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Fighting Over the Saudi Connection

Sunday, 24 November 2002 12:00 AM

Adding to the volatile mix, the Bush administration has balked at giving the congressional committee all it demands, citing it fears interference with the executive branch’s intelligence-gathering and foreign-policy-making powers.

The latest catalyst to the firestorm: a draft report from the committee charging among other things that the investigative authorities failed to thoroughly investigate the links between 9-11 hijackers (Saudis, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq Alhazmi) and Saudis, Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Bassnan -- the latter pair apparently receiving financial support from the Saudi government.

What is publicly known at this point is that Al-Bayoumi met the two hijackers at San Diego International airport, drove them to San Diego, sponsored a welcoming party and put out $1,550 in cash to cover the first two months’ rent on their apartment.

Later, Al-Bayoumi also helped the pair open a bank account, obtain Social Security cards and arrange flying lessons.

Two months before 9-11, al-Bayoumi flew to the United Kingdom, eventually disappearing -- perhaps to Saudi Arabia, according to authorities.

Basnan also reportedly befriended the two hijackers and, according to law enforcement officials, was an al Qaeda sympathizer, who “celebrated the heroes of September 11” and enthused about “what a wonderful, glorious day it had been.”

Fueling the controversy, the committee’s latest draft report, according to the Times, also accuses the Saudi government, home to 15 of the 19 hijackers, of failing to fully cooperate fully with U.S. investigators.

Counter-terrorism officials claim, however, that the investigation is far from over and has been hampered not by a recalcitrant Saudi Arabia but by Midhar and Alhazmi’s consistent use of cash to fund their expenses. To date, the investigators also insist that they have not uncovered any evidence that funds for 9-11 originated in Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, Saudi officials have consistently been emphasizing that they have indeed been cooperating, providing confirmation of the identities of the Saudi hijackers.

Furthermore, they highlight that the anti-American venom that apparently led to 9-11 does not represent mainstream thinking in the kingdom and that Osama bin Laden is on record as stating that he thinks the Saudis are the lackeys of Washington.

Midhar and Alhazmi were aboard the American Airlines plane that crashed into the Pentagon. Although identified as al Qaida by the C.I.A. in January 2001, that agency did not ask the State Department to place their names on a watch list until late August – by which time they were both in the country.

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Adding to the volatile mix, the Bush administration has balked at giving the congressional committee all it demands, citing it fears interference with the executive branch's intelligence-gathering and foreign-policy-making powers. The latest catalyst to the firestorm: a...
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2002-00-24
Sunday, 24 November 2002 12:00 AM
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