus on ‘the 28 pages’ and the Saudi connection they expose has all the hallmarks of a limited hangout. All the U.S. officials calling for the declassification of these pages say they think there is no reason they should remain classified. They wouldn’t be saying this if it really exposed themselves or their close allies. 9/11 Commissioner John Lehman even told 60 Minutes: “This is not going to be a smoking gun that is going to cause a huge furor.” So don’t expect these pages to contain anything mind-blowing.
But in another interview, Graham had something interesting to say: “I was surprised at the evidence that there were foreign governments involved…” Governments, plural. Saudi Arabia’s complicity threatens to be exposed, yet no mention is made of Pakistan, Turkey, Israel, or the United States. Turkey is currently in the process of being hung out to dry by its former Neocon patrons, but so far there’s no indication that Turkish agents’ role in 9/11 will be revealed. As long as AIPAC retains its power over U.S. policymakers, Israel’s involvement will remain classified. As for why Saudi Arabia is being exposed, I can only guess. Is Saudi Arabia distancing itself from U.S. control and influence and getting closer with Russia?
J. Michael Springmann, who issued visas at the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, puts the whole picture in context. Here’s how he starts his book, Visas for Al-Qaeda:
Al-Qaeda (Arabic for “The Base”) grew out of and became identical with the Arab-Afghan Legion, those terrorists recruited by the United States of America, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Originally sent to Afghanistan, they fought the USSR’s army and air force following the Soviet Union’s invasion of that country. Later, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA, The Agency) directed them to cross the border and destabilize the Muslim republics of the Soviet Union. Still later, the American government moved them into the Balkans to destroy Yugoslavia, and then similarly to Iraq, followed by Libya and Syria.
They received visas for travel to the United States, usually from Saudi Arabia, for training, debriefing, and other purposes. In enabling their passage, American government officials violated the Immigration and Nationality Act as well as the State Department’s regulations, codified in its Foreign Affairs Manual.
I know. I was there. I issued the visas, and I objected to gross violations of law and regulation. As a result, as happens to nearly all whistle-blowers, I was fired.
They never stopped. And as FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds revealed, it’s not just state sponsorship of terrorism; it’s drug trafficking, illegal arms and nuclear trafficking, massive crime of pretty much every kind. It involves Turks, Israelis, and Americans. These 28 pages will just scratch the surface. Like the Panama Papers, they most likely contain some useful information, but leave out the most important. At the very least, their release will generate more questions.