WASHINGTON – Innocent people jumping out of windows hundreds of feet to their certain deaths on live television. Skyscrapers falling. The nation’s capital and its biggest city under attack. America had never seen anything like Sept. 11, 2001.
When Pearl Harbor was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, there was no doubt as to who was the culprit. America declared war on Japan the next day. And, after the Sept. 11 attacks, the world quickly learned 19 hijackers had turned four commercial airliners into missiles and 15 of the gang were citizens of Saudi Arabia.
But 13 years after that fateful autumn day, there are still questions about who planned and financed the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Questions, especially, about the role of the Saudis.
Actually, former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., who co-chaired the joint Senate-House investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks, has no doubt, having told a court, “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 made the remarks in an affidavit filed in a lawsuit brought by families of 9/11 victims against the government of Saudi Arabia.
But the details haven’t been made public yet, because of the extensive redactions in the official 9/11 report that was released, a move during the administration of George W. Bush that Graham calls a “cover-up.”
For what it called reasons of “national security,” the Bush administration removed 28 pages of the bipartisan “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001” that was published in 2002.
That move could boomerang.
“If it (the 28 pages) came out it would be devastating to some Republicans who are thinking about running for president. I think that’s one reason there’s been a drive not release it,” Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, told WND.
Although Stockman declined to identify which potential candidates he was referring to, a well-placed source in the Republican party told WND it undoubtedly included Jeb Bush, the former president’s brother and former governor of Florida.
Stockman did add that he thought the decision to keep the pages classified was due more to politics than security.
And a deeper look shows if the Bushes did have reasons for wanting to keep some details secret, President Obama may also have his own reasons to keep the pages under wraps.
A bill sponsored by Walter Jones, R-N.C., and Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., urging the president to release the 28 redacted pages to the public is gaining new momentum as the 13th anniversary of the attacks approaches.
Stockman, who co-sponsored the bill, told WND, “It is important people see it. It is a bipartisan push release those documents.”
He also found a practical reason to release the classified section of the report: to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, some of which, he said, were outlined in the documents.
“And citizens have a right to know what the mistakes were,” he added. “Law enforcement also deserves to know what mistakes not to repeat. Ignoring facts never is helpful.”
Although the 28 pages are classified, much of their contents has been reported over the years, and some have found the information shocking.
In 2003, the New York Times reported the investigation found Saudi officials may have given money to the hijackers. Sources told the Times the report suggests Saudi national Omar al-Bayoumi, ostensibly employed as a civil aviation contractor in San Diego, was actually working with Saudi intelligence.
Graham said he was certain Bayoumi “was an agent of the government of Saudi Arabia.” And, according to the Times, an FBI agent in San Diego also thought the Bayoumi was a Saudi intelligence officer.
The paper said the report found “despite the fact that he was a student, Bayoumi had access to seemingly unlimited funding from Saudi Arabia.”
The Times also said the report urged further investigation of whether he and another Saudi national had any involvement in the Sept. 11 plot.
When asked if he was concerned the Saudis may have financed the hijackers or the planners, Stockman replied, “I think what’s been publicly written shows there is some concern that was the case.”
If members of the Saudi government did in fact assist the hijackers, would that not be an act of war on the U.S.?
The congressman, who declined to say whether he had read the redacted pages, also declined to address that question directly, telling WND, “I can talk about what’s going on right now.”
“The administration is meeting with the Saudis regarding the current financing of ISIS and other groups whose actions, quite frankly, are as detrimental to the Saudi government as they are to the United States,” said the congressman. “And that has, apparently, been going on for many years.”
The Saudis have been problematic for U.S. policymakers because they are considered America’s allies against terrorism, yet they also sponsor schools, or madrassas, around the world that teach extreme Islamic fundamentalism, with some even reportedly recruiting children to wage a holy war against the West.
That problem is resurfacing, with the Saudis asking for U.S. help in combating the threat caused by ISIS.
Clare Lopez, a Mideast analyst, recently told WND regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey “enabled a monster in ISIS” they can no longer control, and suggested they “be allowed to reap what they’ve sown.”
WND asked Stockman if it was his understanding that the Saudis and other Mideast states initially sponsored ISIS in Syria as a way to counter growing Iranian influence, until the terrorist army started threatening the Saudis and other countries in the region?
“The current threat was financed not just by the Saudis but also, I understand, by Qatar,” the congressman who serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs told WND.
Interestingly, he added, “Quite frankly, even the Syrians were OK with ISIS because it served their argument that these (jihadist) groups were the ones taking over their country. In fact, both ISIS and the Syrian government were targeting the democracy supporters.”
Stockman said a problem arose when the U.S. got involved because, “We started helping whatever group was going to kill (Syrian President Bashir) al-Assad. Afterwards, we probably realized that wasn’t the best approach.”
At a wreath-laying ceremony at the former site of the World Trade Center on May 5, 2011, Obama reportedly told relatives of Sept. 11 victims he would release the 28 redacted pages of the report, but he never has.
“I think now would be an appropriate time to release it, in light of everything that’s going on. I think it would be helpful,” said a soft-spoken Stockman.
When the Bush administration had the pages redacted in 2002 officials said it was necessary because investigators were still using the information to hunt down terrorists. That was 12 years ago. Stockman told WND he did not think that reasoning still applied.
Jones, the bill’s sponsor, agreed and told Vice News last month he did not believe releasing the information would jeopardize lives.
“If it was a national security issue, I would tell you up front,” he said. “I believe when a nation is attacked by a foreign element that those people who lost loved ones, as well as the American people, have a right to know who was involved in that attack.”
As to whether the release might embarrass anyone, he said, “If it steps on somebody’s toes, then I’m sorry.”
Washington observers have speculated as to why Obama may be reluctant to release the redacted pages.
One theory is the president is reluctant because his administration has redacted so much information in the many requests for documents in its many scandals, such as the IRS targeting of conservatives, the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, and Obamacare.
The theory is the president might fear setting a precedent in which the president who follows him might release information Obama has redacted.
Among those interested in seeing public release of the full report is the Saudi government, which has always denied any involvement in the attacks.
In 2003, the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar bin Sultan said, “Al Qaida is a cult that is seeking to destroy Saudi Arabia as well as the United States. By what logic would we support a cult that is trying to kill us?”
But doubts persist by people who have seen the classified information.
“Follow the money,” said Graham, who maintains the redacted pages describe the financing of the attacks, adding, “That will illuminate other significant aspects of 9/11.”
“I’ve said this since the first classification of the 28 pages,” he exclaimed. “It’s become more and more inexplicable as to why two administrations have denied the American people information that would help them better understand what happened on 9/11.”
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