Fri. Jul 25, 2003
Our Friends Get Redacted
Our Friends Get Redacted – Everybody has got their own special spin on the Congressional report about 9/11 (Computer World: “Inadequate IT contributed to 9/11 intelligence failure”).
I want to talk about our friends, and the Bush administration’s reluctance to reveal anything about their involvement. Friends shouldn’t have anything to hide, should they? It’s most perplexing…
From the Washington Post: “More than 800 pages of findings, recommendations and narrative detail were published at 2 p.m. today. Even so, long passages were deleted, especially those dealing with possible connections between the terrorists and the government of Saudi Arabia.”
“Just enough was declassified to make clear that the joint committee, which was co-chaired by Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) during the investigation, was highly concerned about suggestions that Saudi Arabian government money was going to support at least some of the hijackers. The investigators quoted several unnamed U.S. government officials who said Saudi Arabia has not been cooperative with efforts to halt terrorism and track down bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader.”
A lack of cooperation from our good friends? I’m sorry, I’m going to have to see some proof of that. Oops, it’s been redacted.
From MSNBC: “Dozens of pages were heavily edited or even blacked out to protect classified information. An entire section on whether there was Saudi support for the hijackers was deleted, as were 26 pages on their foreign financing.”
“The most significant set of events, in my opinion, are in the section of the report that has been censored and therefore wont be available to the American people,” said Sen. Bob Graham, who is also quoted in the AJC: “Without naming Saudi Arabia, Graham, a Democratic candidate for president, said: ‘It is my conclusion that officials of a foreign government aided and abetted the terrorist attacks on our country …. Our investigation developed information suggesting specific sources of foreign support for some of the September 11th hijackers while they were in the United States.’ ”
Now, wait just a durn minute, he’s a Democrat running for President, of course he’s going to bash Bush’s friends! Give me a Republican view for counterbalance.
From last week’s news: “Last week, Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) told CNN that declassified information in the report would ‘shed some light, maybe not all the light’ on the attacks.”
“ ‘I can tell you this, there are a lot of high people in Saudi Arabia, over the years, that have aided and abetted Osama bin Laden and his group,’ Shelby said, alleging the Saudis had done so with direct donations and via charities.”
Want more peeved Senators? Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.: “For whatever reason, there is an attempt here to conceal evidence that implicates the Saudi regime in a terrible tragedy – a tragedy that claimed the lives of over 3,000 Americans and put hundreds of thousands of troops in harm’s way by leading us into two wars.”
Here’s three men who’ve seen all there is to see on this matter. They are our elected representatives, from diverse backgrounds. And they are all calling “Bullshit” on this one.
In addition to pointing out that the 28 deleted pages contain information the American people have a right to know (i.e., it does not compromise national security), these representatives also noted they had to fight hard to get one data point about Saudi Arabia released … or else there might have been nothing in the released report about our good friends, the Saudis.
“The report contains new evidence suggesting that Omar al-Bayoumi, a key associate of two of September 11 hijackers Khaled al-Mihdar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, may have been a Saudi government agent, sources told Newsweek.”
“It documents extensive ties between al-Bayoumi and the hijackers, while claiming the FBI failed to keep tabs on al-Bayoumi although it had learned he was a secret Saudi agent.”
“Among the evidence was the fact al-Bayoumi took part in a meeting in January 2001 at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles. After that, he headed to a restaurant where he met future hijacker al-Mihdar and al-Hazmi, whom he took back with him to San Diego.”
al Bayoumi, why is that name familiar? From Dan Darling at Winds of Change: “I did some digging and discovered that this isn’t Mr. al-Bayyoumi’s first appearance. He also surfaced last winter in connection with the scandal involving Princess Haifa (the wife of the Saudi ambassador to the US) giving money that wound up in the hands of the 9/11 hijackers. Al-Bayyoumi being a Saudi agent certainly makes this earlier scandal a lot more interesting.”
Indeed, his connection to Princess Haifa is most interesting: “There is also no mention in the text of the $2,000 (1,700) cheques that were apparently paid by the wife of Saudi Arabia’s US ambassador, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, into Bayoumi’s bank account.”
No wonder the ambassador expresses such denial: “Reports that Omar Al-Bayoumi is an agent of the Saudi government are baseless and not true. It is unfortunate that reports keep circulating in the media describing him as an agent of the Saudi government with attribution only to anonymous officials. This is blatantly false.”
He’s not an agent of the government, but my wife puts money in his account anyway. OK, fine, Bandar. But you might want to order up another round or two of ads in your ongoing campaign to convince us you really are our friends, because a lot of us are unmoved. Like CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen: “I think the Saudis have obviously had a long period of time in which, in one way or another, they’ve supported groups like al Qaeda [...] But it is very interesting that Saudi [Arabia] sort of continues to get a pass from this administration for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. I’ve talked to people directly involved in the investigation. Now, this is before the Riyadh attack, but they used words like ‘despicable,’ ‘obstructionist’ to describe Saudi cooperation into the 9/11 attack.”
Could it be one friend trying to help another who is clearly having problems with The Truth? “There has been a large element of denial on the part of the Saudi Government. The Saudi interior minister claimed for months that no Saudis were involved in the 9/11 hijacking. Until quite recently he claimed there was no al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia itself.” “Quite recently” means, “until Al Qaeda mounted an attack within Saudi Arabia and the government rapidly arrested dozens of them.”
There’s just so many mixed signals here. The people at grunt level who interface with the Saudi government find them despicable, the Royals have displayed complete denial over any Saudi-Al Qaeda connection of any type, while our President says they are our friends yet covers up details about a critical part of our relationship.
Why would you delete information about your friends, when it surely would support their strong denials of any involvement? The usual reason for such a deletion is a fear the hard data would compromise our more sensitive intelligence gathering methods. Are we using those on our friends? Could it be that the information would reveal the Saudis are not the friends of the American people?
Then why do they remain the friends of the Bush administration? Why do they keep covering for them? Why is Saudi comfort more important than freedom of information for the American people about the worst attack this country has suffered in 60 years?
Perhaps the Bush administration thinks if they can bull through this tight passage, it will shortly fade as a public issue. If so, it’s a uncharacteristically naive strategy. They would have been a lot better off getting out in front of this. Now.
Those 28 pages are going to come out, by Congressional demand (they’ve declared they’ll seek it), or via a standard issue DC leak. And it will happen long before November, 2004.
To borrow some imagery from a banned Madonna video, the Saudi issue is the hand grenade in George’s lap. He can defuse it now, or he can wait for someone else to pull the pin in the next year or so, killing his chances for re-election.
If the American people come to learn (or even strongly suspect) that the Bush administration has in some way been covering up Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks, no matter what the reason, he is political toast. His only hope is to air whatever information there is, explain away whatever qualms might result, and get on with it while there’s still time for a chance at recovery. And if there’s nothing sinister to hide, that’s all the more reason for these 28 pages to be released.
One way or another, no matter what the facts are, this redacted information stands to hurt one person far more than any other; George Bush. And that is precisely why he is the one who must release it. Because sooner or later, someone else surely will.