Abdulrahman Ali Al-Harbi with Azzam with Saudi diplomat Azzam bin Abdel Karim in a Boston hospital
Even as our focus remains on the manhunt for the second Chechen suspect, this Saudi story still simmers ....
This week's syndicated column
After the FBI rescheduled another postponed briefing on the Boston Marathon Massacre for 8 p.m. on Wednesday night – and then canceled that one, too – that was it. I was going to give the news circus a rest until morning.
Came the dawn I heard that terrorism expert Steven Emerson had dropped a bombshell Wednesday night on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program. Emerson reported that Abdulrahman Ali Alharbi, the Saudi national first identified as a “person of interest” and then downgraded, like a tropical storm, to “witness,” would be deported from the United States “on national security grounds.” This, Emerson added, “is very unusual.”
Yes. But also no. Amid similar conditions – a terrorist attack, an ongoing investigation and Saudi diplomatic pressure – we have seen Saudi nationals spirited out of the country en masse in the past rather than be exposed to any part of an investigative process.
I refer, of course, to the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, when, following a private meeting on Sept. 13 between President George W. Bush and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, “something strange began to happen,” as former Florida Sen. Bob Graham writes in his 2004 book “Intelligence Matters.” (As Senate Intelligence committee chairman, Graham co-chaired the Congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11.)
“Although the FAA had ordered all private flights grounded, a number of planes began flying to collect Saudi nationals from various parts of the United States.” Within a week, Graham continues, 140 Saudis, including members of the bin Laden family, had been flown out of the country without ever having to answer a single question about anything.
What’s almost worse is that for nearly three years, as Graham reports, “the White House and other agencies insisted that these flights never took place.” Bush lied, Saudis flied.
It seems beyond question that such Saudi collusion will be omitted from the archives at the George W. Bush library, which opens later this month in Texas – thanks to $500 million from anonymous donors.
But such collusion was just the beginning of the perfidious role the Bush administration played to strong-arm and block the investigation of Saudi involvement in 9/11 – a role that now makes me deeply regret voting for President Bush, particularly in 2004. The Bush administration cover-up would climax with the redaction of a 28-page chapter of the 9/11 Commission report regarding foreign, particularly Saudi, support for some of the al-Qaida hijackers.
We, the People, still can’t read those redacted pages – and, as Bob Graham wrote last Sept. 11 in a plea to re-open the 9/11 inquiry, they “represent only a fraction of the evidence of Saudi complicity that our government continues to shield from the public.”
I return to this unhealed wound in our recent past to make a point. The attacks of 9/11 and the Boston bombing may prove to have nothing to do with each other – except insofar as tearing our civilizational fabric in ways that can never be mended. But once again, the Saudi hold over the U.S. government has been exposed.
Eerie parallels with 9/11 go beyond the very special treatment seemingly accorded to 20-year-old Alharbi, who, as Walid Shoebat has reported at his essential website, Shoebat.com, comes from a Saudi clan that proudly claims many al-Qaida members and Gitmo prisoners to its name.
It was Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal who, the New York Times reported, “hurriedly” flew to Washington in 2003 to meet with President Bush over Saudi concerns that classified sections of a released congressional report linked senior Saudi officials to the 9/11 attacks. As noted, these sections and more remain under government lock-and-key.
This week, it was Prince Saud again, at age 73 still foreign minister, who was visiting Washington. His photo-op with Secretary of State John Kerry, scheduled for the Tuesday morning after the Boston bombings, was abruptly canceled due to “scheduling” concerns – an alibi openly derided during a State briefing by the Associated Press’ Matt Lee. A closed meeting, however, took place. “Let me provide a readout of the meeting for all of you,” State spokesman Patrick Ventrell schoolmarmishly intoned, likely driving Lee’s acid skepticism.
Later that same day, Alharbi, whose startling clan ties alone bear painstaking scrutiny, went from “person of interest” to “witness.”
On Wednesday, Reuters reported that President Obama held an unscheduled meeting with both Prince Saud and Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir at the White House.
That night, Emerson dropped his bombshell about Alharbi’s hasty deportation.
I can’t connect these dots. I can’t predict whether Alharbi will be deported in the end. But I lay them out there for posterity before they vanish in the rush to the next story, because the fact remains we seem to be reliving disturbing patterns from our past, even down to some pretty unusual details.
After 9/11, there was a lethal (still unsolved) anthrax attack. After the Boston bombings, two ricin-laced letters were intercepted en route to Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and President Obama. (A suspect, Paul Kevin Curtis, has been arrested.)
After 9/11, Mohamed Atta’s father made the news by attesting to his son’s non-participation in the attacks, even insisting that he was still alive. Yesterday, Alharbi’s father made news by criticizing the media for reporting that his son had come under suspicion.Another coincidence: Both attacks were preceded by intensive efforts in Washington to legalize illegal aliens. Of course, in 2001, we were talking about 3 million illegal aliens, and in 2013 the baseline is 11 million. This surge is largely because Bush never secured the border (another reason I wish I hadn’t voted for him).
All coincidence aside, there is a crucial question our recent experience compels us to ask: Is a Saudi cover-up happening again?