Prosecutors assure military commission that other investigative documents on possible Saudi ties to 9/11 will be given to defense
By Brian P. McGlinchey
A judge presiding over the trial of five Guantanamo detainees accused of orchestrating the 9/11 attacks has denied a defense motion seeking full access to 28 pages on Saudi government links to the attacks found in the 2002 report of a joint congressional intelligence inquiry.
Though the 28 pages were declassified in July 2016, the public version has 97 redactions amounting to about three cumulative pages of material. Defense attorneys wanted to see what’s still hidden from view. Continue reading →
Leads pointing to Saudi Arabia “were either not followed up or were purposefully dead-ended because it didn’t fit the narrative”
By Brian P. McGlinchey
In a Wednesday hearing at Guantanamo Bay, attorneys representing five men accused of orchestrating the 9/11 attacks argued in support of a motion requesting that Army Colonel James Pohl compel the government to share an unredacted version of the final chapter of the report of a 2002 congressional intelligence inquiry. Continue reading →
As reported earlier, the Saudi government’s enormous lobbying force has grown to include 14 firms as it works to pressure lawmakers into revising a new law that enables victims of the 9/11 attacks to sue the kingdom for its alleged role in aiding the hijackers. Yesterday, Daily Caller put a spotlight on one front in that far-reaching Saudi campaign: a series of op-ed pieces penned by military and national security veterans that use identical sentences to make their points. Continue reading →
A Guantanamo Bay detainee has told U.S. officials that an unidentified member of the Saudi royal family was involved in a Saudi religious leader’s effort to recruit him for jihad in the United States, according to a recently-released transcript.
In a June 2016 discussion with the Periodic Review Board, which assesses the need for continued detention of Guantanamo prisoners, Ghassan Abdullah al-Sharbi described an incident that occurred in Saudi Arabia about six months before the 9/11 attacks. Al-Sharbi said that a “religious establishment figure” asked about his education, his aptitude for learning to fly aircraft and if he was interested in returning to the United States as a jihadist.
In the midst of the conversation, al-Sharbi says, the religious figure made two phone calls to someone he repeatedly addressed as “your highness” as he discussed al-Sharbi’s background and qualifications. Al-Sharbi chose not to return to the United States, and instead moved to Pakistan where he was captured in 2002.
Royals Sought to Establish Legitimacy with Conservative Clerics
Speaking in broken English, Al-Sharbi shared his perspective on why some members of the Saudi royal family are inclined to support al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations: “They do this why, because through that, they gain…I will say the popularity, but the legitimacy concerning the whole Islamic nation…they cannot rule us or rule Muslims or rule America…rule the whole Muslim, without doing this.”
His description of the royal family’s motives for supporting extremism closely echo statements from Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called “20th hijacker” who is imprisoned at the federal “SuperMax” prison in Florence, Colorado.
“To give money to bin Laden could be used by the Saudi to say to the ulema (religious leaders), ‘Look, see, we are not against Islam or the jihad, we finance bin Laden,'” Moussaoui said when questioned in 2015 by attorneys for 9/11 victims.
Moussaoui also told attorneys for 9/11 victims that he maintained a database of al Qaeda’s donors that included many Saudi royals, including business magnate Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, intelligence director Prince Turki al Faisal and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to the United States whose name appears frequently throughout 28 recently declassified pages from a 2002 congressional intelligence inquiry.
Saudi Royals Said to Seek “Compliant” Terrorists
Though al-Sharbi’s discussion with the Periodic Review Board was intended to give that body an opportunity to reconsider the need for his detention, he opted against going through all their questioning, indicating he was feeling too nauseous and exhausted to do so.
Pausing to use a manual breathing machine during the discussion, al-Sharbi expressed resignation about the prospect for his discharge: “I’m not even thinking of it, to be honest with you. I’m not even considering being released.” He attributed some of his indifference to what may await him in his native Saudi Arabia if he were to be returned there.
“You guys want to send me back to Saudi Arabia because you believe there is a de-radicalization program on the surface, true. You are 100 percent right, there is a strong externally…a strong de-radicalization program, but make no mistake, underneath there is a hidden radicalization program,” said al-Sharbi.
Referring to Saudi Arabia’s involvements in Iran, Syria and Yemen, al-Sharbi said, “They need a jihadist, but they want you to be a compliant terrorist…They want you to fight under their cloak, under the royal Saudi cloak, under the religious establishment cloak, and even if it comes, okay you wanna fight the Americans, but at our time, at our location…They poking their nose here and here and there and they’re recruiting more jihadists and…they’ll tell you, ‘Okay, go fight in Yemen. Go fight in Syria,’ and I will have no choice.'”
Al-Sharbi was in the news earlier this year when 28Pages.org was first to report on “Document 17,” a declassified file from the 9/11 Commission that, among other things, revealed that al-Sharbi’s U.S. pilot license was found buried in Pakistan inside an envelope from the Saudi embassy in Washington.
In his Periodic Review Board discussion, Al-Sharbi also questioned the priorities of the United States government: “If the oil of the royal Saudi family is more important than the simple American blood, that’s your issue. It’s not my issue.”
As the Obama administration and the Saudi government lobby Congress to prevent an override of the president’s promised veto of a bill that would enable 9/11 lawsuits against the kingdom, family members are organizing a White House protest of that veto for this Tuesday.
9/11 family members, survivors and other concerned citizens will convene near the White House at Lafayette Square on Tuesday, September 20 at 12:30 pm and organizers are arranging for bus transportation. If you can join them, you’re encouraged to sign up at passJASTA.org (whether you need transportation or not).
Effort to Kill 9/11 Bill Quietly Strengthens
The bill at the center of this controversy is the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which has now passed both the Senate and House via unanimous voice votes. President Obama has until Friday, September 23 to veto the measure, and appears likely to use all of that time to lobby lawmakers against overriding him.
With Congress poised to go on a lengthy election-season recess, the delay could also prevent the override vote from happening until much later this year, when legislators won’t face voter retaliation if they help Obama kill the measure.
The New York Times reported yesterday that “already, cracks are showing, even among Republicans who generally would love to exercise the first veto override against Mr. Obama.” One of those wavering Republicans is Tennessee senator Bob Corker, who told the Times that passing the law would encourage other countries to reciprocate, exposing the U.S. government to suits filed by family members of innocent victims of U.S. drone strikes.
In July, 28 long-classified pages from a 2002 congressional intelligence inquiry into 9/11 were declassified. They catalog dozens of inter-connections between Saudi government employees, suspected intelligence operatives, al-Qaeda associates and individuals who aided the 9/11 hijackers. Some of the most important revelations concerned the then-Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan.
9/11 Commission’s Bob Kerrey Supports JASTA
In a piece for The Hill yesterday, former senator and 9/11 Commission member Bob Kerrey fully endorsed JASTA, declaring that “signing this bill into law will be an act of justice and will help make the United States homeland a safer place to live.”
He also refuted repeated claims by the Obama administration and the Saudi kingdom that the 9/11 Commission report is evidence of Saudi Arabia’s innocence. “This is not true. It is true that the Commission did not conclude that the Saudis were guilty but we most definitely did not conclude that they were not involved. In fact there was considerable evidence suggesting just the opposite,” wrote Kerrey.