Harper on the 28 pages.


On Friday, July 15, the Obama White House released a redacted copy of the missing 28 page chapter from the original December 2002 Joint Congressional Joint Inquiry report on 9/11.  The timing of the release was calculated to minimize the blowback from the long-overdue release of the chapter.  Congress went into summer recess until after Labor Day, just hours before the 28 pages were made public through the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.  The attention of most Americans was immediately focused on the Republican and the Democratic National Conventions. 

However, anyone carefully reading the 28 pages would realize that the Congressional investigators working for the Joint Inquiry had gathered a significant number of leads on Saudi officials and members of the Saudi Royal Family, who had either had direct contact with the 9/11 hijackers while they were in the United States preparing for the terrorist extravaganza, or had been implicated in financial and other support for Al Qaeda.  The Joint Inquiry was restricted by its limited legislative mandate, the lack of time and financial resources.  They were really only able to review existing files from the CIA, the FBI and other agencies, and interview some agents who had investigated Al Qaeda prior to 9/11.  And they did not always find the agencies cooperative.  The Saudis attempted to block the investigation and provided virtually no answers to the questions the inquiry's investigators posed to them. 

This limit on the Joint Inquiry probe was reflected in a 2003 memorandum by the two 9/11 Commission staffers who had written the forbidden chapter.  Document 17, as it was described by the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP), the highest executive branch authority on document declassification, was a 47-page memo by Dana Lesseman and Michael Jacobson, spelling out all of the leads on Saudi support for the 9/11 hijackers that the Joint Inquiry had been unable to pursue. According to John Lehman, former Secretary of the Navy to Ronald Reagan and a member of the 9/11 Commission, the Commission itself had been unable to complete their mandate, and had been unable to pursue all of the Saudi leads before their deadline expired.  Furthermore, the Commission's staff director, Philip Zelikow, was a plant, informing the George W. Bush White House and his former boss, Secretary of State Condi Rice, about everything unearthed by his staff.  Ultimately, Zelikow fired Lesseman for her persistence in pursuing the Saudi file.

The bottom line:  There is more work to be done.  Sept. 11, 2016 is the fifteenth anniversary of the attacks, and there will be significant public attention.  When Congress returns to Washington after Labor Day, just before the 9/11 anniversary, the House is expected to pass the Justice Against Supporters of Terrorism Act (JASTA), a bill that would allow the survivors and family members of the 2,977 people killed in the 9/11 attacks to sue the Saudi Kingdom, by lifting sovereign immunity in specific cases where regimes support terrorist attacks on US soil.  Members of Congress are also contemplating the next step in pursuing the Saudi file, including potential legislation to launch a de novo inquiry. 

Timing is everything, and the timing of George Bush's decision to classify the 28 page chapter is a perfect case in point.  In December 2002, when the President banned the publication of the chapter, the Administration was in the final phases of planning the invasion of Iraq.  The two "reasons" given for the plan to overthrow Saddam Hussein were:  He was amassing weapons of mass destruction, and he had been behind 9/11. 

Had the chapter been published, it would have been near impossible for Bush and Tony Blair to get away with the Iraq invasion.  It would have been like FDR announcing he was declaring war against China, not Japan after Pearl Harbor. 

The issues behind the evidence of Saudi involvement in 9/11–whether at the very top of the regime and the Monarchy, as former Joint Inquiry co-chairman Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) insists, or at some mid-level where Al Qaeda sympathizers had resources to pour into the 9/11 plot–are still with us, and will not be laid to rest by the release of the 28 pages.  Harper

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18 Responses to Harper on the 28 pages.

  1. ToivoS says:

    I read those 28 pages when published. It does not surprise me in the least that no one in our government or in the establishment press paid any attention. Isn’t that the way things work? Harper must be some kind of starry eyed idealist if he thinks this story is going to gain some traction, at least with the US press. Actually I was somewhat shocked on how much evidence we had on Saudi involvement in 911. Somehow I knew beforehand that the Saudis were involved but what was surprising was to see such high level officials in their government actively involved. What was not surprising was to see the lack of interest in the US press.

