long-awaited congressional report
on 9/11 came with a kicker: 28 redacted pages, deemed
too sensitive for the unwashed masses, which have generated
more discussion than all the other 800-plus pages put together.
The censored section deals with "specific sources of foreign
support for some of the September 11 hijackers while they
were in the United States," as the non-redacted portion puts
it. The blankness of these pages, however, hasn't stopped
everyone from talking as if they can read the invisible ink
detailing all sorts of accusations
at the Saudi government.
Saudis responded, in the state-run Arab News, by calling
for the release of the 28 pages:
would be far better if the section were published. What has
been produced is nothing less than a charter for Saudi-bashing,
all the more so because of the 28 pages supposedly dealing
with Saudi links to the hijackers, blocked on White House
who thinks that President Bush is doing us a favor can forget
it. Whatever the intention, this is an invitation to the U.S.
and other media to speculate. ... This way, it will be open
season on Saudi Arabia."
indeed it is open season on Saudi Arabia, with all the usual
theorists projecting their lurid fantasies
on the emptiness of those 28 pages.
Saudi sponsorship of the 9/11 hijackers is somehow proved
by the redacted portions of the report, then why did the Saudi
foreign minister travel all the way to Washington to ask
for their release? He was pointedly rejected
by the President, and was met, instead, with a request from
Condoleeza Rice to turn over Omar al-Bayoumi, an employee
of the Saudi Civil Aviation Authority, as a material witness
to the ongoing terrorism investigation. The Saudis readily
agreed. But this is more of a political ploy, meant to
placate congressional critics, than a real attempt to garner
information. Shortly after 9/11, Mr. al-Bayoumi was interrogated
by British authorities for 7 days, and released to Saudi
Arabia, where he was also questioned. In his own defense,
stopped being a suspect for over a year now. Do you imagine
that if any of what has been rumored in the media about me
is true, would the FBI or Scotland Yard have set me free?"
idea that the Saudi government, or some vaguely-defined faction,
real author of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S.
is a conspiracy theory shared by the far-left "Bush knew"
tinfoil hat brigade and the neoconservative phalanx
Likudniks, who posit Riyadh as the center of a worldwide
Wahabist web of evil.
addition, the Bush family ties to the Saudi royals are too
promising a theme for Democratic presidential hopefuls
clamoring for attention. Yet one such hopeful, Florida's Senator
Bob Graham, a key member of the Senate Intelligence Committee,
has a somewhat different take on the matter: In contrast to
those who have not read the 28 pages, and don't know the background
deliberations that went into the writing of it, Graham doesn't
speak of only one potential accomplice of the hijackers, but
says there is "compelling evidence" that "one or more foreign
governments" facilitated the terrorists in some way.
has been talking about the foreign state sponsors of the 9/11
plotters in plural terms since last December, when he
told PBS's Gwen Ifill that he was "surprised at the evidence
that there were foreign governments involved in facilitating
the activities of at least some of the terrorists in the United
States." The brief notes appended to the blank 28 pages also
speak in the plural, describing "sources of foreign
Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have been bruited about as the most
likely sources. The accusers have got 28 blank pages of "evidence"
– what more do they need?
is plenty of evidence pointing to some measure of foreign
involvement in the events leading up to the 9/11 terror attacks,
but none of it points to Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan. In December
of 2001, Fox News reporter Carl Cameron, who did a
four-part series exposing the enormity of Israel's spy
apparatus in the U.S., flatly stated:
is no indication that the Israelis were involved in the 9-11
attacks, but investigators suspect that the Israelis may have
gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance, and not
shared it. A highly placed investigator said there are 'tie-ins.'
But when asked for details, he flatly refused to describe
them, saying, 'evidence linking these Israelis to 9-11
is classified. I cannot tell you about evidence that has been
gathered. It's classified information.'"
and the BBC reported on
this, but the American media abruptly dropped the story,
echoing the official government line that the whole thing
was an "urban
story was pursued by Christopher
Ketcham, in Salon, John Sugg,
in Creative Loafing, and reported
on extensively in Europe. A multi-agency
task force report
was leaked to the media, detailing and confirming Cameron's
account. The idea that the Israelis had some knowledge of
the attacks, or at least were familiar with the plotters,
was elaborated on in a recent news story in Die Zeit.
