Monday, July 01, 2013 5:02 AM
My latest piece for Dispatch International:
Veteran Democratic senator demands new investigation, blames Bush and Obama administrations.
WASHINGTON DC. After September 11, 2001, Sen. Bob Graham (Florida Democrat) co-chaired Congress’s 2002 investigation into the catastrophic Al-Qaeda attacks that killed 3,000 Americans. Today, nearly a dozen years later, Graham, now retired from the Senate, believes the investigation should be re-opened to pursue evidence that the Bush administration and, more recently, the Obama administration have withheld crucial evidence from the American people linking Saudi Arabia to the attacks.
This isn’t really anything new for Graham, who in 2004 published a book about Congress’s inquiry (which was separate from the 9/11 Commission investigation). It’s called Intelligence Matters: The CIA, the FBI, Saudi Arabia and the Failure of America’s War on Terror, and it lays out evidence of stonewalling and complicity on the part of the Bush administration to hide or minimize any official Saudi role, or evidence of Saudi networks in the US that provided support for the hijackers.
Example: While private flights were still grounded after 9/11, 140 Saudis, including members of Osama bin Laden’s family, were permitted to fly and ultimately leave the country without being questioned by the FBI. Another example: It was only in spite of FBI stonewalling that congressional investigators uncovered evidence of a Saudi support network in Southern California. This San Diego cell assisted Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar in the run-up to their hijacking American Airlines Flight 77 and crashing it into the Pentagon.
There was at least one other Saudi support network, but Americans didn’t hear about it until around the tenth anniversary of 9/11 in 2011. That was when Dan Christiansen and Anthony Summers published in the BrowardBulldog.org, an Internet news site based in Florida, an account of a Sarasota, Florida cell with links to Al-Qaeda ring-leader Mohammed Atta and other jihadists. This Saudi cell was based in a home inside a gated community known as Prestancia. There lived two Saudi couples: Abdul-Aziz al-Hijji, his wife Anoud, their small children and her parents, Esam and Deborah Ghazzawi. At least, that’s where they all lived until on or around August 30, 2001.
Less than two week before the Al-Qaeda attacks, the Saudis fled, abandoning the premises and everything in it: recently registered cars, food, clothes, and furniture. After the 9/11 attacks, neighbors notified the FBI about their abrupt disappearance. The FBI investigated.
Esam Ghazzawi, it turned out, had been an adviser to a senior figure in the Saudi government, Prince Fahd bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, nephew of King Fahd. Known in pre-9/11 America as the owner of the Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem, Salman would later be identified by a senior Al-Qaeda honcho as an Al-Qaeda financier. In July 2002, Salman would die prematurely and in strange circumstances – and within days of the equally premature and strange deaths of two other senior princes similarly identified as Al-Qaeda financiers.
No intelligence agency, however, brought the Sarasota investigation to the attention of Congress‘s Joint Inquiry, or to the 9/11 Commission, as they were supposed to. So says Bob Graham, who also attests that he didn’t hear of the Sarasota Saudis until the BrowardBulldog.org reporters told him about them in 2011.
“The FBI’s failure to tell the Inquiry about the Sarasota investigation was similar to its failure to provide information linking the September 11 hijackers to other Saudis in California”, Graham, 76, recently wrote in a sworn declaration attached to Freedom of Information Act lawsuit the BrowardBulldog.org is bringing against the FBI and the Justice Department.
The news organization seeks more records not only to determine what evidence the FBI uncovered about the Sarasota Saudis and their possible ties to Saudi officials, but also “whether the FBI, in order to protect the Saudi government or for other reasons, concealed or withheld such evidence from Congress, other U.S. government officials responsible for investigating the 9/11 attacks, the American public and news media”.
The FBI, meanwhile, insists it provided Congress and the 9/11 Commission with its Sarasota investigation – a statement that Graham specifically rejects as “not credible”.
“I am troubled by what appears to me to be a persistent effort by the FBI to conceal from the American people information concerning possible Saudi support of the 9/11 attacks,” Graham said.
Graham also pointed out that the FBI’s failure to call attention to “documents finding ‘many connections’ between Saudis living in the United States and individuals associated with the terrorist (attacks) … interfered with the Inquiry’s ability to complete its mission.”
The FBI seeks to dismiss the case.
On what grounds?
Providing the documents in question, the FBI maintains, could be damaging to national security.