The infamous “28 pages”, as they have come to be known, were released last week. Classified since the rest of the 9/11 commission report was published well over ten years ago, they provide further evidence of Saudi Arabia’s hand in funding the terrorists which shook the very foundation of America. As the families of 9/11 victims fight on to bring those guilty of their deaths to justice, these 28 pages may prove critical to their success.
The pages give a substantial analysis of the relations between two of the 9/11 hijackers and alleged Saudi intelligence officers in the United States that “may have ties to Usama Bin Ladin’s terrorist network.” Al-Bayoumi and Bassnan, the two agents in question, helped hijackers al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar settle in the United States.
Bayoumi was “in frequent contact with the Emir at the Saudi Ministry of Defense, responsible for air traffic control”, and also “received $20,000 from the Saudi Ministry of Finance at one point.” He also kept in contact with several people at Saudi Arabia’s DC embassy, L.A. consulate, and cultural mission in DC. For a job he only showed up to once, he received a monthly salary and allowances from the Saudi Ministry of Defense through a company called “Erean.” In the post-9/11 investigation, FBI documents would find that he had “extensive ties to the Saudi Government.”
Bassnan had met the hijackers through Bayoumi, who he says he had known for a very long time. Living in the apartment complex across the street from Hazmi and Mihdar, he made claims to the FBI that he did even more than Bayoumi to help them. Bassnan cashed a check for $15,000 in May of 1998 from Prince Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States. Bassnan’s wife cashed most of the check from Bandar and his wife, Princess Haifa. In January of 1998, she received a check for $10,000 from Haifa. Then from February 1999 to May 2002, she cashed checks totaling $74,000. At least one more check came directly from Bandar. In March of 2002, coalition forces found the phonebook of a senior al-Qaeda operational coordinator. In it, an unlisted number to the umbrella company for Ambassador Bandar’s residence in Colorado.
Some of the millions raised to support terrorist networks are believed to have come from Saudi Arabia and laundered by a mosque in Los Angeles and an Islamic Center in San Diego. According to a former FBI agent involved in the investigation, these avenues may have allowed the Saudi Government to provide al-Qaeda with funding. The FBI identified the mosque as a site of “extremist-related activity” before 9/11.
The report finds that Saudi embassies in Asia donated over $330,000 in cash to charitable organizations linked to “terrorist support activities”. Other organizations are also brought up.
Other smaller instances of Saudi interaction with terrorists are detailed in the document.
In Plain Sight
It’s not like all of this jumped out of nowhere for the FBI after 9/11. The FBI received half a dozen reports, one specifically described as a reliable source, that al-Bayoumi might be a Saudi intelligence officer. It held an investigation when he received $400,000 from Saudi Arabia to help fund a new mosque in San Diego, but closed it after one year in 1999. Way back in 1993, the FBI was aware that Bassnan hosted a party at his DC residence for the Blind Sheik , an Egyptian terrorist leader that was responsible for the killing of 1,100 during terror attacks that same year, and the Luxor Massacre that killed 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians. In what is now seen as a dry run to test airline security, two men flying to a party at the Saudi embassy in DC on tickets paid for by the embassy twice attempted to enter the airplane cockpit. An investigation found both had links to terrorism. How could so much go unnoticed?
The fatal flaw seems to be that “prior to September 11th, the FBI apparently did not focus investigative resources on [redacted] Saudi nationals in the United States due to Saudi Arabia’s Status as an American ally.”
Our Beloved Ally
Ah yes, Saudi Arabia, the ISIS that made it, our old friend. Rich in oil, brutally lashing and beheading criminals, willing to let the U.S. launch offensive wars from its sands, unwilling to end a bombing campaign against the Yemeni people–it has been a romantic relationship of love, deceit, and dependence. With few to call friends in the Middle East, the United States has stuck with them through it all, and President Obama is not willing to risk it over some trivial matter like holding parties responsible for their role in the 9/11 attacks.
Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which the Senate passed by unanimous voice vote in May, does just what it says it does. Next, it goes to the House after the summer recess. If passed, it will make tweaks to the law from 1976 that gives foreign governments immunity to many sorts of lawsuits in U.S. courts. If JASTA passes, the families of 9/11 victims could take Saudi Arabia to court over its connections to the hijackers. These 28 pages would be an indispensable asset to a prosecutor.
It’s common knowledge that President Obama likes to reach across the aisle to Republicans. In 2008, he ran his campaign on that message (among many other things), saying that he would “turn the page on the ugly partisanship in Washington, so we can bring Democrats and Republicans together to pass an agenda that works for the American people.” From Bernie Sanders to Ted Cruz, JASTA has unusually bipartisan support. It looks like a tremendous opportunity for that bipartisanship he strives for, and the American people would be the obvious benefactors. Despite this, the White House has signaled that the President would veto the legislation upon arrival at his desk.
Saudi Arabia, which has long denied any hand in the attacks, has threatened to sell as much as $750 billion in U.S. securities and other assets if it becomes law. U.S.-Saudi relations have soured over the past year as we somewhat diffused tensions with Iran back from either invasion or nuclear war through the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran Deal). Obama was reminded of this when he made what was likely the last visit of his presidency to Saudi Arabia, where the usual pleasantry for the cameras was as far as the warmth extended.
For an ally with evidence of involvement in 9/11, an outrageous human rights record, and is an inflammatory force in regional relations at best, we must ask ourselves where the line will be drawn for exceptions and forgiveness. Is that line beyond the lives of American citizens? If so, I beg the question: will the line be drawn?