(MintPress)—Former Senators Bob Graham (D-FL) and Bob Kerrey (D-NE) recently issued sworn statements in support of a 10-year old lawsuit filed by the families of Sept. 11 victims who claim that the government of Saudi Arabia may have played a bigger role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks than originally thought. Despite allegations accusing Saudi Arabia […]
(MintPress)—Former Senators Bob Graham (D-FL) and Bob Kerrey (D-NE) recently issued sworn statements in support of a 10-year old lawsuit filed by the families of Sept. 11 victims who claim that the government of Saudi Arabia may have played a bigger role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks than originally thought.
Despite allegations accusing Saudi Arabia of aiding and abetting terrorists including 9/11 hijackers (15 of which came from Saudi Arabia), the United States continues to side with the Saudi government instead of with its own American people who are seeking justice for one of the worst terrorist attacks ever to occur on U.S. soil.
The plaintiffs, who are suing the Saudi government and various Saudi princes and charities for allegedly funding al Qaeda, hope the Senators’ affidavits filed in a New York federal court last week will reverse claims that the 9/11 Commission had exonerated any connection between Saudi Arabia and September 11th.
Senator Kerrey, who served on the 9/11 Commission, believes Saudi Arabia is wrong to assume it has been exonerated from involvement in the 9/11 attacks. “Stated simply,” said Kerrey, “the 9/11 Commission did not have the time, opportunity or resources to pursue all potentially relevant evidence on that important question, and the American public deserves a more comprehensive inquiry into the issue.”
Senator Graham, former chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on 9/11, stated, “I am convinced that there was a direct line between at least some of the terrorists who carried out the September 11th attacks and the government of Saudi Arabia.” Graham also served as co-chairman of the Joint Inquiry of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees into the investigation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Evidence of Saudi Involvement in Terrorism
Saudi Arabia has been suspected of financing, both directly and indirectly, several known terrorists over the years. According to Graham, a “Saudi government agent living in the United States, Omar al Bayoumi, provided direct assistance to September 11th hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar.”
Graham also believes that “another issue deserving of further attention and investigation concerns the involvement of Saudi based charities in the provision of financial and other support of al Qaeda, and the precise character of the relationships between those charities and the government of the Kingdom.”
A report by the group, 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism, in collaboration with Motley Rice law firm, outlined a history of activities linking Saudi Arabian based charities to several terrorist activities.
The report quoted a 1998 U.S. News & World Report in which Dick Gannon, former deputy director for operations in the State Department’s Office of Counterterrorism, reported, “We’ve got information about whose backing bin Laden, and in a lot of cases it goes back to the royal family. There are certain factions of the Saudi royal family who just don’t like us.”
A 1996 CIA report alleged that the Muslim World League (MWL), affiliated with the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), was financed largely by the Government of Saudi Arabia. The report claimed to “have evidence that even high ranking members of the collecting or monitoring agencies in Saudi Arabia…such as the Saudi High Commission are involved in illicit activities, including support for terrorists.”
According to the 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism, “The report illustrates that the U.S. government has long known about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s links to terrorist financing, and that by the mid-1990s, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was actively involved with financing Islamic charities which funneled substantial resources to transnational terrorist groups.”
Also in 1996, the Saudi royal family allegedly met in secret with bin Laden operatives at the Royal Monceau Hotel in Paris to seal a $300 million deal, which would ensure that al Qaeda would not attack targets within Saudi Arabia. Among those reportedly in attendance were Osama bin Laden, Saudi and Syrian arms dealers, the brother of King Fahd, and several wealthy Saudi businessmen.
U.S. Still Sides With Saudi Arabia
Despite the mounting evidence and accusations that Saudi Arabia has been involved in terrorist financing in the past, possibly in connection with 9/11, the United States continues to support Saudi Arabia as a strong ally in the “war on terror.”
Kenneth L. Wainstein, senior national security official in the George W. Bush administration, told the New York Times that, “the United States and the Saudis have developed strong counterterrorism cooperation over the last decade, and that relationship will not be undermined.”
The U.S. Department of Justice openly advocates on behalf of Saudi Arabia for dismissal of the lawsuit on grounds of foreign immunity, claiming certain exceptions to the law do not apply to Saudi Arabia. In a brief filed by the United States on behalf of Saudi Arabia, the DOJ said, “The terrorism exception contains, however, a critical political check. Such claims can only be brought against a country that has been ‘designated as a state sponsor of terrorism’ by the Secretary of State…Saudi Arabia has never been so designated.”
The USDOJ is also accused to forcing Motley Rice law firm to destroy evidence linking Saudi Arabia to terrorist financing. In a 2008 letter to Motley Rice, the DOJ asks the law firm to, “please confirm in writing that you have turned over all originals and all copies of the identified Documents, whether in electronic or paper form, and that any materials derived from the identified Documents, such as attorney notes or drafts, have been destroyed.” The documents in question were classified materials leaked to the lawyers anonymously.
Despite the fact that 15 out of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, the Saudi government continues to deny any involvement or knowledge of terrorist activities. “It’s an absolute tragedy what happened to them, and I understand their anger,” Mr. Kellogg, one of the lawyers representing Saudi Arabia, said of the victims’ families. “They want to find those responsible, but I think they’ve been disserved by their lawyers by bringing claims without any merit against the wrong people.”
The U.S. position in support of Saudi Arabia comes as no surprise to economic analysts like Steve Rattner, former lead auto advisor in the U.S. Treasury Department under President Obama, who believe the government would prefer not to know about Saudi involvement in terrorist activities. “The suspicion has always been there,” said Rattner of alleged Saudi involvement in 9/11. However, “the Saudis supply over 10 percent of the world’s oil…they are a critical ally in the Middle East in many ways and there are some things you just don’t want to know and I think this process may reflect a bit of that…”
U.S. allegiance to Saudi Arabia is based on the need for oil security and the desire to support the Saudis in a regional power struggle against the perceived threat of Iran. If President Obama were to side with the families of 9/11 victims in the current lawsuit, the United States would risk losing diplomatic clout in the Middle East and be forced to confront years of complicity in alleged Saudi support of terrorism.
In November, an appellate court reversed a previous decision that claimed foreign nations were immune from lawsuits under certain terrorism claims since Saudi Arabia is not on the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list. The reversal of this decision has paved the way for the case to be reheard in United States District Court in Manhattan this year to further examine allegations made by families of 9/11 victims against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.