Alex Constantine - December 25, 2013
Meet the Neo-Truthers: a pair of Congressmen, a scholar from the Hoover Institute, the New York Post, the Washington Times, and other "conservative" house organs -- they are all reporting that Prince Bandar's "recently discovered" role in Black Tuesday is indicative of a "foreign conspiracy" behind 9/11. I won't stoop to snickering at these 9/11 "conspiracy theorists," as they've been doing for years. But the current crop of "Truthers" make some rather bizarre claims. From the InTheCapital website:
There are few tragedies in American history that are more course altering than the events of 9/11. While Americans remember every year the events of that day, the questions and mystery surrounding how such a terrible attack could have taken place seem to diminish as time goes by. Two members of Congress however, are trying desperately to bring the debate over how U.S. security was so grievously breached back into the forefront, according to an op-ed by Hoover Institution media fellow Paul Sperry.
Republican Representative Walter Jones of North Carolina and Democratic Representative Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts have proposed legislation that would force President Obama to declassify the entirety of the 2002 report: “Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.” After the report was released, President Bush removed 28 pages on the grounds of national security. These two Congressmen recently read the classified pages and said they were “absolutely shocked” at how much foreign power was involved in 9/11.
According to the recent New York Post article, it isn't hard to ascertain the nature of this foreign involvement. Open source memos from the CIA and the FBI both show that high level officials from Saudi Arabia, think diplomats and intelligence officers stationed throughout America, gave both financial and logistical aid to the hijackers leading up to the attacks. In Sperry's op-ed, he suggests that multiple Saudi officials living in the Beltway had interactions with the 9/11 hijackers.
In 2001, Ambassador Prince Bandar was living at the Saudi Arabian embassy here in Washington with his wife. During the course of his time in the capital, Bandar gave a total of $130,000 to an agent who had set up base camps for the hijackers in San Diego ...
The role of Prince Bandar suggests a "foreign" conspiracy? According to the CIA and FBI? Bandar, who had a central role in Iran contra? "Bandar Bush?" The close ally of the CIA? Bandar, the close associate of Steven Hatfill, the leading suspect in the post-9/11 anthrax mailings? The same Saudi prince who served in several American presidential administrations, including GW Bush's? The relevant leads are to the Saudis? Not the CIA?
Not Cheney, Armitage, Rumsfeld, and other Iran contra familiars who've engaged in mass murderous enterprises in the past, including arms sales to terrorist mullahs and death squads in Nicragua, illicit wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc., etc?
Funny how the new Truthers can't seem to get it straight -- in their haste to divert attention from conspirators much closer to home.
Who, they should ask, exactly is Prince Bandar? The Constantine Report answered that question in 2011::
Prince Bandar & the CIA
” … He was in support of Dick Cheney’s policy of “The New Middle East” that called for pro-democracy programs in Syria and Iran. (Bandar’s children also attended school with Cheney’s grandchildren.) According to prince-bandar.com, ‘As Ambassador, Prince Bandar worked with CIA Director Bill Casey to fund covert CIA operations with Saudi petrodollars. He played a key role in the Iran-Contra affair; consulted with President Gorbachev to secure Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan; negotiated an end to the Iran-Iraq war. … He served under four different American presidencies and was called ‘Washington’s indispensable operator’ by the New Yorker. … ” From "Did Iran Contra's Prince Bandar Plan the Coup to Oust Syria's Bashar Assad?"