Based on French intelligence sources, the respected German
weekly reports that the Mossad, Israel's spy agency, was tracking
the hijackers 24/7. In "Next Door to Mohammed Atta,"
reporter Oliver Schrom avers:
indicates that the terrorists were constantly observed by
report detailing various bits of information garnered from
U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies on the subject
of foreign involvement in 9/11 is not unlikely to contain
these allegations. The suspicion that such is the case is
boosted by the curiously agnostic tone taken by the authors
of the congressional report, who note that the information
contained in the classifed section has "yet to be independently
verified." The joint inquiry is also careful to take no position
on whether foreign support for the hijackers was "knowing
or inadvertent in nature." However, a CIA memorandum is rather
tantalizingly cited, claiming "incontrovertible evidence that
there is support for these terrorists [redacted]."
the other hand, we're told, these could be "legitimate and
innocent associations." But what associations, and
who knows anything about these mysterious redactions has kept
remarkably tight-lipped about their content. Remarkable, that
is, for Washington, D.C., where politically explosive secrets
are hard to keep. It is impossible to believe that the Democrats,
if they know something about Saudi state sponsorship of the
9/11 terrorists, couldn't find someone to "leak" the evidence
– if only to get the President for engaging in a cover-up.
They're already talking about impeaching him because of a
relatively obscure crime, rightly claiming he lied to the
American people about Iraqi attempts to procure uranium in
Niger. If, however, they could somehow prove Bush covered
up foreign sponsorship of 9/11 – now that would be
real grounds for impeachment. This would turn Ann Coulter's
charge that the Democrats are the
Party of Treason back on the GOP, to deadly effect.
none of that is happening. Instead, we are confronted with
uncharacteristically discreet members of Congress who talk
around specifics and almost universally agree that they see
no reason why most of the redacted pages can't be un-redacted.
The President, however, insists that national security is
at stake, and that U.S. intelligence "sources and methods"
would be compromised.
In other words, he's telling us just what Carl Cameron's sources
linking these Israelis to 9-11 is classified. I cannot tell
you about evidence that has been gathered. It's classified
Saudis maintain that the controversy is designed to drive a wedge between the
Kingdom and the U.S., but that may be just a secondary effect.
If George W. Bush is the captive of Saudi interests, and is
determined to shield them at all costs, his present course
is accomplishing nothing of the sort.
benefits from this brouhaha? In America, it's the Saudi-phobic
neocons, who want to take their war of "liberation" to the
Arabian peninsula and dream of overthrowing the House of Saud,
installing "democracy" a la Iraq. In the Middle East, however,
the chief beneficiary is Osama bin Laden, who can now argue
quite persuasively that Washington is embarked on a crusade
the classified section of the report under wraps, yet constructing
a myth around the alleged contents, would provide the perfect
camouflage – but for whom?
American people are not usually prone to conspiracy theories,
but those 28 blank pages seem to have transformed us into
a mirror image of the Arab world, where conspiracism is the
woof and warp of everyday discourse. In the absence of real
knowledge, various competing conspiracy theories usually
reflecting the subjective hopes, wishes, and fears of the
theorists are certain to gain adherents, So let's look
at our options:
the one hand, we have 28 blank pages proffered as proof
of a Saudi or Pakistani conspiracy against America. On the
other hand, we have a large
body of evidence – not from wackos, but from mainstream
news sources: that is, if you consider Fox News non-wacko
pointing to Israel's notoriously efficient spy agency
trailing the hijackers around the country.
these dueling narratives, which deserves more credence: that
the Saudis funneled money and other assistance directly to
the hijackers, in a series of easily traceable transactions,
leaving a clear trail from the hijackers' bank accounts to
the House of Saud? Or that the Israelis kept the hijackers
under constant surveillance, and knew more about the plot
than they'll ever let us know?
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