Survivors and family members of those lost or injured want no part of Biden if he doesn’t keep a campaign promise made in 2020.
Some 1,800 families and survivors directly impacted by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and most likely the U.S. Capitol or the White House ― United Flight 93, the plane that passengers took back over Pennsylvania ― are calling on President Joe Biden to skip the 20th-anniversary events in New York and Pennsylvania unless he releases documents they believe may reveal a link between Saudi Arabian leaders and the attacks.
New York City officials have been privately urging Biden to attend the anniversary events in their city. That follows the effort by the city to cancel last year’s event, supposedly due to the CCP virus but far more likely due to giving President Donald Trump a huge bump in the poles by his scheduled attendance.
Tunnels to Towers, a charity that provides mortgage-free homes for disabled or KIA first responders and military personnel, took over the ceremonies to make sure the fallen were honored.
Survivors and family members of those lost or injured, however, want no part of Biden if he doesn’t keep a campaign promise made in 2020. The group maintains Biden, as a presidential candidate, had agreed to release classified information, but has since ignored their letters and requests.
“We cannot in good faith, and with veneration to those lost, sick, and injured, welcome the president to our hallowed grounds until he fulfills his commitment,” the group of victims’ family members, first responders, and survivors wrote in a public statement.
“Since the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission in 2004 much investigative evidence has been uncovered implicating Saudi government officials in supporting the attacks. Through multiple administrations, the Department of Justice and the FBI have actively sought to keep this information secret and prevent the American people from learning the full truth about the 9/11 attacks.”
During a press briefing on August 20, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that President Biden “remains committed” to the pledge made to families of 9/11 victims to approve the release of documents detailing Saudi Arabia’s role in the attack. Psaki did not say, however, if or when the administration will release those documents.
It is an issue that is largely unfamiliar to the American public. It requires a lengthy examination of the history of these classified reports to understand why 9/11 survivors and families of those lost are so adamant about Biden not attending the landmark 20th anniversary events in New York City.
Ever since 19 men ― 15 of them Saudi nationals ― hijacked four airplanes and changed the course of American history, the possibility of official Saudi involvement has hung over the relationship between the two countries. It took 14 years for U.S. counterintelligence to come up with the connection.
The United States caught its first big al-Qaeda operative six months after the 9/11 terror attacks. The most disturbing clues to arise out of that arrest were phone numbers linked to the United States. In an overnight raid, Pakistani forces captured Abu Zubaydah, allegedly a recruiter for the terror group and a member of Osama bin Laden’s inner circle.
Declassified information from a 2002 congressional report on the 9/11 attacks, dubbed “The 28 pages,” reveals an indirect link previously hidden from the American public between the alleged al-Qaeda operative and a company associated with a key member of the Saudi royal family, former Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Bandar bin Sultan.
While the alleged association with Bandar revealed in those declassified pages does not provide direct evidence the prince was complicit in the 9/11 attacks, it raises disturbing questions about Saudi Arabia’s involvement.
The connection to Bandar was made through Zubaydah’s phone book, retrieved during the Pakistani raid in which he was taken. In it, the FBI found numbers linked to the United States, including an unlisted number for a company that managed Bandar’s estate in Aspen, Colorado. An unlisted number was also found for a bodyguard who worked at the Saudi Embassy in Washington.
“Both of those numbers were unpublished, so they had to have gotten into Zubaydah’s phone book through a personal contact who knew what those numbers were and what they represented,” said former Sen. Bob Graham, co-chair of the congressional commission that compiled the 28 pages, in a recent telephone interview with America’s Conservative Voice (ACV)..
The revelation about Bandar’s indirect ties to the al-Qaeda operative was one of the few pieces of important information contained in the declassified documents. The CIA and FBI, however, concluded that there was no evidence anyone from the Saudi royal family knowingly provided support for the 9/11 attacks.
Graham said the indirect connection to the respected former was “one of the most stunning parts of the investigation” and worthy of pursuing further.
Bandar was the Saudi ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005, during the Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. He later served as secretary general of Saudi Arabia’s National Security Council and head of Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Presidency, the equivalent of the CIA, until last year.
Bandar “was probably the most effective ambassador in Washington ever. Full stop,” former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel told ACV. “He was highly regarded by every president.”
The key Saudi royal figure was known to have the closest relationship with George H. W. Bush, because of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in the 1990 Gulf War. Saudi Arabia viewed the Iraqi aggression as a threat to Mideast peace and supported the subsequent U.S. military action.
“Bandar was in the Bush White House I would say every other day and in some periods every day. It was a very, very close relationship,” Riedel said. “And I think the President and Bandar genuinely liked each other.”
The so-called 28 pages were the only part of the initial congressional investigation into the September 11 attacks ― officially named the Joint Inquiry since both chambers participated ― that had not been made public before their declassification in July 2016.
These pages detail a web of Saudi nationals living in the United States who may have aided the 9/11 hijackers. The George W. Bush administration deemed their publication a threat to national security and kept them confidential. Barack Obama followed suit, as did Donald Trump and ― so far ― has Joe Biden.
That designation has been, for more than a decade, a bone of contention for family members of 9/11 victims and others who thought the pages might contain more details showing Saudi participation in the terror plot. Obama at one point gave lip service to making the pages public, but never did so.