This is a "foreign" conspirator? The same right-wingers who supported GW Bush throughout his misbegotten presidency, and all of its attendant atrocities, can't seem to focus their eyes on the actual 9/11 perps. They are too agitated and "shocked" over the latest revelations of "foreign involvement" to see straight. Who, after all, is Prince Bandar, and what are his actual ties to 9/11? From the Cooperative Research website:
Late 1990s: CIA Director Tenet Has Direct, Private Channels to Saudi Leaders
George Tenet, appointed as CIA director in 1997, develops close personal relationships with top Saudi officials, especially Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the US. Tenet develops a habit of meeting with Bandar at his home near Washington about once a month. But CIA officers handling Saudi issues complain that Tenet doesn’t tell them what he discusses with Bandar. Often they are only able to learn about Tenet’s deals with the Saudis later and through Saudi contacts, not from their own boss. Tenet also makes one of his closest aides the chief of the CIA station in Saudi Arabia. This aide often communicates directly with Tenet, avoiding the usual chain of command. Apparently as a favor to the Saudis, CIA analysts are discouraged from writing reports raising questions about the Saudi relationship to Islamic extremists. [Risen, 2006, pp. 185]
April 1998: Hijacker Associate Receives Saudi Money; FBI Fails to Investigate
Osama Basnan, a Saudi living in California, claims to write a letter to Saudi Arabian Prince Bandar bin Sultan and his wife, Princess Haifa bint Faisal, asking for financial help because his wife needs thyroid surgery. The Saudi embassy sends Basnan $15,000 and pays the surgical bill. However, according to University of California at San Diego hospital records, Basnan’s wife, Majeda Dweikat, is not treated until April 2000. [Los Angeles Times, 11/24/2002] Basnan will later come under investigation for possibly using some of this money to support two of the 9/11 hijackers who arrive in San Diego, although the 9/11 Commission has concluded that evidence does not support these charges. [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004] Prior to this time, the FBI had several chances to investigate Basnan, but failed to do so. In 1992, they received information suggesting a connection between him and a militant group later associated with bin Laden. In 1993, they received reports that Basnan hosted a party for al-Qaeda leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman the year before, but again they failed to investigate. [US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file] According to one US official, Basnan later “celebrate[s] the heroes of September 11” and talks about “what a wonderful, glorious day it had been” at a party shortly after 9/11. [Newsweek, 11/24/2002; San Diego Magazine, 9/2003]
December 4, 1999: Saudi Ambassador’s Wife Gives Funds that Are Possibly Passed to 9/11 Hijackers
Princess Haifa bint Faisal, the wife of Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the US, begins sending monthly cashier’s checks of between $2,000 and $3,500 (accounts differ) to Majeda Dweikat, the Jordanian wife of Osama Basnan, a Saudi living in San Diego. Accounts also differ over when the checks were first sent (between November 1999 and about March 2000; a Saudi government representative has stated December 4, 1999 [Fox News, 11/23/2002] ). Basnan’s wife signs many of the checks over to her friend Manal Bajadr, the wife of Omar al-Bayoumi. The payments are made through Riggs Bank, a bank which appears to have turned a blind eye to Saudi embassy transaction and also has longstanding ties to covert CIA operations (see July 2003). [Newsweek, 11/22/2002; Newsweek, 11/24/2002; Guardian, 11/25/2002; Washington Times, 11/26/2002] Some later suggest that the money from the wife of the Saudi ambassador passes through the al-Bayoumi and Basnan families as intermediaries and ends up in the hands of the two hijackers. The payments from Princess Haifa continue until May 2002 and may total $51,000, or as much as $73,000. [Newsweek, 11/22/2002; MSNBC, 11/27/2002] While living in the San Diego area, al-Bayoumi and Basnan are heavily involved in helping with the relocation of, and offering financial support to, Saudi immigrants in the community. [Los Angeles Times, 11/24/2002] In late 2002, al-Bayoumi claims he did not pass any money along to the hijackers. [Washington Times, 12/4/2002] Basnan has variously claimed to know al-Bayoumi, not to know him at all, or to know him only vaguely. [ABC News, 11/25/2002; Arab News, 11/26/2002; ABC News, 11/26/2002; MSNBC, 11/27/2002] However, earlier reports say Basnan and his wife were “very good friends” of al-Bayoumi and his wife. Both couples lived at the Parkwood Apartments at the same time as the two hijackers; prior to that, the couples lived together in a different apartment complex. In addition, the two wives were arrested together in April 2001 for shoplifting. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/22/2002]
