/What We Know About Saudi Arabia’s Role in 9/11

What We Know About Saudi Arabia’s Role in 9/11

The Saudi government still says it had no connection to the hijackers. But released classified information proves otherwise.

Sometimes, reality is so absurd that it outstrips anything conspiracy theorists could come up with. After more than 13 years after the congressional investigation published its report into the events surrounding the 9/11 attacks, the much discussed “28 pages” on Saudi involvement in the terrorist assault, which had been held back as too sensitive to publish, were released.

As it turns out, there are 29 pages, not 28, numbered 415 through 443 in the congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks. And deletions on the pages — sometimes words, often whole lines — add up to the equivalent of a total of three pages. So we still are not being given the full story.

It is instantly apparent that the widely held belief for why the pages were not initially released — to prevent embarrassing the Saudi royal family — is true.

The pages are devastating:

Page 415: “While in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with, and received support and assistance from, individuals who may be connected to the Saudi Government.… [A]t least two of those individuals were alleged by some to be Saudi intelligence officers.”

Page 417: One of the individuals identified in the pages as a financial supporter of two of the 9/11 hijackers, Osama Bassnan, later received a “significant amount of cash” from “a member of the Saudi Royal Family” during a 2002 trip to Houston.

Page 418: “Another Saudi national with close ties to the Saudi Royal Family, [deleted], is the subject of FBI counterterrorism investigations.”

Pages 418 and 419: Detained al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida had in his phone book the unlisted number for the security company that managed the Colorado residence of the then-Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

Page 421: “a [deleted], dated July 2, 2002, [indicates] ‘incontrovertible evidence that there is support for these terrorists inside the Saudi Government.’”

Page 426: Bassnan’s wife was receiving money “from Princess Haifa Bint Sultan,” the wife of the Saudi ambassador. (Her correct name is actually Princess Haifa bint Faisal.)

Page 436: The general counsel of the U.S. Treasury Department, David Aufhauser, testified that “offices [of the Saudi charity al-Haramain] have significant contacts with extremists, Islamic extremists.” CIA officials also testified “that they were making progress on their investigations of al-Haramain.… [T]he head of the central office is complicit in supporting terrorism, and it also raised questions about [then-Saudi Interior Minister] Prince Nayef.”

On reading this, I let out a shout: “Yes!”

In January 2002, U.S. News & World Report quoted two unidentified Clinton administration officials as saying that two senior Saudi princes had been paying off Osama bin Laden since a 1995 bombing in Riyadh, which killed five American military advisors. I followed up in an August 2002 Wall Street Journal op-ed, reporting that U.S. and British officials had told me the names of the two senior princes who were using official Saudi money — not their own — to pay off bin Laden to cause trouble elsewhere but not in the kingdom. I referred to the princes in a later Wall Street Journal op-ed: They were Prince Nayef, the father of the current crown prince, Muhammad bin Nayef, and his brother Prince Sultan, then-defense minister and father of Prince Bandar. Both Prince Nayef and Prince Sultan are now dead.

The U.S. News & World Report article quoted a Saudi official as saying: “Where’s the evidence? Nobody offers proof.”

But with the release of the 29 pages, and their detailed description of the financial connections between the 9/11 hijackers and Saudi officials, has become increasingly difficult to make. The inquiry, after all, quotes a redacted source alleging “incontrovertible evidence that there is support for these terrorists within the Saudi Government.”

Upon the pages’ release, Washington-based public relations firm Qorvis, which has a lucrative contract with the kingdom, released its own analysis that began with a quote from an interview with former CIA Director John Brennan gave to Al Arabiya. It reads in part: “[T]here was no evidence to indicate that the Saudi government as an institution, or senior Saudi officials individually, had supported the 9/11 attacks.”

That could very well be right. But it still allows for the possibility, indeed the probability, that the actions of senior Saudi officials resulted in those terrorist outrages. I have never suggested that the Saudi government or members of the royal family directly supported or financed the 9/11 attacks. But official Saudi money ended up in the pockets of the attackers, without a doubt. I once asked a British official: “How do we know?” He replied that we know what account the money came out of and where it ended up.

There is also Fresh evidence submitted in a major 9/11 lawsuit moving forward against the Saudi Arabian government reveals its embassy in Washington may have funded a “dry run” for the hijackings carried out by two Saudi employees, further reinforcing the claim that employees and agents of the kingdom directed and aided the 9/11 hijackers and plotters.

Two years before the airliner attacks, the Saudi Embassy paid for two Saudi nationals, living undercover in the US as students, to fly from Phoenix to Washington “in a dry run for the 9/11 attacks,” alleges the amended complaint filed on behalf of the families of some 1,400 victims who died in the terrorist attacks 16 years ago.

During a November 1999 America West flight to Washington, Qudhaeein and Shalawi are reported to have tried multiple times to gain access to the cockpit of the plane in an attempt to test flight-deck security in advance of the hijackings. The dry run reveals more of the fingerprints of the Saudi government.

“After they boarded the plane in Phoenix, they began asking the flight attendants technical questions about the flight that the flight attendants found suspicious,” according to a summary of the FBI case files.

“When the plane was in flight, al-Qudhaeein asked where the bathroom was; one of the flight attendants pointed him to the back of the plane,” it added. “Nevertheless, al-Qudhaeein went to the front of the plane and attempted on two occasions to enter the cockpit.”

The pilots were so spooked by the Saudi passengers and their aggressive behavior that they made an emergency landing in Ohio. On the ground there, police handcuffed them and took them into custody. Though the FBI later questioned them, it decided not to pursue prosecution.

The FBI also confirmed that Qudhaeein’s and Shalawi’s airline tickets for the pre-9/11 dry run was paid for by the Saudi Embassy.

Former Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, who has no doubt spent recent days lobbying members of Congress and done much damage control once held a news conference at the Saudi Embassy in Washington where he declared, “The matter is now finished.”

Is it really? Or will everyone on Saudi payrolls now deflect the blame and blame Iran? Can they really hide their stench forever?