During the nearly two decades-plus they have remained classified, Congress established the 9/11 Commission to devote more time and resources to investigate the questions raised by the Joint Inquiry ― such as what the nature and extent of the Bandar tie was ― because the inquiry was by no means exhaustive. The 9/11 Commission’s book-length findings were published in 2004 and found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” al-Qaeda.
The FBI investigated the phone numbers indirectly linked to Bandar in the summer and fall of 2002. A CIA-FBI investigation concluded in 2005 that there was “no evidence that either the Saudi government or a member of the Saudi royal family knowingly provided support” for the September 11 attacks or “had foreknowledge of terrorist operations in the kingdom or elsewhere,” according to an executive summary of the findings, which were released on the same day as the 28 pages.
The FBI refused comment to ACV for this story concerning those long-ago investigations.
The Saudi Embassy did not respond to ACV’s request for comment on the questions raised in the 28 pages regarding Bandar. A public relations firm that handles press for the embassy referred ACV to the findings of the 9/11 Commission and the 2005 joint CIA-FBI memo.
However, the 9/11 Commission report and the joint agency memo only offer blanket absolution of official Saudi involvement and do not reference the questions detailed in the 28 pages surrounding the phone numbers that indirectly seem to link Bandar to al-Qaeda.
The 28 pages also raise questions about another possible link between Bandar and the attacks: The prince’s relationship with a Saudi national named Osama Bassnan, who was living in the United States on 9/11 and was investigated to determine if he helped two of the 9/11 hijackers. The declassified pages reveal previously undisclosed amounts of money that Bandar and his wife sent to the man’s family.
Bassnan, a former employee of the Saudi government’s Educational Mission in Washington, according to a 9/11 Commission document that cited information obtained by the FBI, lived across the street from two of the 9/11 hijackers in San Diego: Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar. Hazmi and Mihdhar were on the plane that crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon.
According to the same 9/11 Commission document, Bassnan admitted to an FBI asset that he met Hazmi and Mihdhar while the hijackers were in San Diego, then denied it in a subsequent conversation. There was some evidence that Bassnan may have had closer ties to the hijackers, though the FBI claimed it was not able to corroborate it.
Bassnan’s wife, meanwhile, received tens of thousands of dollars in monthly stipends from a Saudi charity run by Bandar’s wife, Princess Haifa al-Faisal. Bassnan’s wife was allegedly receiving the money as an allowance for “nursing services,” according to the 28 pages. The inquiry indicated it doubted that was what the payments were really for, though Bassnan repeatedly spoke of his wife’s “health problems” during interviews with investigators.
In a search of the Bassnan residence, the FBI found “copies of 31 cashiers’ checks totaling $74,000, during the period February 22, 1999, to May 30, 2002,” the 28 pages state.
On at least one occasion, Bassnan received a check for $15,000 directly from Bandar’s account, according to an FBI document cited in the pages. Bassnan’s wife also received at least one check directly from Bandar himself.
A former employee at the Saudi Embassy said that such financial arrangements were not unusual.
“It is very common for the government to help Saudi citizens, certainly in terms of providing medical assistance or support while they are abroad,” said Fahad Nazer, a scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute and a political analyst at the Saudi Embassy while Bandar was the ambassador.
Bandar was known to give “a lot of money to charity,” according to Riedel and “was pretty notorious for lavish spending.”
“He gave some of the best parties Washington probably has ever had,” Riedel said.
The 9/11 Commission report, which does not mention the details of the donations, looked at whether the money from Bandar and his wife’s charity was passed on to the hijackers but found “no evidence” that it had.
Still, the FBI determined that at least some of the checks meant for Bassnan’s wife changed hands and were given to the wife of another Saudi man living in the United States, Omar al-Bayoumi, who had direct ties to Hazmi and Mihdhar. Al-Bayoumi helped the hijackers settle in San Diego when they arrived in the country around early 2000 by finding them an apartment and even co-signing their lease.
“Al-Bayoumi’s wife attempted to deposit three of the checks from Bandar’s wife, which were payable to Bassnan’s wife, into her own accounts,” according to a passage from the 28 pages.
Despite al-Bayoumi’s association with the hijackers, the FBI determined in 2004 that he did not have “advance knowledge of the terrorist attacks” or “knowledge of al-Hazmi’s and/or al-Mihdhar’s status as al-Qaeda operatives” or that “the assistance provided by al-Bayoumi to al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar was done wittingly.”
Could there be more to this story? Absolutely.
The allegations against Bandar and the other Saudi nationals in the 2002 Joint Inquiry were not meant to be “final determinations” on connections to the Saudi government, according to the report, which states it is “possible that further investigation of these allegations could reveal legitimate, and innocent, explanations for these associations.”
The 9/11 Commission report, which found no evidence of Saudi involvement in the plot, is viewed by the U.S. government as the definitive investigation of the attacks.
“I don’t see on the basis of anything we have now that we should change those judgments,” Riedel said, referring to the 28 pages and Bandar’s mention in them.
Sorry, Bruce. I don’t think the 9/11 families and survivors agree.