New Evidence of Saudi Involvement in 9/11 is in the News, but can we ignore the wider reality?

9 11

Some important evidence in support of possible Saudi involvement in 9/11 has been discussed widely in recent days. This should certainly receive the attention it deserves, but this should not be at the cost of not giving the due attention to other important aspects like why in the run-up to 9/11 attacks, a lot of incoming evidence of an impending big attack was deliberately neglected, because ultimately this is what was most harmful in terms of the inability to protect the life of 9-11 victims.

       Of course evidence of Saudi involvement had been discussed quite a lot earlier also as after all 15 of the 9/11 attackers were from Saudi Arabia. The links of some Saudi charities to al-Qaeda, some financial transactions of Saudi officials in the USA (including those of the then high-profile, flamboyant Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud and his wife Haifa) as well as the ‘missing’ 28 pages of the US official investigation of 9/11 have been widely discussed from time to time.

      Keeping in view that there has been a lot on the table already, how significant really is the ‘new’ evidence that has been discussed lately? An incriminating video found from the residence of one Omar-al-Buyoumi has been mentioned. He is reported to be an asset of the Saudi spy agency GIP who at the time of 9/11 was reporting directly to Ambassador Bandar, it is stated. Papers have also been found from his residence which mention calculations relating to from what distance and altitude land targets can be identified from airplanes. This agent is reported to have, together with some other Saudi embassy officials, looked for accommodation for some future attackers, it is suspected.

     While the video and the papers as well as phone call records of these persons may be of significance, a question can be raised is that that anyone who prepares such an incriminating video and document and then leaves it in such a way that it can be easily found in any search must be incredibly silly or careless, something not expected from a high-profile intelligence agent.

    It appears that this and some related evidence has suddenly acquired importance beyond its actual significance due to three somewhat contradictory factors. Firstly, some well-intentioned analysts want to stop the mutual defence pact (and possibly a related nuclear deal) which President Biden and his senior officials are keen to clinch with Saudi Arabia, as a part of a wider deal which includes cementing Saudi-Israeli ties and further strengthening US influence in the middle-east, while reducing the influence of Iran and China (China has been trying a lot recently to increase its influence in the region).

    The well-intentioned critics of this agenda of the foreign policy establishment of the USA argue that this will unnecessarily involve the USA in more future wars and instead the USA should concentrate on resolving the Palestine issue in a justice-based way and ensure immediate peace and large-scale relief in Gaza. In terms of priorities what these critics are saying is very correct. As soon news of this new evidence appeared, these critics seized on this as this strengthens their case for abandoning the mutual defence pact with Saudi Arabia. This is how the new evidence started getting disproportionately higher attention.

     However ironically the foreign security establishment of the USA can also benefit from the highlighting of this new evidence in a different way. As they negotiate with the Saudis for an agreement more in their own favour, it helps them that a lot of exaggerated talk of new incriminating evidence puts the Saudi side under pressure and they become more amenable to accepting what the US side tells them.

     Then there are the 9/11 victims’ family members who have been fighting a long legal battle. Public sympathy has always been with them, of course, but to get huge compensation they also need more evidence. Hence highlighting new evidence is helpful for this case in one sense, but in another sense, as these victims’ families are also very keen to know and expose the truth of what happened, they need to look at a lot of other evidence to find the entire truth. Ultimately, of course, truth is most important, efforts to find the truth of what exactly what happened are most important.             

       Some of those making such efforts—including professors, scientists, journalists, rescue workers, other professionals and activists with a record of commitment to social concerns—have done so with serious risks to their careers and it would be unjust to their brave efforts if these are not given a fair hearing.

      Another reason why such efforts deserve wider attention is that on at least some points these are supported by known official documents and by those who held positions of power within the government. However the most important reason for heeding these efforts is that these have the potential to pave the way for significant reforms to strengthen democracy, peace and justice.

     The 9/11 tragedy was officially mentioned as a completely surprise attack. However testimonies of very senior officials are available which reveal that actually many, many intelligence warnings were being received at the highest level but were not acted on. Deputy Attorney General, Jamie Gorelick, the only member of the official 9/11 Commission who was allowed to see President Bush’s daily briefs, said these had contained ‘an extraordinary spike’ in intelligence warnings of al-Qaeda attacks that had “plateaued at a spike level for months” before 9/11.  

     National Coordinator for Security Richard Clarke had put all relevant domestic agencies on full alert in early July. He later wrote that the CIA then had information about al Qaeda terrorists having entered the USA while the FBI had information that very strange things were happening at the flight schools in the USA. An FBI agent Kenneth William had sent information that bin Laden was sending some Arab students to civil aviation schools in the USA. From Jordan intelligence had been sent that al Qaeda was likely to be planning an attack using planes. Richard Clarke later wrote “they (US intelligence agencies) had specific information about individual terrorists from which one could have deduced what was about to happen.” At the same time he stated that this information did not reach him or the White House.

