The missing 28 pages

J. WESTON PHIPPEN AND MATT VASILOGAMBROS - JULY 15, 2016

The Atlantic

Some 9/11 hijackers had links to officials in the Saudi government, according to 28 formerly classified pages released Friday from the joint congressional investigation into the attack.

In 2002 a joint congressional investigation looked into possible intelligence failures that led to the attacks, but these 28 pages were kept classified, leading to speculation that they possessed details about Saudi links to the hijackers.

U.S. lawmakers had wanted to release the documents, but the FBI wanted the pages to remain classified—and indeed many details in the pages are redacted. As our colleague David Graham reported, former Senator Bob Graham of Florida, who chaired the Senate side of the congressional investigation, has tried to get the pages released for years. He has said there is no security reason for the U.S. government to keep them secret. And while he hasn’t been able to discuss what is in the pages because they were classified, he had promised “a real smoking gun.”

 

Note 1 (p. 6)

20. Finding: While in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with, and received support or assistance from, individuals who may be connected to the Saudi Government. There is information, primarily from FBI sources, that at least two of those individuals were alleged by some to be Saudi intelligence officers. The Joint Inquiry's review confirmed that the Intelligence Community also has information, much of which has yet to be independently verified, indicating that individuals associated with the Saudi Government in the United States may have other ties to al-Qa'ida and other terrorist groups. The FBI and CIA have informed the Joint Inquiry that, since the September 11 attacks, they are treating teh Saudi issue seriously, but both still have only a limited understanding of the Saudi Government's ties to terrorist elements. In their testimony, neither CIA nor FBI witnesses were able to identify definitively the extent of Saudi support for terrorist activity globally or within the United Staes and the extent to which such support, if it exists, is knowing or inadvertent in nature. The FBI's Washington Field

 

In 2002 a joint congressional investigation looked into possible intelligence failures that led to the attacks, but these 28 pages were kept classified, leading to speculation that they possessed details about Saudi links to the hijackers.

U.S. lawmakers had wanted to release the documents, but the FBI wanted the pages to remain classified—and indeed many details in the pages are redacted. As our colleague David Graham reported, former Senator Bob Graham of Florida, who chaired the Senate side of the congressional investigation, has tried to get the pages released for years. He has said there is no security reason for the U.S. government to keep them secret. And while he hasn’t been able to discuss what is in the pages because they were classified, he had promised “a real smoking gun.”

The pages that were released Friday appear to fall short of that promise—though they do raise questions about senior Saudi officials and their connections, sometimes tenuous, to some of the hijackers.  The pages allege that while some of the hijackers were in the U.S., they were in contact with, and at times received assistance from, people in the Saudi government, including two Saudi intelligence officers. Officials in the Saudi government, including members of the royal family and embassy staff, at times provided large sums of money, fake passports, and information to people assisting the hijackers while they were in the U.S., the pages allege.

 

Here’s an example:

   Bassnan also has other ties to the Saudi Government. Bassnan's wife received a monthly stipend from Princess Haifa. In a recent search of Bassnan's residence, the FBI located copies of 31 cashiers checks totaling $74, 000, during February 22, 1999 to May 30, 2002. These checks were payable to Bassnan's wife and were drawn o the Riggs Bank account of Prince Bandar's wife. The FBI has determined that there has been a standing order on Princess Haifa's account since January 1999 to send $2000 a month to Bassnan's wife. Bassnan's wife was alledgedly receiving the funding for "nursing services," but, accorind to the xxx document, there is no evidence that Bassnan's wife provided nursing services. xxxxxx

   On at least one occasion, Bassnan received a check directly from Prince Bandar's account. According to the FBI, on May 14, 1998, Bassnan cased a check from Bandar in the amount of $15,000. Bassnan's wife also received at leastone check direcly from Bandar. She also received on additional check from Bandar's wife, which she cashed on January 8, 1998 for $10,000.

 

Bandar, a close family friend of the Bushes, was Saudi ambassador to U.S. from 1983 to 2005.

The pages also criticize the intelligence shortfalls on the Saudi issue, saying:

 

In the view of the Joint Inquiry, this gap in U.S. intelligence coverage is unacceptable, given the magnitude and immediacy of the potential risk to U.S. national security.

 

Here's more:

 

In their testimony before the Joint Inquiry, neither the CIA nor the FBI was able to definitely identify for these Committees the extent of Saudi support for terrorist activity globally or within the United Staes and the extent to which such support, if it exists, is intentional or innocent in nature. Both the FBI and CIA have indicated to the Committees that they are now aggressively pursuing Saudi-related terrorism issues.

 

One reason for this, the report explains, may relate to Saudi Arabia’s status as a U.S. ally. Indeed, Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, said Friday the Obama administration does not think the release of the 28 pages “change conclusions about the 9/11 attacks.”

In a statement, the Saudi Embassy in Washington, said:

 

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia welcomes the release of the redacted pages from the 2002 Congressional Joint Inquiry. Since 2002, the 9/11 Commission and several government agencies, including the CIA and the FBI, have investigated the contents of the ‘28 Pages’ and have confirmed that neither the Saudi government, nor senior Saudi officials, nor any person acting on behalf of the Saudi government provided any support or encouragement for these attacks.

 

But the 9/11 Families in response said: “The Saudis are exerting extreme pressure on the Administration to protect themselves and to cajole Congress in hopes of avoiding the restoration of the long-held understanding of our law and setting good policy.  And this very exercise of unacceptable leverage by the Saudis over our Government is precisely what the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act was meant to prevent.”

The 9/11 Families also called for Congress to pass the Justice Against Sponsor of Terrorism Act, which would allow families of terrorist victims to sue foreign governments for damages in U.S. courts. The Saudis are opposed to the legislation and the White House has said the president will veto any attempt to pass it.