March 15, 2001: Bush Tells Saudi Prince that Military Action in Iraq Needs to be ‘Decisive’
During a meeting with President Bush, Saudi Prince Bandar expresses concern about the US’s continuing patrolling of the “no-fly zone” in Iraq. The prince complains that it is “costing us militarily, financially, but much more importantly politically,” and adds that “it is not hurting Saddam Hussein.” Bush seems to agree. “If there is any military action, then it has to be decisive. That can finalize the issue,” Bush says. “The Iraqi opposition is useless and not effective.” [Risen, 2006, pp. 183-184]
April 11, 2001: China Returns Crew of Downed US Spy Plane, Keeps Plane
The dispute between the US and China over the downed US spy plane over Chinese territory, and the subsequent detention of the crew by the Chinese (see March 31, 2001, April 4-5, 2001, April 6-7, 2001, and April 8, 2001), is resolved. Chinese officials approve the letter from US officials expressing regret over the incident, and early that morning, the crew members are released into American custody. [CNN, 4/2001] The plane, filled with secret US surveillance equipment, remains in Chinese custody; it will eventually be disassembled on Hainan Island by US crews and returned to American custody in July, 2001. [US Pacific Command, 7/2001] Defense expert Paul Beaver says China’s acquisition of even part of the surveillance equipment—whatever was not destroyed by the crew before the plane was boarded by Chinese troops—is an incalculable loss to the United States. China may cut the US lead in electronic warfare by at least a decade. “The EP-3E is the jewel in the crown of the US Navy’s electronic intelligence gathering capability and the loss of its secrets to a potential unfriendly nation is a grievous loss to the US,” Beaver writes. He writes that the loss of the EP-3 is perhaps the most serious loss to the US intelligence community since the downing of Francis Gary Powers’s U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union in 1961, and warns that China could even sell the technology it acquires to nations such as Russia or Pakistan. [BBC, 4/3/2001] It is not publicly revealed until 2006 that President Bush secretly engaged Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar to conduct the delicate negotiations with the Chinese over the US aircraft and crew. Bandar, a close friend of the Bush family and a senior Saudi official, is an unusual choice for the negotiations, but Bandar has a special relationship with the Chinese due to Saudi Arabia’s various deals to purchase arms and missiles, and the increasing reliance of China on Saudi oil. Bandar, never a modest man, considers it a personal favor from the Chinese to have them release the 24 American hostages. Bandar also oversees the wording of the American “apology” to the Chinese for the incident, where the US apologizes for entering Chinese airspace to make an emergency landing, but does not apologize for the E-3’s legitimate intelligence-gathering mission. Secretary of State Colin Powell, nominally in charge of the US negotiations, only finds out about Bandar’s efforts through the NSA’s monitoring of Bandar’s phone calls to the Chinese; when he calls Bandar to congratulate him on his success, Bandar snaps to the Secretary of State, “How the hell do you know?” [Woodward, 2006, pp. 28-29] Media pundit Eric Alterman characterizes the response of the US media as “extremely indulgent” towards Bush, with the notable exception of neoconservatives, who complain about “the national humilation [Bush] has brought upon the United States” and Bush’s “weakness…and fear.” Alterman says that while the incident itself is a foreign policy disaster, the manipulation of a compliant US media is brilliant. He notes that Bush was able to apologize twice to the Chinese without actually being reported in America as apologizing. Neither was the tremendous intelligence loss of the EP-3 focused upon as the potential disaster that many military and intelligence officials perceived it to be. He quotes Washington Post correspondent John Harris as writing, “The truth is, this new president has done things with relative impunity that would have been huge uproars if they had occurred under Clinton. Take it from someone who made a living writing about these uproars.