by Russ Baker
On Monday, attorneys representing victims of the 9/11 attacks filed papers alleging substantial Saudi financial support for Al Qaeda and terrorism, including a plan to shoot down Air Force One. This Saudi support supposedly continued up to shortly before 9/11. Donors included leading members of the royal family.
These extraordinary allegations came in rare testimony from behind the walls of a Supermax prison by the so-called “20th hijacker,” Zacharias Moussaoui, a convicted Al Qaeda operative.
The New York Times took him quite seriously:
Mr. Moussaoui’s testimony, if judged credible, provides new details of the extent and nature of that [Saudi] support in the pre-9/11 period. In more than 100 pages of testimony, filed in federal court in New York on Monday, he comes across as calm and largely coherent, though the plaintiffs’ lawyers questioning him do not challenge his statements.
One of the people Moussaoui says he met as an Al Qaeda representative was Prince Salman, who in January became the new king of Saudi Arabia. Others he claims to have met include Turki al-Faisal, who at the time was Saudi intelligence chief, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the longtime Saudi ambassador to the U.S.
Both Turki and Bandar were very close with George H.W. Bush and his family. At the time of the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush was president of the United States—and in what was seemingly a chilling accident of fate, was in Sarasota himself on 9/11. His brother Jeb, now a leading contender for the presidency of the United States, was at the time the governor of Florida.
The Times goes on to say that Moussaoui’s testimony, if found to be factually accurate, could change our understanding of Saudi Arabia and its relationship to 9/11:
[T]he extent and nature of Saudi involvement in Al Qaeda, and whether it extended to the planning and financing of the Sept. 11 attacks, has long been a subject of dispute.
That may be so, but the Times, like the rest of the traditional media, has ignored earlier evidence of deep Saudi royal ties to the 9/11 attacks—evidence that isn’t dependent on a man whose sanity has been questioned.
Back in 2011, a small non-profit news outfit in South Florida, the Broward Bulldog, which does primarily local stories, published an article that also appeared in a major traditional newspaper, the Miami Herald. Despite the story’s explosive content, it was widely ignored.
That article revealed that a well-heeled Saudi family, living in a gated community in Sarasota, Florida, had direct connections to the hijackers. Phone records documented communication, dating back more than a year, between this Saudi family and the alleged plot leader, Mohammed Atta, his hijack pilots and 11 of the other hijackers. In addition, records from the guard house at the gated community showed Atta and other hijackers had visited the house.
The article also revealed that the FBI had quietly investigated the family and documented numerous interactions between them and the alleged hijackers. They, however, neglected to tell Congressional investigators and the evidence didn’t appear in the 9/11 Commission Report.
You might think these revelations would attract widespread attention, considering that 15 of the 19 purported hijackers were Saudi citizens. Yet the Bulldog story generated barely a blip.
The Flying Prince’s Connection
Next, our small non-profit news outfit, WhoWhatWhy, which covers primarily international and national investigative stories, took the reporting to another level.
Our story established that the owner of the house, Esam Ghazzawi, was a direct lieutenant to a powerful member of the Saudi royal family who’d learned to fly in Florida years earlier. Ghazzawi was director of the UK division of EIRAD Trading and Contracting Co. Ltd., which among other things, holds the Saudi franchise for many multinational brands including UPS. Ghazzawi’s boss, the chairman of EIRAD Holding Co. Ltd., is Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud.
WhoWhatWhy’s reporting raised serious questions about whether high-ranking Saudis were directly involved with the 9/11 operation, and whether the U.S. government covered up what it knew.
WhoWhatWhy paid a major news distribution outfit to send our story to thousands of news outlets, major and minor, in the United States. Again, the silence was deafening.
The debate about Moussaoui’s newly released testimony centers on whether he can be trusted. But there is no debate about the Sarasota evidence we uncovered. We’re still waiting for the Times, along with the rest of the mainstream media, to acknowledge that material.
Whatever happened in Florida, whatever the veracity of Moussaoui’s claims, anyone with an open mind will smell enough smoke to wonder whose interests are being served by pretending there’s no fire in the Saudi-9/11 connection.
For more on the Bush family’s relationship to the Saudi royal family, see Russ Baker’s book, Family of