Sunday, September 5, 2004

Bush – Saudi Link Investigation Blocked

According to a new book written by Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), the Bush administration and the F.B.I. blocked an investigation into the links between the Saudi government and two of the 9/11 hijackers.

Two of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers had a support network in the United States that included agents of the Saudi government, and the Bush administration and FBI blocked a congressional investigation into that relationship, Sen. Bob Graham wrote in a book to be released Tuesday.

The discovery of the financial backing of the two hijackers “would draw a direct line between the terrorists and the government of Saudi Arabia, and trigger an attempted coverup by the Bush administration,” the Florida Democrat wrote.

And in Graham’s book, Intelligence Matters, obtained by The Herald Saturday, he makes clear that some details of that financial support from Saudi Arabia were in the 27 pages of the congressional inquiry’s final report that were blocked from release by the administration, despite the pleas of leaders of both parties on the House and Senate intelligence committees.

[…]

Graham, who was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee from June 2001 through the buildup to the Iraq war, voted against the war resolution in October 2002 because he saw Iraq as a diversion that would hinder the fight against al Qaeda terrorism.

He oversaw the Sept. 11 investigation on Capitol Hill with Rep. Porter Goss, nominated last month to be the next CIA director. According to Graham, the FBI and the White House blocked efforts to investigate the extent of official Saudi connections to two hijackers.

Graham wrote that the staff of the congressional inquiry concluded that two Saudis in the San Diego area, Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Bassan, who gave significant financial support to two hijackers, were working for the Saudi government.

Al-Bayoumi received a monthly allowance from a contractor for Saudi Civil Aviation that jumped from $465 to $3,700 in March 2000, after he helped Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhdar — two of the Sept. 11 hijackers — find apartments and make contacts in San Diego, just before they began pilot training.

When the staff tried to conduct interviews in that investigation, and with an FBI informant, Abdussattar Shaikh, who also helped the eventual hijackers, they were blocked by the FBI and the administration, Graham wrote.

The administration and CIA also insisted that the details about the Saudi support network that benefited two hijackers be left out of the final congressional report, Graham complained.

Bush had concluded that “a nation-state that had aided the terrorists should not be held publicly to account,” Graham wrote. “It was as if the president’s loyalty lay more with Saudi Arabia than with America’s safety.”

Saudi officials have vociferously denied any ties to the hijackers or al Qaeda plots to attack the United States.

Graham ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination and then decided not to seek reelection to the Senate this year. He has said he hopes his book will illuminate FBI and CIA failures in the war on terrorism and he also offers recommendations on ways to reform the intelligence community.

[…]

In his book, Graham is especially critical of the FBI for its inability to track al Qaeda operatives in the United States and blasts the CIA for “politicizing intelligence.”

He reserves his harshest criticism for Bush.

Graham found the president had “an unforgivable level of intellectual — and even common sense — indifference” toward analyzing the comparative threats posed by Iraq and al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

When the weapons were not found, one year after the invasion of Iraq, Bush attended a black-tie dinner in Washington, Graham recalled. Bush gave a humorous speech with slides, showing him looking under White House furniture and joking, “Nope, no WMDs there.”

Graham wrote: “It was one of the most offensive things I have witnessed. Having recently attended the funeral of an American soldier killed in Iraq, who left behind a young wife and two preschool-age children, I found nothing funny about a deceitful justification for war.” [Miami Herald]

If this was from anyone else, I’d call out the tin-foil hat brigade minders. But Bob Graham is not known for his flights of fancy and fantasy and, as we all know, he keeps meticulous records. His charges are not to be dismissed lightly. But I wonder how long it’s going to take for anyone in the mainstream media to take this seriously. We shall see.