  2. Peter Reichard says:

    We need a new investigation unconstrained by time and money as the first was and with subpoena power and the authority to grant immunity.

  3. Harper,
    Without having studied them closely, it seems clear that the 28 pages ‘harden up’ what we have known for a long time: that there are ‘chains’ leading from the hijackers up to the top of the Saudi system – in particular Bandar, where of course the links into American and British systems are particularly strong.
    However, there are obvious questions about how ‘chains’ like these work.
    A possible interpretation – which I see frequently canvassed – is that what the ‘bottom’ does was instigated by the top.
    The notion that Bandar orchestrated 9/11 has never made sense me to me, however.
    An alternative possibility is that people in the ‘chain’ are playing some kinds of ‘double game’.
    It is obviously an open question how much of what Zacarias Moussaoui has claimed is the case. However, the picture of – thoroughly corrupt and degenerate – Saudi princelings living in terror of the ulema, and so giving Osama bin Laden et al ample support for their activities outside Saudi Arabia, on the understanding that ‘jihad’ would not be waged at home, seems to make a great deal of sense.
    But then, might it not also make sense for elements in the Saudi state who were unsympathetic of the Saudi princelings to play a double game, in which a key move was the most dramatic attack possible in the United States?
    In such a situation, both the princelings – in particular Bandar – and also those elements of the American and British élites who had been, as it were, ‘in bed’ with him would have to cover up. The predictable effect, however, would be responses from the United States, and Britain, which could be expected to further processes of polarisation.
    If one target of these would be the ‘infidels’, another, longer-term, target could be the ‘princelings’. A process of polarisation would, surely, be liable eventually to make their position untenable.
    And then, one comes to the role of the Israelis, and their ‘fellow travellers’.
    It has long seemed to me somewhat unlikely – if by no means impossible – that the ‘dancing Israelis’ were caught totally unawares by 9/11.
    The extent to which many ‘neoconservatives’ in the West saw the attack not simply as a threat but as an opportunity actually came out vividly in the account of Blair’s responses in the Chilcot report.
    That does not, in my view, make it likely that Israelis were actively involved in instigating the attack. But the possibility that they had advance knowledge and did nothing to stop it would seem a real one. And, of course, that would provide a further reason for people to obstruct a proper investigation.

  4. raven says:

    But but BENGHAZI!!!!

  5. notlurking says:

    Yes, yes and yes…………

  6. Fred says:

    The Clinton Global Initiative accepted millions from Saudi Arabia. I’m sure Hilary will tell us what good works her husband put the money too.

  7. Harper says:

    In reply to David Habakkuk: It is essential to remember that the Saudi regime is a power sharing arrangement between the House of Saud and the Wahhabi clergy. Bandar was not a fundamentalist, but a Bush League neocon (often referred to in Washington as “Bandar Bush.” Everyone in the Saudi Royal Family has to kow-tow to the Wahhabi clerics, and there are unquestionably Wahhabi believers and virulent anti-Western elements within the Royal Family and their business agents as well. There was a deal reached between the Saudi Royals and Al Qaeda in 1997, brokered through Prince Turki bin-Faisal, then head of Saudi intelligence. The deal was that the Saudis would lift the ban on funding of Al Qaeda if Al Qaeda dropped its attacks on the House of Saud. It is all very complex, but the details provided in the 28 pages and the as yet to be declassified follow up documents indicate that the Saudi regime was implicated at many levels in the support for the hijackers. Motives are always hard to ascribe, especially 15 years or more after the fact. But the level of Saudi support is unquestionable, and in the 28 pages, a number of Saudi officials who were closest to the hijackers, like Basnan and Al-Bayoumi, were known by the FBI and CIA to be Al Qaeda sympathizers for a long time prior to 9/11. There were powerful bureaucratic reasons for the FBI and the CIA to join in the coverup, unrelated to sympathy for Al Qaeda.
    The Israelis were tracking radical Islamists in the United States for years. The so-called “art students” who were expelled en mass from the US just before and after 9/11 were tracking the hijackers cells in at least southern Florida and Texas, where the hijackers were living for a period of time. That is clear from cross-gridding DEA and FBI documents that were made public at the time. A story in Die Zeit in Hamburg, Germany in late 2001 lamented that the US was paranoid about the art students and expelled them because of the belief they were spying on US government agencies and facilities. But in reality, they were tracking the radical Islamists and their information could have stopped 9/11, but for American paranoia. That was, of course, self-serving from the Israeli standpoint, but is tantamount to an admission that the Israelis were tracking some of the terror cells prior to 9/11. Did they “know in advance” about the pending attack? I have no idea, but it is one reason for the persistent question among many “9/11 Truthers” about the Israeli role.

