Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The 28 Pages: Part Two

You can find Part One here.


In addition to its lengthy discussion regarding connections between Bayoumi and Bassnan (discussed in Part One) with two of the hijackers, the Joint Inquiry also reported on a number on other suspicious activities:

Potential Official Saudi / Terrorist Connections

A Saudi national "with close ties to the Saudi Royal Family" was reportedly checking border security in the southwest U.S with an eye to infiltrating individuals into the country,

When senior Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaida was captured, he had the unlisted phone number of a Saudi company that managed Ambassador Bandar's residence in Aspen, Colorado.

Another number found at a Pakistan safe house used by Bin Laden, was that of a Saudi who provided services to personal assistants of Ambassador Bandar.

Two Saudi nationals were suspected, in retrospect after 9-11, of making a hijacking "dry run" and acting very suspiciously on an America West flight in 1999, using tickets they claimed were paid by the Saudi Embassy.  One of the nationals was suspected by the FBI to be a Saudi intelligence agent and both were found to have connections with terrorists.

Several Saudi naval officers were in frequent contact with hijackers Mihdhar and Hazmi.

According to the FBI, there was also evidence that two other hijackers, Mohammed Atta (the leader of the group) and Marwan al-Shehhi, had contact, while in the U.S., with an individual known to be a close associate of Abdullah Bin Laden, Osama's half-brother, who worked as an administrative officer at the Saudi embassy in Washington and had known terrorist connections.

Saudi Involvement in Extremist Religious and Charitable Institutions

According to CIA, FBI and Treasury officials, the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation HIF) had ties to the Saudi Government and was providing financial and logistical support to Al Qaeda.  Bayoumi (see Part One) also corresponded with HIF.  Treasury's General Counsel testified to the Joint Inquiry:
It is, of course, the largest, I think the largest Islamic charity in the world . . . Its direct overseers re members of the [Saudi] Royal Family; significant contributors are members of the Royal Family  . . . but in significant branch offices yet to be designated and under current investigation, we have ample evidence that large cash amounts are being couriered to those branch offices, that large wire transfers of money are being sent to those offices, that a great deal of the money is being dissipated through misspending, unaccounted for, and finally, that those offices have significant contact with extremists, Islamic extremists.
[NOTE: In 2004 the founder of HIF was listed by Interpol - United Nations Security Council Special Notice as being associated with Al Qaeda and in September, 2004, the U.S. Treasury Department alleged a direct link between HIF and Bin Laden.]
The Saudi based Umm al-Qura Islamic Charitable Foundation (UQ) was also linked to terrorist support activities.  The Joint Inquiry reported that UQ couriers transmitted large amounts of cash from Saudi Embassies.

The report notes that the construction of the King Fahad mosque, built in 1998 in Culver City, California, was funded by Saudi Crown Prince Abdulaziz and the mosque "is attended by members of the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles and is widely known for its anti-Western views".  One of the imans at the mosque may have been an associate of the two hijackers, H and M (see Part One), and the two did attend the mosque.

There is also reference to the Islamic Assembly of North America (IANA), the mission of which, according to the FBI, is to spread Islamic fundamentalism and Salafist doctrine and was, at the time, the subject of a counterterrorist investigation.  IANA had wealthy Saudi benefactors and had solicited money from Prince Bandar but it was unclear whether he had contributed.

Lack of Saudi Government Cooperation

The Joint Inquiry notes that in testimony and interviews, FBI agents and CIA officers complained about a lack of Saudi cooperation in terrorism investigations before and after 9-11.  As an example it was noted that in May 2001 the U.S. notified the Saudis that it had become aware of an individual in Saudi Arabia who was in contact with Abu Zubaida, a key lieutenant of Osama bin Laden, and was most likely aware of an upcoming Al Qaeda operation.  The Saudis refused to try to locate him.  The Saudis were also uncooperative in providing access to Madani al-Tayyib, who managed Bin Ladin's finances when he was in the Sudan.

As further evidence of this lack of cooperation, the report mentions the case of bin Ladin's brother in law, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, an important Al Qaeda figure, arrested by the U.S. in 1994.  Sentenced to death in Jordan for a bombing, the U.S. extradited him to that country.  The Jordanians then returned him to the Saudis (the CIA believed they'd been bought off by them) who set him free.  As of the time of the report Khalifa, worked for a Riyadh based NGO and traveled freely.

According to the former chief of the CIA Counterterrorist Center, "it was clear from about 1996 that the Saudi Government would not cooperate with the United States on matters relating to Usama Bin Ladin".  The Joint Inquiry references a 1996 CIA memo stating that the Saudis stopped providing any assistance on Bin Ladin because he had "too much information about official Saudi dealing with Islamic extremists in the 1980s for Riyadh to deliver him into U.S. hands".

The Joint Inquiry was also concerned about the lack of coordination between U.S. intelligence agencies, noting in one instance:
The Committees are particularly concerned about the serious nature of allegations contained in a CIA memorandum found within the files of the FBI's San Diego Field Office.  That memorandum, which discussed alleged financial connections between the September 11 hijackers, Saudi Government officials, and members of the Saudi Royal Family, was drafted by a CIA officer [REDACTED], relying primarily on information from FBI files.
The CIA Officer provided the memo to the FBI agent responsible for investigation of one of the individuals named in the document.  The FBI agent filed it in the individual case file, but did not forward it to FBI headquarters "despite the clear national implications", and thus HQ remained unaware of the memo until the Joint Inquiry brought it to the attention of the FBI Director.

In 2016, the big questions are (1) whether the Saudi government is now cooperating fully with the U.S. on intelligence; (2) whether there are still suspected points of contact between Saudi officials and terrorist groups; and (3) whether the flow of Saudi funds in support of Wahhabi and Salafi Islam has been staunched.  On the last point, I am unaware of any evidence this funding has been stopped. 

No comments:

Post a Comment