…Take the recent emergency landing of a US surveillance plane in China. Imagine how conservatives would have reacted had Clinton insisted that detained military personnel were not actually hostages, and then cut a deal to get the people (but not the plane) home by offering two ‘very sorrys’ to the Chinese, while also saying that he had not apologized. What is being hailed as Bush’s shrewd diplomacy would have been savaged as ‘Slick Willie’ contortions.” [Alterman, 2003, pp. 194-197]
August 27, 2001: Saudis Threaten to End Their Alliance with US
Crown Prince Abdullah, the effective leader of Saudi Arabia, is upset with US policy over Israel and Palestine and threatens to break the Saudi alliance with the US. He has Prince Bandar, Saudi ambassador to the US, personally deliver a message to President Bush on August 27. Bandar says, “This is the most difficult message I have had to convey to you that I have ever conveyed between the two governments since I started working here in Washington in 1982.” He brings up a number of issues, including the complaint that since Bush became president US policy has tilted towards Israel so much that the US has allowed Israeli Prime Minister Sharon to “determine everything in the Middle East.” The message concludes, “Therefore the Crown Prince will not communicate in any form, type or shape with you, and Saudi Arabia will take all its political, economic and security decisions based on how it sees its own interest in the region without taking into account American interests anymore because it is obvious that the United States has taken a strategic decision adopting Sharon’s policy.” Bush seems shocked and replies, “I want to assure you that the United States did not make any strategic decision.” Secretary of State Powell later confronts Bandar and says, “What the fuck are you doing? You’re putting the fear of God in everybody here. You scared the shit out of everybody.” Bandar reportedly replies, “I don’t give a damn what you feel. We are scared ourselves.” Two days later, Bush replies with a message designed to appease the Saudi concerns (see August 29-September 6, 2001). [Woodward, 2006, pp. 77-79]
September 13, 2001: Saudi Royals Fly to Kentucky in Violation of Domestic Flight Ban
After a complete air flight ban in the US began during the 9/11 attacks, some commercial flights begin resuming this day. However, all private flights are still banned from flying. Nonetheless, at least one private flight carrying Saudi royalty takes place on this day. And in subsequent days, other flights carry royalty and bin Laden family members. These flights take place even as fighters escort down three other private planes attempting to fly. Most of the Saudi royals and bin Ladens in the US at the time are high school or college students and young professionals. [New York Times, 9/30/2001; Vanity Fair, 10/2003] The first flight is a Lear Jet that leaves from a private Raytheon hangar in Tampa, Florida, and takes three Saudis to Lexington, Kentucky. [Tampa Tribune, 10/5/2001] This flight apparently takes place several hours after a private meeting between President Bush and Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the US. Some think the idea of the flights were approved at that meeting (see September 13, 2001). For two years, this violation of the air ban is denied by the FAA, FBI, and White House, and decried as an urban legend except for one article detailing them in a Tampa newspaper. [Tampa Tribune, 10/5/2001] Finally, in 2003, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke confirms the existence of these flights, and Secretary of State Powell confirms them as well. [MSNBC, 9/7/2003; Vanity Fair, 10/2003] However, the White House remains silent on the matter. [New York Times, 9/4/2003] Officials at the Tampa International Airport finally confirm this first flight in 2004. But whether the flight violated the air ban or not rests on some technicalities that remain unresolved. [Lexington Herald-Leader, 6/10/2004] The Saudis are evacuated to Saudi Arabia over the next several days (see September 14-19, 2001).