  8. morongobill says:

    My guess is that there is a lot better chance for that investigation under a Trump administration than under HRC.

  9. Fred says:

    Yes, why was the Ambassador in that city rather than the capital?

  10. tim s says:

    “The Israelis were tracking radical Islamists in the United States for years. The so-called “art students” who were expelled en mass from the US just before and after 9/11 were tracking the hijackers cells in at least southern Florida and Texas, where the hijackers were living for a period of time.”
    What, US agencies could not have done that, so the Israeli’s had to? If so, they had to do it without coordination with US agencies? Once caught, they allowed themselves to be expelled? etc, etc. Any link for the Die Zeit article?

  11. Abu Sinan says:

    I have some experience with the Saudis, the Embassy here in DC and Bandar and his family. Some of the 28 pages bears further investigation, but a lot of it that looks like something from American/Western eyes really isnt what it seems. Keep in mind we must look at some of these facts from Saudi cultural practice and what is business as usual and what is really a nugget of information.
    It is entirely normal for the Saudi Embassy, an Ambassador and his family, to provide large amounts of money to Saudis who are living, residing, working and going to school abroad. So, in and of itself, Bandar and his wife giving random Saudis large amounts of money is really not uncommon at all. It is a rather common practice. Keep in mind that Saudi is a tribal system that works on patronage. A large chunk of the support that the royal family gets from its citizens is based on this system of patronage.
    So a single Saudi man studying overseas gets a check directly from Bandar or his wife for $50,000 or more is not really too much of a noticeable event. It is common place. So if investigators were to look further, they’d see dozens and dozens of seemingly unrelated Saudis in the US that have received such checks from the Saudi Embassy, the Ambassador and his family and associated Saudi charities. A couple of examples of how this free flow of money worked that I know of first hand. A Saudi lady I know personally has a child with Autism. The child was born here in the US and the father is not present in the child’s life. The lady petitioned Prince Bandar and laid out her circumstances to him. Within a short period of time the lady received a check from the Prince’s personal account, that was a rather large sum of money. I don’t know how much, but the lady was able to stop renting an apartment in Virginia, moved to Florida, paid cash for a house and got a new car and was able to subsequently able to get private therapy for her daughter. In another situation, an American private security guard who worked on Prince Bandar’s team took some time off when his wife had a baby. When he came back Prince Bandar wrote him out a check for $100,000.
    So this free flow of money, large sums coming from the Embassy, Prince Bandar, his wife and others doesn’t really have to mean anything at all. I am not saying there was nothing to this money, I am just making a point that what looks so damning on the surface really isnt uncommon, isnt unusual and doesn’t mean that it has to be anything more. What would concern me more are the reports of members of the Saudi establishment getting jobs for people, but to be honest, even that is a part of the normal patronage system and the concept of “wasta” or using connections that you or your family have with others to gain special treatment, money, jobs, or positions. It is just part and parcel of how things work in a tribal society like Saudi and it happens in the Saudi community here in the US.
    Make no mistake, it would be very hard to find someone as critical of the Saudi system and its impact around the world than myself. I have spent the last year lobbying Congress, the State Department and others in regards to the Saudi role in takfiri terrorism, the spread of international religious extremism and, in particular, their murderous war on Yemen. Regardless, much of what is laid out in the 28 pages doesn’t mean too much when compared to the normal practices in Saudi society. It would take a lot more than payments from the Embassy or Bandar and his wife to prove anything because this practice is common. Providing apartments for free for a period of time to Saudis in the US? Common, it happens, and on a regular basis. There would have to be more evidence, and maybe there is that we are not seeing, that shows some sort of a quid pro quo for this money and any potential terrorist activities.

