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FROM THE EDITOR: Time to reveal Saudi Arabia’s role in 9/11

Something has always bothered me about the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

It’s a nagging question that remains unanswered for me.

I’ll forewarn you, as entertaining as they are to listen to and contemplate, I do not really buy into the conspiracy theories — particularly that 9/11 was some sort of false flag operation, or anything like that.

But I do admit, the assault has always looked to me too sophisticated to not have been sponsored or supported by some government somewhere. In fact, I think Saudi Arabia’s connection to 9/11, official, government connections to the attack, financing and even training of the hijackers, has been purposely withheld from the American people.

Why, I’m not sure. That’s what nags me.

There are clues, of course, to Saudi Arabia’s role in this great American tragedy. The fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals remains the most stark evidence, despite Saudi Arabia’s stiff resistance to any allegations of official involvement.

The 9-11 Commission, appointed by former President George W. Bush in 2002, sort of skimmed the surface of the Saudi connection when it sought to pretend to explore numerous relationships between some of the hijackers and Saudi dignitaries. For example, the report noted that some funds linked to a Saudi princess’ bank account wound up in the hands of some of the hijackers.

The commission’s final report stopped far short in my view. This sad, pathetic document angered me when I read it almost a decade ago. I remember throwing it to the ground when I finished it, disgusted by the murderous government incompetence and shallow political expediency it laid bare. Not laid bare, I knew, was the whole truth.

I almost feel like I never got to grieve this tremendous loss, like a surviving victim in an unsolved murder.

But maybe closure is not so far off. A couple of news items caught my attention this month and I think they could revise the history of what occurred in September 2001.

The first item was a widespread story of a court decision. Earlier this month, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York reinstated a complaint brought by family members of the 3,000 victims of 9/11, who filed a lawsuit in 2002 naming Saudi Arabia as providing material support to the hijackers. That lawsuit was dismissed by a U.S. District Court judge in 2005. A 2nd Circuit Court panel upheld that ruling in 2008.

However, similar litigation brought against Afghanistan was allowed to move forward. This had direct bearing on the ruling regarding Saudi Arabia. Thus, lawyers for the 9/11 families filed to overturn the original dismissal, failed to sway a lower court, but did eventually convince the circuit court, which reinstated the lawsuit.

Maybe now, new evidence will have its day in court.

But what new evidence is there? Well, the second item that caught my eye addresses that question.

On Dec. 15 a small opinion column appeared in the New York Post. Paul Sperry, author and a media fellow at the Hoover Institution, penned a piece titled “Inside the Saudi 9/11 Coverup.” In it, he reports that the Bush White House withheld from public view portions of a 2002 congressional investigative report that detailed explicit connections between high-ranking Saudi officials and several hijackers.

When I read the following passage in Sperry’s column, my stomach sank.

“President Bush inexplicably censored 28 full pages of the 800-page report. Text isn’t just blacked-out here and there in this critical-yet-missing middle section. The pages are completely blank, except for dotted lines where an estimated 7,200 words once stood,” the author wrote. “A pair of lawmakers who recently read the redacted portion say they are ‘absolutely shocked’ at the level of foreign state involvement in the attacks.”

Sperry writes that some hijackers received assistance from Saudi officials coast to coast.

In Los Angeles, there was the Saudi consulate official, Fahad al-Thumairy, and Omar al-Bayoumi, “a suspected Saudi intelligence agent,” who assisted two of the hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, as they arrived in the U.S. in 2000. Thumairy fled the U.S. just before the attacks and Bayoumi was deported afterward.

In San Diego, “Bayoumi and another suspected Saudi agent, Osama Bassnan, set up essentially a forward operating base in San Diego for the hijackers after leaving LA. They were provided rooms, rent and phones, as well as private meetings with an American al Qaeda cleric who would later become notorious, Anwar al-Awlaki.” Awlaki, after fleeing the U.S. in a Saudi government plane, was eventually killed in a 2011 U.S. drone strike in Yemen.

In Washington, “Then-Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar and his wife sent checks totaling some $130,000 to Bassnan while he was handling the hijackers. Though the Bandars claim the checks were ‘welfare’ for Bassnan’s supposedly ill wife, the money nonetheless made its way into the hijackers’ hands.”

Bandar, a close family friend of President Bush’s — remember Bandar Bush — was quietly recalled home by the Saudi government in 2005.

In Herndon, Va., “On the eve of the attacks, top Saudi government official Saleh Hussayen checked into the same Marriott Residence Inn near Dulles Airport as three of the Saudi hijackers who targeted the Pentagon. Hussayen had left a nearby hotel to move into the hijackers’ hotel. Did he meet with them? The FBI never found out.”

In Sarasota, Fla., “9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta and other hijackers visited a home owned by Esam Ghazzawi, a Saudi adviser to the nephew of King Fahd. FBI agents investigating the connection in 2002 found that visitor logs for the gated community and photos of license tags matched vehicles driven by the hijackers. Just two weeks before the 9/11 attacks, the Saudi luxury home was abandoned.”

These tidbits and more are likely to come to light as civil litigation against Saudi Arabia moves forward. But the question remains: Why was the American public not told the truth about Saudi Arabia’s apparently extensive involvement in the 9/11 terrorist attacks?

Why do 28 pages of a 2002 congressional report that allegedly reveals this involvement remain hidden?

Osama bin Laden is dead. Al Qaeda is a shell of what it was. The terrorist attacks led to two wars, none of which I would conceive of as solid victories for our side. Thousands of Americans have died or been severely wounded in combat. Yet, the ghosts of 9/11 seem as restless as ever.

Our leaders and the public shouldn’t rest until the truth is known.

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