With the passage of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), in which Congress overruled President Barack Obama’s veto, the monarchy of Saudi Arabia is now vulnerable to lawsuits from the family members of the 9/11 victims. Which begs the question: what exactly was Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the 9/11 terror attacks?
Here are five things you need to know about it.
1. The 9/11 Commission has said that the Saudi government had no role in 9/11. The commission’s report, which was released in 2004, states: “Saudi Arabia has long been considered the primary source of al Qaeda funding, but we have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization. (This conclusion does not exclude the likelihood that charities with significant Saudi government sponsorship diverted funds to al Qaeda.)”
The report goes on to chastise the Saudi monarchy for turning a blind eye to charities that provided financial aid to al-Qaeda and “for creating an environment that allowed al Qaeda’s fundraising to flourish.”
While some might consider the 9/11 Commission’s report to be the end of the matter, there is other evidence available to suggest that perhaps the Saudi government did have a role in the terror attacks.
2. Both the Saudi government and al-Qaeda are proponents of the same strain of Islamic theology. The UK Telegraph defines this strain of Islam, known as Wahhabism, thus:
Founded by Mohammed Ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-92), it stresses the absolute sovereignty of God. Ibn Abd al-Wahhab also rejected any reliance on the intercession of Mohammed and denounced pilgrimages to saints’ tombs, declaring that their domes or shrines should be destroyed.
As an opposer of innovation, he advocated a return to what he saw as the purity of the first generation of Islam, the salaf and the teaching of any school of law. His ideas were deeply influenced by the teachings of Ibn Taymiyah (1263-1328), who saw the state as an adjunct of religion and opposed discursive theology.
As National Review‘s Andrew McCarthy explains, Wahhabism “is the dominant belief system” in Saudi Arabia:
For decades, the House of Saud has played a double game with the West: 1) feigning moderation while promoting and internally enforcing this repressive fundamentalism, which brutally discriminates against women, non-Muslims, and Muslim minorities; 2) posturing as a staunch counterterrorism ally while exporting their ideology — and, when called on it, rationalizing either that their ideology does not catalyze jihadism, or that, even if it does, exporting it is necessary to ensure that jihadists do not seize control of the kingdom and its oil wealth — an outcome that, we are warned, would be far worse for the West.
The foundation of al-Qaeda’s Islamic Sharia supremacism that they are attempting to foist on the world through violence is the strict interpretation of Wahhabism, the same ideology that the Saudi government has been promoting. With that in mind…
3. The missing “28 pages” of Congress’s investigation into 9/11 were released in July, and they reveal some possible connections between the 9/11 terrorists and the Saudi government. Foreign Policy‘s Simon Henderson highlights the following key aspects of the report, which he notes are actually 29 pages; there’s three pages worth of redacted information:
- The documents allege that a number of the terrorists “received support and assistance from, individuals who may be connected to the Saudi Government,” two of whom may have been “Saudi intelligence officers.”
- Osama Bassnan, who provided funding to two of the terrorists, was given a “significant amount” of money in 2002 from “a member of the Saudi Royal Family.” Bassnan’s wife is also believed to have been a recipient of funding from the Saudi ambassador’s wife, Princess Haifa Bint Faisal.
- Abu Zubaydah, a senior al-Qaeda official who is currently detained in Guantanamo Bay, is believed to have had a phone number that belonged to “the security company that managed the Colorado residence of the then-Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan.”
- Al-Haramain, a Saudi charity, has been under investigation in its funding of Islamic terrorism, and the investigation has “raised questions about [then-Saudi Interior Minister] Prince Nayef.”
The report also alleged that there was “incontrovertible evidence that there is support for these terrorists inside the Saudi Government” and a “Saudi national with close ties to the Saudi Royal Family” was being investigated by the FBI, although the national’s name was redacted in the report’s release.
4. Prior to the release of the aforementioned report, there have been other allegations of funding from the Saudi government to the 9/11 terrorists. According to Henderson:
In January 2002, U.S. News & World Report quoted two unidentified Clinton administration officials as saying that two senior Saudi princes had been paying off Osama bin Laden since a 1995 bombing in Riyadh, which killed five American military advisors. I followed up in an August 2002 Wall Street Journal op-ed, reporting that U.S. and British officials had told me the names of the two senior princes who were using official Saudi money — not their own — to pay off bin Laden to cause trouble elsewhere but not in the kingdom. I referred to the princes in a later Wall Street Journal op-ed: They were Prince Nayef, the father of the current crown prince, Muhammad bin Nayef, and his brother Prince Sultan, then-defense minister and father of Prince Bandar. Both Prince Nayef and Prince Sultan are now dead.
Additionally, the Saudi government is believed to have given over $10 billion in charities that have funded al-Qaeda over the past 40 years, according to the State Department, as well as having connections to the Muslim Brotherhood youth organization, called World Assembly of Muslim Youth in Riyadh (WAMY).
5. There are also allegations that the Saudi government played an active role in aiding the 9/11 terrorists’ efforts. McCarthy details the following connections:
- Abdulazziz al-Hijji, whom McCarthy calls a “well-connected Saudi oil executive,” knew a number of the 9/11 terrorists, as their cars were reportedly seen parked nearby his home. Osama bin Laden was “a hero” to al-Hijji and had introduced a friend to al-Qaeda leader Adnan Shukrijuma. One of al-Hijji’s family members attended the same flight school as the terrorists who piloted the hijacked planes. Al-Hijji suddenly fled from Florida, where they resided, to Saudi Araba only weeks prior to the terror attacks, and it just so happened that al-Hijji’s his father-in-law, “an adviser to Saudi Prince Fahd bin Salman,” owned the family’s home.
- Two of the 9/11 terrorists met with Omar al-Bayoumi, who was being paid by the Saudi defense ministry as well as by Princess Faisal while residing in San Diego, CA, and al-Bayoumi set the two terrorists up with “an apartment, co-signed their lease, helped them open a bank account (with money they’d received from 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed), and facilitated the payment of their deposit to the real estate agent.” Like al-Hijji, al-Bayoumi also suddenly fled to Saudi Arabia in the weeks prior to 9/11.
- Anwar a-Awlaki, a prominent al-Qaeda leader, had numerous Saudi connections, which included al-Bayoumi–who introduced him to two of the 9/11 terrorists–as well as previously working for the Saudi embassy.
- Saleh Hussayen, “a Saudi government official” according to McCarthy, happened to go to the hotel where al-Awlaki was meeting with two of the 9/11 terrorists. When questioned by the FBI, the official “feigned a seizure, prompting the agents to take him to a hospital, where the attending physicians found nothing wrong with him.” Hussayen eventually made his way back to Saudi Arabia, where he was subsequently promoted. His nephew in the U.S. “was indicted for material support to terrorism based on his administration of a website that expressly advocated suicide bombing and the use of planes as weapons,” although he was later acquitted.
- Members of Osama bin Laden’s family and other notable Saudis were allowed to fly from the U.S. only days after 9/11, when there was still a moratorium on Americans flying.
Perhaps the alleged connections between the Saudi government and the 9/11 terrorists are nothing more than coincidence. But they do suggest that perhaps the Saudis’ role in 9/11 does require further scrutiny.