  12. SmoothieX12 says:

    Motives are always hard to ascribe, especially 15 years or more after the fact
    Not necessarily, if one considers (granted, not from “Western” media) what was happening in Chechnya at that time.

  13. LeaNder says:

    good luck, tim, the archive of “Die Zeit” is notoriously bad to search. But since it is a weekly and Harper suggests in 2001–some time after 9/11 I guess–you only have to check 16 editions from edition 2001/36 to 2001/52, the last one of that year. Maybe from 52 back to 36 the issue on Thursday after 9/11.
    I followed the larger issue in both Der Spiegel and Die Zeit, but don’t recall the art students in reports over here …

  14. LeaNder says:

    “Not necessarily, if one considers (granted, not from “Western” media) what was happening in Chechnya at that time. ”
    to pick up on my response to tim above. I seem to recall that in the reports on the Hamburg Cell in Der Spiegel after 9/11 Chechney surfaced as one alternative destination in their story, Atta’s story?, quite possibly as suggested by the larger network and/or specific recruiters, but alas, I forget the details.
    Not sure how close I get with this memory trail to whatever you had in mind above.

  15. Babak Makkinejad says:

    So, this is just a storm in a teacup?
    They why weren’t these 28 pages released?
    As you say, they signify nothing of imnportance pertaining to terrorist attacks on US.

  16. Chris Chuba says:

    Who bombed Khobar Towers, Hezbollah or Al Qaeda?
    This is a closely related topic since it involves our friends, the Saudis (I meant to post it earlier when this topic was more fresh).
    Gareth Porter claims that Al Qaeda bombed Khobar, killing the U.S. soldiers residing there and that the Saudi’s framed Hezbollah to build on the Iran as a terrorist nation narrative.
    Paraphrasing his arguments …
    1. Virtually all of the evidence indicting Hezbollah came from Saudi prisoners after torture.
    2. The Saudi’s regularly blocked access to prisoners from the U.S., including Sunni prisoners who were soon executed. The U.S. had access to prisoners after a long period of incarceration where the Saudi’s would be able to coach them under duress.
    3. Bin Laden claimed credit for the Khobar Towers bombing and there was intelligence that Al Qaeda had trafficked explosives in that time frame.
    4. The Saudis have a motive.
    I don’t pretend to be an expert but I found the article convincing. While I do not doubt that Iran is willing to kill U.S. soldiers under the right conditions, I don’t see the Iranians supporting actions like this when there is no strategic value. What would the Iranians gain from such a random act of violence? Also, this does match one of Bin Laden’s self declared motives of wanting to drive the U.S. military out of Saudi Arabia.

  17. Abu Sinan says:

    I am not saying there isn’t something to the claims that KSA government/establishment was involved with 9/11. What I am saying is that the 28 pages certainly does not prove it. I think the people investigating the Saudis after 9/11 had their hands tied and were not allowed to do a thorough and complete investigation. As to why they didn’t want to release the 28 pages I can only hazard a guess that it is for the same reasons I have suggested. Those without knowledge of how a country like KSA works, the tribal system and the system of patronage, as well as what is common practice for the Saudis in the US for decades before 9/11, will add 2 + 2 and come up with 10.
    Again, one would be hard pressed to find someone who dislikes KSA as I do and I have done what limited work I can to push back against what they are doing internationally by meeting with multiple US lawmakers, US State Department and members of Saudi opposition groups here in the US. So I have no love of them, it is just that these 28 pages don’t really have the deep ranging implications that some think they do. There might, very well, be the seeds of such implications and the US government should have allowed a full and unfettered investigation of any Saudi government role in 9/11, but as I have learned on my time at the Hill, Saudi money has a wide grasp of our elected officials.

  18. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I understand and appreciate all of that.

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