     Another curious aspect is the undue haste with which efforts were made at very high levels to link 9/11 attacks with Saddam Hussein and Iraq without a shred of evidence being available for this. On the afternoon of the day of the attack itself, at about 2.40 pm on September 11(as per notes taken by a senior policy maker) the Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, who along with several other powerful persons in the government had been a long-term advocate of acting very tough against Saddam and Iraq, told his aides—“Best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. (Saddam Hussein) at same time, not only OBL (Osama bin Laden).” Further, “Need to move swiftly—Near term target needs—go massive—sweep it all up—things related or not.” Next day we had President Bush himself urging such a high-ranking official as Richard Clarke to prepare a report linking 9-11 and Iraq.       As we now know very clearly, the ‘war on terror’ which was launched using 9/11 as the base cause inflicted great destruction on Iraq as well as several other countries, leading to 4.5 million directly and indirectly caused deaths and over 38 million displaced people, as per Brown University estimates. Therefore it is important to examine the entire truth of the base cause also.

     In the context of the official version of the collapse of the steel-framed twin towers in 9/11 tragedy from the impact of airplanes and fire, several professional civil engineers, architects and scientists have explained in great detail that the steel-framed buildings designed to withstand great shocks could not have collapsed without controlled demolition, in turn involving in all likelihood some incendiary or explosive substances. This evidence is stated to be even stronger in the case of the WTC 7 building which collapsed without any airplane hitting it. In dust samples of the tragedy scene traces of thermate, an incendiary which is capable of cutting steel easily and which could have been very effective in a controlled demolition of the three steel-framed buildings, have been found. What many eye witnesses have stated also supports the demolition theory, apart from the testimony of several experts. Nearly 1200 professionals who got together to form the Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth by and large supported the controlled demolition theory, or at the very least questioned the official version very seriously. Several peer-reviewed papers have taken the same stand, and a journal has appeared on this issue. Fire-fighters and their Commissioners in New York, who lost several colleagues in the fire-fighting and rescue work on 9/11, have also questioned the official view on the basis of what the fire-fighters saw on 9/11 and have learnt since then. Questions have been raised as to why steel scrap from tragedy site was too hastily collected and shipped to far way Asian countries, which, some have alleged, amounts to removal of critical evidence from a crime site. However a part of the saved scrap was corroded in ways that is likely to reflect the impact of explosives. Steven Jones, a physicist and three colleagues wrote an article in Europhysics News, magazine of European Physics community, in 2016 which stated, “the evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that all 3 buildings were destroyed by controlled demolition.” In the case of the fourth one attention has been drawn to several inconsistencies as also that it contained documents of vast amounts of unaccounted money.

     It may be noted here that it is not just civil engineers, architects and fire fighters who have got together to question the official view, in addition groups of pilots, medical professionals, scientists, veterans, former intelligence officers, lawyers and journalists have also questioned the official version.

      The CIA director George Tenet himself told the official 9/11 Commission that the advance warnings regarding this terrible tragedy were so many that “the system was blinking red”. The warnings had started from spring and summer of 2001  and increased steadily till the day of the attack on September 11, as confirmed also in the report submitted to members of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate in 2009 (Tora Bora Revisited, or TBR Report).

        This report also confirmed that on July 12 2001 Tenet had addressed a secret meeting of senators in which he warned of an imminent attack by bin Laden and al Qaeda in the USA. He said that the question in the context of such an attack was not if but when.

        On August 6 2001 in the daily intelligence briefing submitted to President Bush there was one report with the tell-tale title ‘ bin Laden Determined to Strike the US.’ This report even said that the emerging evidence pointed more towards hijacking related attack. Bush said he considered this to be a warning of historic importance. But what did he do in the 35 days available to him between then and 9/11?

        The official 9/11 Commission noted that it did not find any evidence of any meeting that Bush had summoned with his top advisers on this issue during this time.

        This is really surprising, all the more because Richard A. Clarke, senior counter-terrorism adviser to the US government and key official later wrote that he had repeatedly tried to focus on this issue and to arrange such meetings.

        Another important factor was that several foreign governments, on the basis of their own intelligence gathering, had been sending urgent warnings to the USA.  British, French, Russian and Arab intelligence agencies had also sent important warnings. Former US federal crimes prosecutor John Loftus has stated that the information provided by European intelligence services prior to 9/11 regarding the very high possibility of attack was extremely extensive. Investigators in the Philippines who had earlier provided a lot of solid information regarding the aborted Bojenka Project involving attacks using hijacked planes in the USA expressed surprise that the USA had not taken adequate precautions despite so much information being provided to them.

        Several USA intelligence agents had started complaining even before 9/11 that their important intelligence inputs regarding the possibility of an attack were being ignored (more such complaints were openly voiced after the 9/11 attack). Julie Sirrs, an agent of Defence Intelligence Agency, returned with valuable information from Afghanistan but instead of her inputs being valued she was victimized and had to resign.

