06.24.09 1:28 PM ET
Is Obama Protecting the Saudis?
Documents gathered by lawyers for the families of 9/11 victims reveal new evidence of extensive Saudi financial support for al Qaeda and other extremist Muslim groups. So reports today’s New York Times. But that evidence may never see the light of day because of legal and diplomatic hurdles.
Anyone who follows the Saudi-American relationship shouldn’t be surprised. And anyone hoping for an end to the deference with which Saudis were treated under George W. Bush, has every right to be disappointed that Barack Obama apparently did not include the Saudis' support of terror in his campaign promise of “change.”
Saudi asset al-Bayoumi gave the two 9/11 hijackers $40,000 to get settled in California, as a sign of “goodwill.”American investigators have been refused access to al-Bayoumi, who returned to the kingdom after the 9/11 attacks.
Incredibly, Obama’s Justice Department has sided with the Saudis rather than the 9/11 families. Government lawyers are urging the courts to stop any further investigation of the Saudis under the doctrine of “sovereign immunity” whereby a foreign government can’t be sued in an American court. Yet surely there should be exceptions—for example, if that government is financing some of the major terror cells around the globe. Not according to Justice’s lawyers.
Moreover, when the Justice Department learned that classified U.S. intelligence documents about Saudi financing had been leaked to the lawyers of victims' families, it demanded that these attorneys destroy the documents, and has been working hard to prevent the judge from even looking at the damning material.
These thousands of pages of new documents further prove and add new details to the charges of financing terror and extremism that I first leveled against the Saudi Royals in my book, Secrets of the Kingdom: The Inside Story of the Saudi-U.S. Connection. I reported that in the summer of 2003, FBI subpoenas for dozens of bank accounts, worth $300 million, belonging to the Saudi embassy in Washington, turned up evidence that $27 million in transactions were “suspicious,” including funds to charities, clerics, and Saudi students in the U.S., all of whom were under scrutiny for possible terror links.
In Secrets, I also described how the Saudis, post 9/11, had repeatedly blocked the efforts of the FBI and U.S. Treasury to stop the flow of money from the kingdom to suspected terror cells. And I reported that the Saudis have never explained how Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi intelligence asset whose duty was to keep watch on possible dissidents in Southern California, was linked to two of the 9/11 hijackers. Al-Bayoumi, who received $2,800 monthly from the Saudi Civil Aviation Authority (a job for which he never reported to work), “accidently” met two of the hijackers—Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf Alhazmi—the very day they arrived in the United States.
Moreover, he introduced them to another Saudi intelligence officer, Osama Bassnan, a radical who once hosted a party for Omar Abdel-Rahman, the “Blind Sheik” convicted of plotting a day of terror in New York City.
Al-Bayoumi gave the two 9/11 hijackers $40,000 to get settled in California, as a sign of “goodwill.” American investigators have been refused access to al-Bayoumi, who returned to the kingdom after the 9/11 attacks. Since then, the Treasury Department and FBI have been repeatedly stymied in their efforts to stop the flow of terror money from the kingdom, and the new documents further detail the extent of this activity. They include witness statements about a $267 million check from an emissary of Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal—the former chief of Saudi intelligence as well as ambassador to the U.S. in 2005 to 2006—given to a top Taliban leader in 1998. German intelligence has tracked tens of millions of dollars in bank transfers by top royals to charities suspected of financing terror in Pakistan and Bosnia.
The Bush administration failed the 9/11 families when it came to possible Saudi involvement. President Obama has talked a better game, but he has failed to deliver. In February, a month after taking office, Obama met personally with some of the victims’ families at the White House and heard their request to release a 28-page, classified section of a 2003 joint congressional inquiry into the September 11 attacks that discussed Saudi connections to the two hijackers. President Bush, at the Saudi government's request, had refused to release the pages. President Obama, according to the family representatives at the meeting, agreed to reverse that decision, but four months later they are still classified.
This past Monday, senior administration officials had a private meeting with some 9/11 family members, and repeatedly avoided answering questions about the lawsuit that has uncovered the new evidence about Saudi financing of international terror. Isn’t it time for the American president to stand with the victims of the attack rather than the House of Saud? Only by becoming an advocate for those who died in 9/11, can President Obama help reveal the truth.
Gerald Posner is the award-winning author of 10 investigative nonfiction bestsellers, ranging from political assassinations, to Nazi war criminals, to 9/11, to terrorism ( www.posner.com). Posner lives in Miami Beach with his wife, the author Trisha Posner.