April 25, 2002: Saudi Prince Said to Meet Suspected Hijacker Associate While Visiting Bush
Osama Basnan, an alleged associate of 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, reports his passport stolen to Houston police. [Newsweek, 11/24/2002] This confirms that Basnan is in Houston on the same day that Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, Prince Saud al-Faisal, and Saudi US Ambassador Prince Bandar meet with President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Powell, and National Security Adviser Rice at Bush’s ranch in nearby Crawford, Texas. [US-Saudi Arabian Business Council, 4/25/2002] Abdullah’s entourage passes through Houston that week en route to Bush’s ranch. While in Texas, it is believed that Basnan “met with a high Saudi prince who has responsibilities for intelligence matters and is known to bring suitcases full of cash into the United States.” [Newsweek, 11/24/2002; Guardian, 11/25/2002] The still-classified section of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry is said to discuss the possibility of Basnan meeting this figure at this time. [Associated Press, 8/2/2003]
August 27, 2002: Close Relationship Between Saudi Ambassador and Bush Raise Questions
Prince Bandar, Saudi ambassador to the US, meets privately for more than an hour with President Bush and National Security Adviser Rice in Crawford, Texas. [Daily Telegraph, 8/28/2002] Press Secretary Ari Fleischer characterizes it as a warm meeting of old friends. Bandar, his wife (Princess Haifa), and seven of their eight children stay for lunch. [Fox News, 8/27/2002] Prince Bandar, a long-time friend of the Bush family, donated $1 million to the George W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas. [Boston Herald, 12/11/2001] This relationship later becomes news when it is learned that Princess Haifa gave between $51,000 and $73,000 to two Saudi families in California who may have financed two of the 9/11 hijackers (see December 4, 1999). [New York Times, 11/23/2002; MSNBC, 11/27/2002]
July 2003: Saudi Embassy in US Found to Be Passing Money to Suspect Charities through US Bank that Has CIA Ties
In late 2002, US federal banking investigators began looking into transactions at Riggs Bank because of news reports that some money may have passed from the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington through Riggs Bank to the associates of two 9/11 hijackers in San Diego (see December 4, 1999). But in July 2003, the probe expands as investigators discover irregularities involving tens of millions of dollars also connected to the Saudi embassy. The Wall Street Journal will later report, “Riggs repeatedly failed in 2001 and 2002 to file suspicious-activity reports related to cash transactions in the low tens of millions of dollars in Saudi accounts, said people familiar with the matter.” Riggs Bank “handles the bulk of [Washington’s] diplomatic accounts, a niche market that revolves around relationships and discretion.” [Wall Street Journal, 1/14/2004] Newsweek will later report that “investigators say the embassy accounts show a large commingling of funds with Islamic charities that have been the prime target of US probes.” In one instance, on July 10, 2001 the Saudi embassy sent $70,000 to two Saudis in Massachusetts. One of the Saudis wrote a $20,000 check that same day to a third Saudi who had listed the same address as Aafia Siddiqui, a microbiologist who is believed to have been a US-based operative for 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (see Late September 2001-March 2003). [Newsweek, 4/12/2004] The Wall Street Journal will later discover that Riggs Bank “has had a longstanding relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency, according to people familiar with Riggs operations and US government officials” (see December 31, 2004). The relationship included top Riggs executives receiving US government security clearances. Riggs also overlooked tens of millions of dollars in suspicious transactions by right wing dictators from Africa and South America such as former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. [Wall Street Journal, 12/31/2004] A connection between the CIA and Riggs Bank goes back to at least the early 1960s. And in 1977, journalist Bob Woodward tied Riggs Bank to payments in a CIA operation in Iran. [Slate, 1/10/2005] The CIA tie leads to suspicions that the bank’s failure to disclose financial activity by Saudi diplomats and other foreign officials may have been implicitly authorized by parts of the US government. Some of the suspicious Saudi accounts belong to Saudi diplomats, including Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to the US. Shortly after these irregularities are discovered, Prince Bandar meets with Treasury Secretary John Snow and details his work for the CIA. For instance, during the 1980s, Prince Bandar helped fund the anticommunist Nicaraguan Contra rebels at the request of the White House and CIA as part of what became known as the Iran-Contra affair, and he also helped the CIA support Afghan rebels fighting the Soviet Union. It is not known what was discussed but US intelligence officials suggest Prince Bandar disclosed his CIA connections “as an explanation for the prince’s large unexplained cash transactions at Riggs.” [Wall Street Journal, 12/31/2004] It will later come to light that for many years $30 million a month were being secretly deposited into a Riggs Bank account controlled by Prince Bandar. It has been alleged that major British arms contractor BAE Systems funneled up to $2 billion in bribes through this account over the years as part of an $80 billion weapons deal between Britain and Saudi Arabia. Riggs Bank never knew the source of the funds. After the probe uncovers these suspicious transactions, the bank cuts off all business with the Saudis. [Newsweek, 6/11/2007] The US Treasury will later impose unusually strict controls on Riggs Bank and fine the bank $25 million. [Wall Street Journal, 1/14/2004] The bank will also plead guilty to one felony count of failing to file suspicious activity reports and pay an additional fine of $16 million. [Washington Post, 1/28/2005]
August 21, 2005: New Saudi Ambassador to US Has Controversial Past
Prince Bandar, Saudi ambassador to the US since 1983, steps down and is replaced by Prince Turki al-Faisal. It is said that Prince Bandar had been suffering health problems and is not close to the new Saudi King Abdullah (see August 1, 2005). Prince Turki was Saudi intelligence minister from the late 1970s until about one week before 9/11 (see August 31, 2001). Then he served three years as Saudi ambassador to Britain. Prince Turki has had a controversial past. He was considered a mentor to bin Laden, and encouraged him to represent Saudi Arabia in the Afghanistan war against the Soviet Union. There are allegations that Prince Turki took part in a series of secret meetings between bin Laden and the Saudis over a period of many years (see Summer 1991; May 1996; Spring 1998; June 1998; July 1998; July 4-14, 2001). There are also allegations that he went falcon hunting in Afghanistan with bin Laden during much of the 1990s (see 1995-2001). In the wake of his appointment as ambassador, US officials try to downplay his past. One unnamed US official says, “Yes, he knew members of al-Qaeda. Yes, he talked to the Taliban. At times he delivered messages to us and from us regarding Osama bin Laden and others. Yes, he had links that in this day and age would be considered problematic, but at the time we used those links.” The official adds that Prince Turki seems to have “gotten out of that business” since 2001 and “he understands that times have changed.” He was sued in 2002 by a group of 9/11 victims’ relatives for allegedly supporting al-Qaeda, but his name was dropped from the suit because of diplomatic immunity (see August 15, 2002). [New York Times, 7/21/2005]
Late November 2006: Cheney Flies to Saudi Arabia to Meet with King Abdullah and Prince Bandar
Vice President Dick Cheney flies to Saudi Arabia for a meeting with King Abdullah and Prince Bandar bin Sultan. The king reportedly warns Cheney that the Saudis will consider providing financial support to Iraqi Sunnis in any war against Iraq’s Shiites if the US pulls out of Iraq. An unnamed Arab diplomat tells the New York Times, “If things become so bad in Iraq, like an ethnic cleansing, we will feel we are pulled into the war.” But according to a European intelligence official interviewed by reported Seymour Hersh, the real concern—one shared by both the Saudis and the Bush administration—is that the conflict in Iraq is resulting in a tilt of power in the Middle East that favors Shiite-dominated Iran. [New York Times, 12/13/2007]
(Late 2006): Prince Bandar Meets with Elliot Abrams Several Times
Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington and now King Abdullah’s national security adviser, makes several trips to Washington and holds meetings with Elliot Abrams, the senior Middle East official on the National Security Council. It has been suggested that the visits relate to the White House’s new Mideast policy “redirection,” aimed at undercutting Iranian influence in the region (see Late 2006). Bandar’s actions reportedly upsets Prince Turki bin Faisal, the current Saudi ambassador to the US, prompting him to quit his post (see December 11, 2006). [Daily Telegraph, 1/10/2007]
December 11, 2006: Prince Turki al-Faisal Resigns as Saudi Ambassador to the US
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US, Prince Turki bin Faisal, abruptly resigns and flies back to Saudi Arabia. His staff is reportedly shocked by his sudden departure. The explanation provided to the public is that he wants to spend more time with his family. [Washington Post, 12/10/2006] But insiders say Turki left because he was angry about dealings taking place behind his back between the previous Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar, and top White House officials (see Late November 2006 and (Late 2006)). [Daily Telegraph, 1/10/2007; New Yorker, 3/5/2007]