        On September 9 and 10 terrorist chatter interceptions increased greatly, as stated also by Richard A. Clarke. Although US intelligence sources later explained that several of these messages were translated only after 9/11, critics maintain that some of these involving big suspects should have been attended to immediately, and probably were. The need for this had clearly increased after the assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leading opponent of Taliban and al-Qaeda, in Afghanistan on September 9, in which Al Qaeda-Taliban-ISI involvement was widely suspected. The ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmad Mahmoud, was in fact in the USA on September 9, meeting important US officials, and so his closer questioning on this was possible immediately.

        Other chatter on or around this day has terrorists exulting about the big event ahead and bin Laden telling close family members something big may happen and he may not be in touch for some time after this. On September 10, 2001 we also have two known terrorists doing very important tasks.  Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, lead plotter of 9/11, sent the final OK to the lead hijacker Mohammed Atta. Omar Saeed Sheikh (one of the three terrorists who got released from an Indian jail following the demand made by the Kandahar hijackers in 1999) sent 100,000 dollars from the Middle-East to Atta. To recall Tenet’s colourful expression, indeed the system was blinking red. Shares of some airline and insurance companies were being hastily sold by persons who appeared to have some idea of the impending big attack. What is no less surprising is that on September 10 the father of President Bush, former President GHW Bush met Shafiq bin Laden, the brother of Osama bin Laden, in New York, stated to be in the context of some common investment or business interests. In Pakistan, according to US TV reports, bin Laden was admitted to a Pakistani army hospital on September 10. So a lot of interesting things were happening in the two days preceding 9/11.

        At least some insiders appeared to be aware of the gathering storm. As Newsweek reported later, on September 10 some Pentagon senior officials suddenly and mysteriously cancelled travel plans for the next morning, apparently driven by security considerations. Some military exercises in the USA which generally take place in October/November started in September and were taking place on September 11 too.  

        There was an additional reason for September 11 to be a day of extra precaution—this was the fifth anniversary of the conviction of Ramsi Youssef, the main accused of the aborted Bojenka plot. But instead of seeing any extra alert, what we saw on September 11 was extraordinary slackness in security at all levels which has been extensively analysed and criticized, resulting in unhindered hijacking of 4 planes in quick succession. It has been widely reported that when the first two planes struck on September 11 2001, Bush was on a photo–op trip to meet second graders and after news of the first hit came in, he kept listening for some precious minutes to children reading about a naughty pet goat! Security officials made no efforts to hide President Bush’s presence at this place despite the high-level terrorist attacks taking place. In fact the schedules of 8 key persons of the US government, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, supposed to be in the most important decision-making roles on 9/11, show discrepancies in their official versions or raise questions.

        While glaring neglect of warnings was so extensive that it is difficult even for official US reports to ignore this, the question of why this happened has been much more difficult to answer. Finding out the truth is very important, not the least for US democracy. This is why the demands for a truly independent and unbiased inquiry still persist. These should get wider support.

        All those who want a peaceful world condemned the horrible violence of 9/11 against innocent people with one voice. At the same time, there have been concerns that some important aspects of this tragedy have not been explained adequately, and in some contexts actually there have been strong efforts to suppress some important facts. The 19 hijackers died and were never prosecuted, but even bin Laden was not formally indicted in 9/11 cases. Information extracted under torture has been used as evidence. Only peripheral figures have been convicted.

        While it has been acknowledged that something like half a million dollars were needed and spent in executing 9/11, no satisfactory and detailed explanation has been given regarding the source of this funding. At the same time there have been indications that actually efforts were made at the level of the US authorities (as well as the authorities in some other countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) to suppress information relating to this.

         Some time after 9/11 the head of Pakistan intelligence agency ISI Lt. Gen. Mahmud Ahmed  resigned amidst allegations that he had instructed a terrorist Omar Saeed Sheikh to send 100,000 dollars from UAE to the would be 9/11 hijackers in preceding days. Ahmed had become increasingly fundamentalist in his views and was getting more and more close to the Taliban. Even after the post 9/11 assurances to cooperate with the USA assault on the Taliban regime, he continued a double game to help and instigate the Taliban to the extent he could within the existing circumstances. So when there were serious allegations against such a person for financing 9/11 hijackers, why weren’t serious charges pressed against him?

        A related question—why weren’t such serious charges taken up against his associate Omar (Saeed) Sheikh, particularly given his background of imprisonment in India for abducting tourists, his release under the pressure of Kandahar hijackers, his closeness to the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. Of course he was later arrested in 2002 for his involvement in the murder  of Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, but questions remain as to why charges were not pressed  against him earlier for his role in funding 9/11 hijackers. The Wall Street Journal was one of the few international newspapers which took up this story, and its South Asia Chief Pearl was murdered in Pakistan, with clear involvement of Omar Sheikh.

