Effort to Declassify Key Material on Saudis and 9/11 Attacks Edges Ahead

By Patrick Goodenough | February 10, 2015 | 4:29 AM EST

Billionaire Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal (Photo: Official Alwaleed bin Talal website)

(CNSNews.com) – With the Obama administration declining to comment on fresh claims of close ties between al-Qaeda and prominent Saudis in the run-up to 9/11, a congressional effort to prod the administration to declassify documents on the topic is gaining support – although at a glacial pace.

Among the Saudi royals reportedly implicated by convicted al-Qaeda terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui is Alwaleed bin Talal, a billionaire prince who is a leading investor in Fox News’ parent company, and whose largesse has benefited the likes of former President Jimmy Carter’s non-profit organization and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Others named by Moussaoui are two princes who both served as ambassadors to Washington and as heads of the Saudi intelligence agency – Bandar bin Sultan (ambassador to U.S. 1983-2005, intelligence chief 2012-2014) and Turki al-Faisal (ambassador to U.S. 2005-2006, intelligence chief 1977-2001).

Moussaoui’s testimony, given in the Colorado prison where he is serving a life sentence, forms part of a civil lawsuit filed by families of 9/11 victims.

After the testimony was filed in federal court in New York last week, the Saudi Embassy in Washington denied the allegations, calling Moussaoui “a deranged criminal.”

The explosive charges about top figures in the oil-rich U.S. ally have energized an initiative by a small group of lawmakers to have the administration declassify 28 redacted pages from a 2002 House and Senate report entitled “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.”

H.Res.14 was introduced last month by Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and now has six co-sponsors – Democratic Reps. Stephen Lynch (Mass.), John Conyers (Mich.), Alan Grayson (Fla), Mark Pocan (Wisc.) and Michael Capuano (Mass.); and Republican Rep. Thomas Massie (Ky.). A similar initiative in the last Congress failed to advance.

Appearing on Newsmax TV’s “Midpoint” program late last week, Jones said he has read the redacted section, “and I will tell you that it deals with relationships with foreign countries, and how they may have played into this attack on 9/11.”

When host Ed Berliner suggested Jones was pushing the issue because he believes that “there is a smoking gun there,” Jones agreed.

Asked whether release of the redacted material would “change relationships between America and Saudi Arabia,” Jones did not answer directly.

“I think our foreign policy under [Presidents] Bush and Obama have been failed policies to begin with,” he said. “I will say that hopefully this will help our government have a stronger foreign policy than we’ve had in the past.”

He added that he hoped the declassification “will help the American people understand the world we live in.”

Jones said he and Lynch wrote to Obama last April asking him to declassify the 28 pages and later heard that the matter was under review.

In the light of Moussaoui’s new allegations, White House press secretary Josh Earnest was asked during a press briefing last Thursday about the classified pages “that may or may not shed some light on this issue.”

He confirmed that the administration in response to a request last year had asked the intelligence community to review whether it would be appropriate to release the material.

The process was “ongoing” and he did not have a timeline for when it would be completed.

“I’m not going to comment on those assertions from somebody who, as you point out, has been convicted of very serious terrorism charges,” Earnest said, adding that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia “maintain a strong counter-terrorism relationship as a key element of our broad and strategic partnership.”

State Department spokeswomen Jen Psaki and Marie Harf during briefings both declined to comment on what they said was private litigation.

“We continue to maintain strong counter-terrorism cooperation with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Psaki said. “Our mutual cooperation includes information-sharing about shared threats from al-Qaeda and other violent extremist groups.”

‘Americans deserve the truth’

Almost 3,000 people were killed in the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon, and in rural Pennsylvania when Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001.

Fifteen of the 19 perpetrators were Saudis, as was bin Laden himself.

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama stand in a receiving line in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Saudi Press Agency)

Suspicions that senior Saudis were linked to the attack plot have simmered for years. Former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee from 2001-2003 – during which time the 2002 report was produced – has long called for the 28 pages of classified material to be released.

“Former Sen. Bob Graham is right!” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tweeted on Friday. “Release the 28 pages on Saudi financing and 9/11 attack. After 13 years, American people deserve the truth.”

The report, including appendices, is more than 800 pages long. The 28 pages are in a section entitled “Finding, discussion and narrative regarding certain sensitive national security matters.”

In the lead-up to the redacted section the report says: “It was not the task of this Joint Inquiry to conduct the kind of extensive investigation that would be required to determine the true significance of such alleged support to the hijackers.”

“On the one hand, it is possible that these kinds of connections could suggest, as indicated in a CIA memorandum, ‘incontrovertible evidence that there is support for these terrorists [redacted].’ On the other hand, it is also possible that further investigation of these allegations could reveal legitimate, and innocent, explanations for these associations.”

The 28 redacted pages then follow.

The 9/11 Commission report, released two years later, made no finding about governmental backing for the terror group before the attacks.

“It does not appear that any government other than the Taliban financially supported al-Qaeda before 9/11, although some governments may have contained al-Qaeda sympathizers who turned a blind eye to al-Qaeda’s fundraising activities,” it said.

“Saudi Arabia has long been considered the primary source of al-Qaeda funding, but we have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization. (This conclusion does not exclude the likelihood that charities with significant Saudi government sponsorship diverted funds to al-Qaeda.)”

‘Promote peace worldwide’

Alwaleed bin Talal, the Saudi prince reportedly named by Moussaoui as a key al-Qaeda patron, is chairman of Kingdom Holding Company (KHC), which owns 6.6 percent of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News.

Alwaleed bin Talal and Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of 21st Century Fox and executive chairman of News Corp., in New York. (Photo: Kingdom Holding Company)

(KHC formerly also owned 6.6 percent of Murdoch’s News Corp., whose titles include the Wall Street Journal, but last week announced it was decreasing its holdings.)

The Alwaleed bin Talal Foundation has been a leading donor to the Carter Center since 2002-3. It regularly appears in Carter Center annual reports, listed under “$100,000+ donors,” and under “donors with cumulative lifetime giving of $1 million or more.”

A September 2011 feature on the center’s website profiles the foundation, saying it is one of three “established by HRH Prince Alwaleed to promote peace worldwide, each working under the slogan Commitment Without Boundaries.”

A year after 9/11, a Saudi news report said Alwaleed had donated $500,000 to CAIR to finance a campaign “to defend Islam in the American society.”

It said the money, given to CAIR director Nihad Awad during a visit to the kingdom, would be used to buy books on Islam for American public libraries, and for a media campaign about the life of Mohammed.

Alwaleed’s millions also have funded interreligious dialogue efforts. In 2005 he donated $20 million to Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding – “the second largest single gift in Georgetown University history.”

The center was subsequently renamed “the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.”

A Saudi news report last month said Alwaleed had been named number one in several lists of the kingdom’s “most influential” personalities.


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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow