CIA Director John Brennan appeared on Sunday’s May 2, 2016 episode of Meet the Press to suggest that the 9/11 Commission made a ‘very clear judgement’ there was no existing evidence tying Saudi government officials to the financial sponsorship of the 9/11 hijackers. 

As President Obama considers the release of the 28 classified pages (a summary of leads provided to the 9/11 Commission by a Congressional panel investigating intelligence failures following the 9/11 attacks), Mr. Brennan stated he was concerned there would be those who would utilize the “uncorroborated, unvetted information” and draw incorrect conclusions from the classified material.

An opinion piece in USA Today on April 27, 2016 by Thomas Kean (Chair of the 9/11 Commission) and Lee Hamilton (Vice-chair of the 9/11 Commission) confirms Brennan’s assertion that the information contained within the 28-pages was based “almost entirely on raw, unvetted material that came to the FBI”.

Kean and Hamilton wrote that “all leads” summarized by the Congressional committee had subsequently been investigated by the 9/11 Commission and stressed the classified report was not the Commission’s to declassify or release.

While there may or may not be truth to the assertion that Saudi government officials provided direct financial support of the 9/11 hijackers, there is substantial evidence to suggest a strong connection between Al Qaeda, well-connected Saudi citizens who provided financial support to the network and Saudi citizens who provided logistical support.

The American public deserves the right to question its government on policies which allowed the Al Qaeda terrorist network to grow from the soil of a nation this country considers our ally and it has earned the right to a fuller understanding of why these types of sentiments might exist against the U.S. to begin.

And, the great freedom the U.S. enjoys as a nation – one that Director Brennan serves to protect – is that the citizens then get to draw independent conclusions, however incorrect or correct those opinions may prove to be.

According to the 9/11 Commission, Bin Laden “eventually enjoyed a strong financial position in Afghanistan, thanks to Saudi and other financiers associated with the Golden Chain.”

The Commission found that “Al Qaeda appears to have relied on a core group of facilitators… primarily in the Gulf countries and particularly in Saudi Arabia.”

The Golden Chain was a document discovered by Bosnian authorities in March 2002 at the Sarajevo offices of the Benevolence International Foundation, Inc. (BIF). The list allegedly included the names of Saudi sponsors to the Al Qaeda network. (In November 2002 the U.S. Treasury designated BIF a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT)” for the group’s support of Al Quaida [sic] and UBL” (Osama Bin Laden.) 

The stated purpose of the BIF was to serve as a charitable organization providing aid throughout the Middle East. The BIF had evolved from the Ibn Baz Foundation (IBF), a Saudi based charitable organization which purportedly supplied humanitarian aid inside Saudi Arabia.

The BIF was distinct in that the organization was incorporated as a non-profit in Illinois, maintained headquarters in Plantation, Florida (until the offices were moved to Chicago), and raised approximately $20,000,000.00 in its fundraising efforts. 

Among the names contained on the Golden Chain list were Ahmad Turki Yamni, a former Saudi minister of petroleum; Ibrahim Muhammad Afandi, boardmember of the IBF; Saleh Abdullah Kamel, Chairman of Arab Radio & Television (ART); and, Sulaiman Abdul Aziz Rajhi, a leading commercial banker in Saudi Arabia and board member at IBF.  The current King of Saudi Arabia, Salman of Saudi Arabia, served as the IBF’s chairman.

The United States maintains some sense of confidence in the Golden Chain list: Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois filed a coconspirator indictment in 2003 against Enaam M. Arnaout, the former director of the BIF, utilizing the Golden Chain document in government exhibits.

Fitzgerald alleged that Arnaout “assisted mujahideen” by diverting funds from the BIF to foreign fighters in Bosnia and Chechnya. 

In 2003, Aranout pled guilty to a single count of racketeering in connection with aid diversion from the charitable organization to assist the foreign fighters and, received a ten-year Federal sentence. (Mr. Aranout was released in February, 2011.)

At the sentencing for Mr. Arnaout, U.S. District Judge Suzanne Conion stated that there was no evidence that Arnaout “identified with or supported” terrorism.

However, Aranout’s plea agreement with the U.S. government agreed that Mr. Aranout “did conspire with others” in the racketeering but added as definitively that Mr. Aranout “did conceal from donors” that a “material portion” of the donations to BIF were “used to support fighters overseas”. 

The 9/11 Commission wrote in concern of the aid diversion, “some individuals surely knew, and others did not, the ultimate destination of their donation”. This is an assessment which likely aligns with a common sense inherent to most thinking Americans.

Of all the events of the U.S.’s immediate history, the 9/11 attacks have shaped the trajectory of the country like no other: laws have been enacted, freedoms have been challenged, men and women have made terrible self-sacrifice to the cause of fighting these wars, and, our financial systems have been impacted. Yet, fifteen years after the greatest terrorist act on U.S. soil, Americans still await a full public record of the attack of September 11, 2011. 

No government should be spared the inconvenience of providing as most truthful and transparent account as it can in the face of such an event. 

 


Further reading:

  1. 28 pages, no smoking gun: 9/11 Commission chairmen. (2016). USA TODAY.
  2. “9-11 Report – National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the …” 2004.
  3. United States v. Enaam M. Arnaout – The Investigative …” 2014. 2 May. 2016 
  4. Case 1:02-cr-00892 Document 178 Filed 02/10/03 Page 1 …” 2 May. 2016 
  5. U.S. Treasury Designates Two Individuals with Ties to al …” 2015. 2 May. 2016 
Editors, writers and members of the Fraternal Order of the Leather Apron Club.