        This Omar Sheikh, a British citizen known to have operated as a terrorist in Britain, India, Afghanistan, UAE and Pakistan( perhaps elsewhere too)  is apparently a very brainy person. Unfortunately he has chosen to deploy his brain only in disruptive and violent activities. Even when in jail, he used fake phone calls to aggravate hostilities between India and Pakistan, as reported in The Dawn and elsewhere. Former Pakistan President Musharraf called him a double agent of sorts, although he also may have had his own reasons for spreading confusion about him.

        The Times wrote about him, “no ordinary terrorist but a man who has connections that reach high into Pakistan’s military and intelligence elite and into the innermost circles of Osama-bin-Laden and Al-Qaeda organization.” ABC reported that he was treated like a son of bin Laden in Afghanistan. However the Pittsburgh Tribune drew attention to another aspect of this many-sided operative when it stated that important persons within the Pakistani government believe that Omar owes his special strength not to his links with the ISI but rather to “our own CIA”. This report, when seen with earlier reports of Omar , who grew up as a bully and strong guy in British educational institutions, being recruited first of all by British intelligence agencies, adds further to his double agent reputation. He has clearly been related closely to the ISI and bin Laden, yet at some time had western intelligence links too, so it seems.

        There have been reports that Omar spoke  frequently with Lt. Gen. Ahmed before 9/11 on phone , and these conversations resulted in around 100,000 dollars being sent from UAE, using an alias of course, and most probably there were previous other payments also from the same source. These and related leads should have been followed, but were not, both men apparently getting away with such serious allegations sticking to them, Mahmud emerging a little later as a prominent businessman and Omar as an accused in Pearl murder case. While one can understand why the Pakistani government ignored the serious allegation of funds transfer, it is still not clear why the USA government chose to do so.

        This should be seen together with other scattered but important pieces of information which indicate that important leads were often suppressed or not followed properly. In particular the facts relating to a very high-profile Saudi operator/businessman in the USA are very disturbing. After 9/11 he was officially identified by the USA authorities for his close links to Osama bin Laden and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

        However before 9/11 he was known more for heading a foundation, subsequently revealed to be linked closely to bin Laden organizations, and as owner of a company which supplied high-tech computer systems to the FBI, the US Army, Navy and Air Force, NATO, the US Congress and the White House! Commenting on this astonishing situation, a former FBI counter-insurgency agent Mathew Levitt later commented—For someone (like Yasin al-Qadi) to be involved in a capacity, in an organization, in a company that has access to classified information, that has access to government open or classified computer systems would be of grave concern.”

        Former FBI agent Robert Wright also expressed his frustration and regret that his investigations into Yasin’s deals were not allowed to progress. In May 2002, some 8 months after 9/11, he took the unusual step of calling a press conference to offer a tearful apology for inability to stop 9/11 as his superiors had intentionally obstructed his investigations into Al-Qaeda financing. He later told Brian Ross of ABC that 9/11 was a direct result of the incompetence of the FBI’s International Terrorism Unit, specifically referring to the hindering of his investigation into Yasin Qadi’s dealings and networks. Other media sources have recalled Yasin boasting of his close links to Vice President Dick Cheney. In fact close links of several influential Saudis with very high profile US personalities need more attention, one example being the friendship of Ambassador Bandar with the Bush family, or even bin Laden’s family members with very influential US persons. Also, to be fair to the Saudis, some of their charities and other foundations who were suspected of funding militant Muslim organizations can trace this to the earlier times when the US authorities had themselves encouraged them to do this so that funds could reach the organizations which were funding the mujahideens battling the Soviet army in Afghanistan.

        In June 2001 BBC reporter Greg Palast was told by a “ highly placed member of a US intelligence agency” that “after the (2000) elections the (intelligence) agencies were told to back off investigating the bin Ladens and Saudi Royals.” 

        Senator Bob Graham, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2001, has stated—Two of the Sept. 11 2001 hijackers had a support network in the USA that included agents of the Saudi government and the Bush administration and the FBI blocked a congressional investigation into that relationship (as reported in the Miami Herald). Some details of Saudi support were reported to be contained in 28 pages of the final section of the December 2002 report of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community by both Houses, but the release of these 28 pages of the report was held back by the Bush Administration and it was only after persistent high-level demands that the Obama administration released only an edited version. 

        Much before the tragic attack of 9/11, some disturbing trends which are important to understand 9/11 had been revealed quite clearly. A group of neo conservatives who advocated a very aggressive foreign policy for the U.S.A was becoming increasingly influential in the Bush government. They advocated unhindered unilateralism in foreign policy, a huge rise in defence spending and increased US dominance of the world. There was a special emphasis on the dominance of the Middle-East region, in collusion with Israel, starting with an invasion of Iraq to oust Saddam and gain more control, with support from Saudi royals and their allies in the Arab world. Some of these neo-cons had even been stating that if some kind of a Pearl Harbour event takes place, then this will pave the way for an attack by US and allies on Iraq and some other countries. Many of these neo-conservatives acquired influential positions, particularly in the defence department, when George W. Bush came to power in 2000. However they faced opposition to the implementation of their aggressive ideas from persons within the U.S.A government. Hence they were looking for various possibilities in which wider public and government support could be obtained for these aggressive policies, particularly in the Middle East.

