It takes a close reading of an innocuous-looking statement within the 911 Commission’s report to realize that a huge entourage of the longtime Saudi Intelligence Minister, Prince Turki al Faisal, was in Las Vegas on September 11, 2001. Tucked in the back of the report was an account of three separate chartered airliners carrying dozens of Saudis, departing from Las Vegas on midnight transatlantic flights beginning on September 19th.
We now know that this group, including Prince Turki, with deep connections to Saudi Arabia’s secret police, was in Las Vegas during the time that the 911 Commission could not explain why all the hijackers had made trips to Las Vegas. The roster of Saudi officials in the United States on September 11 includes the Defense Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Aviation and the head of Dallah Avco Group, in addition to Prince Turki and of course Prince Bandar, Saudi ambassador to the U.S. In addition, the head of two of Saudi Arabia’s holiest mosques stayed at the same hotel as the all-Saudi hijackers of AA77 — at the Marriott Residence Inn in Herndon, Virginia — on the night of September 10th. In the week after the attack, there were a dozen chartered flights with high-ranking Saudi officials that left from Las Vegas, Newark, Boston and Washington, all cities, by the way, with direct links to the hijackings. By September 24, 2001, they had all returned home.
The British Observer reported that the widely feared Prince Turki al Faisal had a long, mutually hostile relationship with Osama bin Laden. Turki, with American connections (he would become Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. after Prince Bandar), was funding bin Laden’s mujahedeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, but the partnership with bin Laden ended soon after. More recently, the entire Saudi royal family had become the prime target of al-Qaeda for their relationship with American oil companies. Of great interest is the Observer’s reporting that pilot/hijacker Mohamed Atta left Hamburg soon after making contact with Prince Turki’s intelligence agents in early 2000. Atta’s destination, after a brief stop in Pakistan, was Huffman Aviation, the small school in Florida where he began basic flight training. He was soon joined by Jarrah and al Shehhi. They told people in Venice that they were bodyguards with the Saudi government and needed to learn to fly airplanes.
The prince’s entourage entailed a perfect opportunity for the Raiders to get the needed Saudi Boeing flight instructors into the country, and exit after the attacks without anyone interviewing them. The chartered departures from Las Vegas were a four-engine DC-8 for Geneva on September 19, 2001 with 69 passengers, including 46 Saudis; a Boeing 727 for England with 18 Saudis on September 20; and on September 23, a jumbo Lockheed L-1011 for Paris. Only 34 passengers were listed on that plane, which has a capacity of nearly 400. On that flight was Prince Turki.
No one in the government will say just who cleared these flights to leave without interviewing even one of the passengers. Prince Bandar said on Meet the Press in September 2001 that the FBI cleared the flights. The FBI said that they did not clear the flights.
Prince Turki and Prince Bandar have more connections to Arabic-speaking Boeing flight instructors than anyone else in the world. The means and opportunity to slip the hijackers into Pinal Airpark or other facilities for training were theirs. The motive was a world-changing event. The Saudis would benefit greatly not only from the targeting of al-Qaeda but from an American invasion of Iraq, one that they had begged for after the first Gulf War. Dick Cheney would guarantee Prince Bandar that America was going to invade Iraq months before anyone informed the United States Congress.
In November 2001, Prince Turki expressed his public support for the U.S. operation in Afghanistan, referring to al-Qaeda as an “evil cult.” By calling out bin Laden for complicity in the attacks, he would be helping to “sic” the world against his greatest enemy, an enemy that has made several assassination attempts against the Saudi royal family. In the winter of 1998, three buried suitcases had been found in Saudi Arabia containing nine antitank Sagger missiles. The Saudis learned that al-Qaeda was intending them for use against the royal family. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh told The New Yorker, “From where I sat and from what I knew … Al Qaeda was more a threat to Saudi Arabia than to the U.S. and bin Laden’s whole focus was on toppling the royal family and getting the U.S. forces out of Saudi Arabia.”