     There have been several reports by now of how the USA and its allies supported Muslim extremist and fundamentalist groups to oppose or check the emergence of leftist (particularly communist) forces or pro-Soviet Union forces. This trend was accelerated in the 1980’s following the disastrous and highly objectionable invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. In what was perhaps the largest covert operation in its history, the CIA sought to turn the Afghan opposition to this invasion into a much broader war of fundamentalist, extremist, violent Muslim groups from around 40 countries against the Soviet Union. In this mobilisation many Muslim-majority countries with US-friendly governments played an important role. Saudi Arabia provided a lot of money, of course, but even more important was the extensive, continuing support of Pakistan and its powerful intelligence agency, the ISI. Pakistan has a long border with Afghanistan and people across the border share close socio-cultural and ethnic ties. Due to this factor Pakistan’s help was most important for the CIA in mobilising a huge and prolonged resistance against the Soviet army in Afghanistan. It was no less helpful that the CIA already had a good working relationship with the ISI which expanded greatly during the massive mobilization against the Soviet Union presence in Afghanistan.

        The visits of CIA and Pentagon officials to the ISI headquarters in Pakistan became very frequent and a very close relationship developed. The CIA hand in these various anti-Soviet operations was not always revealed to the Muslim militant groups fighting the Soviets as this could have been bad for their morale. An arrangement was worked out so that the ISI became the conduit for channelling American arms, funds and other support to the various militant groups which were fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. This support enabled militant Muslim groups like al Qaeda to strengthen their position and widen support base.

       However it became clear soon enough, particularly after the withdrawal of the Soviet forces from Afghanistan that some of the leading militant groups had ideas of their own which differed radically from the plans of the USA and its allies. Evidence began to grow about the hands of some of these groups, particularly the groups associated with bin Laden, in many attacks on USA/allies targets. In the 1990s there were attacks on American armed forces personnel in Saudi Arabia, on CIA operators within the USA, an attempt to blow up the World Trade Centre in 1993, the bombing of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-e-Salaam in 1998 and the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemeni waters in 1999.

        It is clear from these examples and several others that the militant groups armed and supported by the USA to defy the Soviet Union could easily turn their wrath from one supposed ‘infidel’ to another, that the actual results of such support could easily be very different from what was the original intention.

        It is important to keep in mind this background to help understand how 9/11 attack evolved and happened.

        There are several holes in US government’s official explanation of 9/11 which have been discussed from time to time without any satisfactory answers becoming available, and in addition there is the very inadequate explanation of how the 9/11 attack was funded. As pointed out earlier in this review, there are very big doubts regarding how the buildings collapsed. In addition, important facts relating to funding and the involvement of powerful Saudis and Pakistanis in this were actually supressed not only in these countries but even by the US authorities.

        The USA is reputed to have the best funded, the best equipped and best trained intelligence and counter insurgency network having almost worldwide reach. So it appears strange that such highly destructive terrorist attacks could take place in the USA, that too when several warnings or indications of such attacks had been received.

        Richard Clarke, the White House counter-terrorism chief, who saw the passenger lists soon after the 9/11 attacks, commented – “I was stunned… that there were al-Qaida operatives on board using names that the FBI knew were al-Qaida.”

        Zacarias Moussaoui was arrested in the USA on August 16 after officials of a flight school tipped off the FBI about the suspicious conduct of this French-born man of Arab descent. He had been seeking flight training on a Boeing 747 jumbo jet. This trainee was reported to be interested mainly in steering a jet plane in mid-air, not in learning how to take off or land. The officials at the flight school found it very difficult to get the authorities interested in this case. They were surprised at delayed actions such as the search of this suspect’s computer. This suspect had earlier been trained at another flight school in the USA which was known to have been used by other Al-Qaida operators. The New York Times commented on December 22 2001 that the Moussaoui case “raised new questions about why the FBI and other agencies did not prevent the hijackings.” Much later, another report published in The Guardian (July 22, 2004) alleged that the trial (in the USA) of Moussaoui (who potentially could have been the 20th hijacker of 9/11 if he had not been arrested) is in danger of collapse because of the CIA’s reluctance to allow key lieutenants of Osama bin Laden to testify at the trial. Later Moussaoui allegedly wrote and stated under oath that Saudi royal members and senior persons were involved in helping 9/11 attack.

        A report written by Labour MP and former (1997-2003) Minister Michael Meacher in the Guardian  questioned – why the US government continues to withhold from public some very important documents relating to 9/11 which particularly throw light on intelligence failure.

        A report in the French daily Le Figaro (31 October 2001) said that Osama bin Laden underwent surgery in an American hospital in Dubai in July 2001.He came with a deputy, four bodyguards, personal doctor and nurse from Quetta in Pakistan for treatment of serious kidney related ailments. During his stay in the hospital for about 10 days July 4-14 he met with a CIA official stationed in Dubai, and when Osama left Dubai this CIA official too was called back to his headquarters. Osama also met influential UAE and Saudi persons and officials. Despite the fact that he was on the ‘most wanted’ list no attempt was made to arrest him during his two week stay at the hospital.

        This report also stated, “According to Arab diplomatic sources as well as French intelligence, very specific information was transmitted to the CIA with respect to terrorist attacks against American interests around the world, including on US soil.” Based partly on such reports US and France intelligence officials met in Paris but US officials, while worried, were strangely evasive at this meeting.

        The main information of this report regarding bin Laden’s treatment at a reputed American hospital in Dubai and the local CIA agent meeting him two months before 9/11, without any attempt being made to arrest Laden, was attributed to a member of the hospital management, but it was widely believed that the report was published only after it was well confirmed by French intelligence sources. Although the US authorities and the hospital in question officially denied it—they had to—it is highly unlikely that a reputed newspaper of record would have published such a shocking news very prominently in big headlines without being sure of this. Reports based on this appeared in several other reputed newspapers, including the Guardian. It is also known that flights between Quetta and Dubai were common on daily basis during those days, including private flights of royals and aristocrats, some of whom said they went on hunting trips, but also used the opportunity to meet Taliban leaders and others close to them in bin Laden territory.

        Some of the 9/11 hijackers or their collaborators who helped them in important ways were under surveillance by US agencies as suspected terrorists. Yet they could travel freely and finally carry out the horrific 9/11 attacks. There were serious lapses also in giving them visas, entry and related matters, and reports of those with known terror links entering multiple times raised several eyebrows. There were even reports that some 9/11 hijackers including their leader Atta had taken flight training lessons in some military installations or in places very close to such installations and the official replies to these allegations were evasive rather than firm denials.

        There were reports also of persons who gave important help to would be hijackers being treated very lightly without proper investigation of their role. Meanwhile FBI agents had been complaining from time to time that when they had important leads they did not get adequate attention and support and sometimes were just ignored or transferred. Attorney David Schippers said that he had used these warnings and information from such agents to send a warning to Attorney General of the coming danger. John O’ Neill, a senior FBI agent known for his special expertise on bin Laden related terrorism plots and actions, said oil corporate interests with Saudi link were a reason for obstruction of some investigations. On August 22 2001 he resigned, citing obstruction of investigations. He then took up a job as security chief in World Trade Centre and died in the 9/11 attack while arranging evacuation. 

        Several experts have given an opinion that such a huge terrorist operation involving planning at several levels could not have been possible without the help of a foreign government or secret service.

        Senator Bob Graham, chairman of the Senate select committee on intelligence in 2001 said, “I think there is very compelling evidence that at least some of the terrorists were assisted, not just in financing…. by a sovereign foreign government.”

        Horst Ekmke, former coordinator of the West German secret services, said, “Terrorists could not have carried out such an operation with four hijacked planes without the support of a secret service.”

        As stated earlier, Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmed, the then head of Pakistan’s ISI had asked Omar Sheikh, a British-born Islamist militant, to wire $100,000 before the 9/11 attacks to Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker. The Times of India reported on August 1, 2003 – A top FBI counter-terrorism official told the US Senate governmental affairs committee that investigators have “traced the origin of the funding of 9/11 back to financial accounts in Pakistan.” In fact this 100,000 dollar payment is likely to be in addition to several other payments as well from the same source.

        Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal senior journalist was murdered in Pakistan in 2002 (after having been kidnapped). Omar Sheikh was convicted for his involvement in the cruel killing of Pearl.

        However it is disputed whether the lead role in this murder was of Omar or of Khalid Mohammed, who is officially regarded by the USA as the main architect of 9/11, ie the main collaborator of bin Laden in this attack. The New York Times reported on October 22, 2003, “American officials said on Tuesday that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), once al-Qaeda’s operational commander, personally executed Daniel Pearl, … other officials said Mohammed, who is being held at an undisclosed location as a suspected terrorist, might be charged with Pearl’s murder at a military tribunal. However they said he was unlikely to be accused of the crime in an American criminal court because of the risk of divulging classified information.”

        This report also said that during the earlier court proceedings on Daniel Pearl murder case in Pakistan, there were suggestions that Mohammed might have had a direct role in Pearl’s death, but some Pakistani officials remained “unconvinced”. Further this report says that Mohammed is widely suspected by American intelligence and law enforcement authorities as one of the chief architects of Sept. 2001 attacks.

        To complete the story, there are some reports that Daniel Pearl was probably investigating ISI-CIA links (Guardian July 22, 2004).

        When soon after 9/11 attacks it was revealed that the chief of Pakistan’s main intelligence agency had sent $100,000 to the lead hijacker, one would’ve normally suspected that the USA will adopt a very hostile attitude towards Pakistan. But in reality co-operation between Pakistan and USA continued to grow – particularly in intelligence and defence issues.

        It was also revealed that at one point  Pakistan’s leading nuclear scientist had been running almost a nuclear supermarket providing assistance to nuclear programmes of Iran, Libya and North Korea, and there were some other serious issues on nuclear weapon matters.  Normally one would’ve expected such knowledge to elicit an extremely hostile response from the USA. But this too was allowed to pass. Close cooperation between the USA and Pakistan, particularly their defence and intelligence establishment, continued to grow.

        One likely reason why the official view is less than convincing and complete is that earlier in the course of mobilizing militant and fanatic organizations to oust the Soviet army from Afghanistan, US intelligence and armed forces had reached agreements and entered into collaboration—either directly or through the ISI– with the kind of forces and persons collaboration with whom would be difficult to admit officially. What is more, some of these collaborators later turned against the USA and hence the US authorities feel the need to conceal a lot of information regarding these activities involving not just illegalities but also poor understanding of national interest.

        Why was the USA so reluctant to act against certain powerful persons  in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia or elsewhere even when there were strong reasons for their involvement in 9/11, or support for 9/11 perpetrators? One explanation may be that even post 9/11already a decision had been taken to work with support from Pakistan and for this very inconvenient past truths were ignored or set aside. Or else the ISI was so aware of a lot of wrongdoing by the USA while assembling militants and letting them use opium money to finance their militancy that the USA ignored much wrongdoing on the part of the ISI.

        Why kid gloves were used against Saudi wrongdoing? One reason could be corruption as the Saudis  could have bought over important persons in US decision making, or else involved them or those linked to them in very lucrative military, civilian and oil contracts, concessions and purchases. This, plus a longer-term decision to work in the Middle-East with Saudi royals and aristocracy as important supporters, utilize this support for invading Iraq and checking Iran influence, may have led to ignoring wrongdoing by important Saudis.

        Probably all these factors played an important role in the cover-ups and suppressions. This must be seen within the overall framework of the US foreign policy—supported by very powerful persons there– to work with the support of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Israel in this troubled region. The relationship of the USA with Pakistan may be a love-hate relationship, but it has remained strong over a very long period. Further the planned invasion of Iraq and the continuing hostility with Iran made it further important for the USA to work in a special relationship of friendship with Saudi Arabia, not to mention the most enduring friend Israel. Also it was important to find reasons and gain support for invading Iraq. Saudi Arabia and Israel (with its strong lobby in the USA) would be useful in this.

        While all these explanations taken together can explain some of the curious aspects of suppressions and inadequate response, these do not by themselves provide an adequate explanation. This has led to much speculation and surveys have indicated that millions of people even within the USA believe in some kind of inside involvement, at some level, of at least some US authorities. This may be the real reason why several aspects of the 9/11 tragedy have been concealed in official versions, despite repeated demands for the entire truth of the great tragedy to be explained.      

       Of course the entire details can only emerge if a complete and unbiased investigation is allowed which can explain many disturbing aspects—illegal or unethical aspects of US covert policies particularly those involving collaboration with  Saudi Arabia and Pakistan,  corruption of US politicians involving relationships with Saudis in particular, compulsions of a  foreign policy based on close co-operation with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Israel under all circumstances and opposition to Saddam Hussein leadership in Iraq and to Iran, the overwhelming aggressiveness of policies promoted by neo-conservatives and lastly, the possibility of a section of the authorities planning for a 21st century extremely violent event or a new ‘Pearl Harbour’ which could pave the way for a number of attacks on countries or leaders, particularly Saddam Husain and Iraq but also including Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and others.

     When National Co-ordinator for Security Richard Clarke met President Bush just a day after 9/11 on September 12, Bush asked him to relate 9/11 to Saddam. Clarke submitted a report initially endorsed by the CIA and the FBI that there is no such evidence. Bush’s staff members returned the report to Clarke asking him to update and re-send. Later Bush tried to deny the entire episode but retreated when others supported what Clarke said.

   This shows how Bush and some of the neo-cons among his policy-makers, particularly Rumsfeld and Cheney were very keen to use 9/11 as a pretext for an attack on country after country starting with Afghanistan and Iraq. The resulting war on terror subsequently led, counting direct and indirect deaths, to nearly 4.5 million people dying over the next two decades, often in very cruel ways, and many more families getting ruined or disrupted by serious injuries, displacements and other related factors. Meanwhile, the endless War on Terror ensured that the military industrial complex got unlimited, unending orders to fill its coffers and share it with powerful politicians and other influential people.

    So keeping in view all these factors one explanation could be that a small but powerful, aggressive section of the US establishment got to know about or suspect about the impending attacks but seeing how this big attack could become the pretext for attacking Iraq and other countries they gave instructions to some key collaborators to look the other way when they saw or were presented evidence of the unfolding preparations of the attack. Thus we see several situations of intelligence agents sending important information but this important information not leading to necessary preventive actions. Another possibility could be that this section of the establishment tried to make up for the possibility of planes not being able to crash into buildings by preparing for some sort of controlled demolition as well.    

        The assassination of the popular nationalist Afghanistan leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, commander of the Northern Alliance, on September 9, 2001 should also be examined in this wider context. This 9/9 serious tragedy is likely to be related to 9/11 in more than one way. Massoud had travelled to Europe earlier in April this year, addressed the European Union Parliament and given a clear warning that a big terrorist attack on the USA is likely to be planned from Afghanistan as an important base for this planning.

        Massoud was  the most courageous, learned, principled and committed among various Afghan leaders and commanders . President of European Parliament Nicole Fontane had referred to him as ‘pole of liberty in Afghanistan ‘while inviting him to address European Parliament. However the US had consistently disfavoured him while extending more help to unprincipled military leaders. At the same time there are some indications that this attitude was perhaps about to change. Based on reports from two competent US intelligence field officers who met Massoud and returned very impressed by him, the US attitude towards him was probably beginning to change, but this is not certain, and the fact remains that powerful interests in the USA remained opposed to supporting an independent nationalist with a very strong base among people, like Massoud. 

        Massoud had started getting help from India, and after being attacked was in fact taken to a field-hospital set up with Indian help. In the areas controlled by him Massoud had encouraged education and rights of women as well as democratic governance.  He was the most consistent opponent of the Taliban, their terribly narrow views and the support extended by Pakistan to the Taliban. In a 1999 interview he had stated that Pakistan was treating Afghanistan as a colony and obstructing the peace process that he and his colleagues were trying to pursue. He had stated that but for the support extended by Pakistan and bin-Laden the Taliban regime would collapse within a year as people were fed up with it.

        It was becoming clear that many in the international community had started seeing Massoud as the most acceptable leader of Afghanistan in future who could bring peace to the troubled land. However his leadership was opposed strongly by bin Laden and Pakistan.  Bin-Laden and/or the ISI are likely to be behind his assassination. His assassinators, posing as journalists, were reported to be desperate to get the interview with Massoud at the latest by September 10, not willing to wait beyond this. Why they were so keen to finish the job assigned to them before September 11 can be understood by later events,     

        It is also important to know more about bin Laden as we see that time and again bin Laden is allowed to escape or else inter-acts with US agents or allies, which would not be the case if there was really such a big hunt for him.

      It well-known that the CIA, often acting through the ISI, had enlisted the close cooperation of Osama bin Laden (OBL) to oust the Soviet Army from Afghanistan. However after this aim was achieved, over a period of a few years, OBL and his organization al Qaeda (AQ)  turned hostile to the USA. Soon the CIA and other USA intelligence agencies started tracking him as a major threat. This happened around 1995 when OBL and his close followers were in Sudan.

        OBL is reported to have died in a US raid in Pakistan on May 2 2011. During these 16 years 1995-2011 the threat perceptions about OBL continued to increase, or remained steady at a very high level. He was first placed on the ‘most wanted’ list, then an award of 25 million dollars was announced for information relating to his capture, raised after some time to 50 million dollars. Several attacks were launched with the main aim, or one of the main aims, being to capture or kill him. One such effort succeeded at last on May 2 2011, as per official accounts. However there were at least seven occasions when it should have been possible to apprehend OBL much earlier but he was allowed rather mysteriously to get away.

        The first such instance was in Sudan in 1995-96. The official 9/11 Commission report has stated, “CIA paramilitary officer Billy Waugh tracked down Bin Laden in Sudan and prepared an operation to apprehend him, but was denied authorization.”

        The second such occasion came when with about 300 close and loyal followers OBL left Sudan for Afghanistan (Jalalabad) on a chartered flight. It is unlikely that the USA government, which was in close touch with the Sudan government on this issue and whose intelligence agencies were closely trailing the activities of OBL in Sudan, would have failed to apprehend OBL at this stage if it had made a serious and timely effort.

        The third such occasion came in 2001. An important report in Le Figaro, a leading newspaper of France  ( dated October 31, 2001 ), supported  by other media sources ( particularly those in Europe) stated that OBL came for treatment to an American hospital in Dubai in July 2001 with a deputy, a personal doctor and  nurses as well as body guards. He is reported to have stayed here for ten days, in the course of which he is reported to have met several visitors including the local CIA man and Arab intelligence officials. This CIA official was recalled to his headquarters after the visit.

        This report quoted hospital sources and is widely believed to have a base in French intelligence sources. Publishers stood by their report, and even though the report was officially denied by the hospital and USA authorities, continued to have high credibility, and reports based on the original report were published in several respected media outlets. It was stated that OBL had flown in from Quetta, and flights to Quetta by some Arabs ostensibly for hunting expeditions but taking them to terrorist bases were not uncommon.

        It should be recalled that by the reported time of this stay of Osama in Dubai, OBL and AQ were already suspected by the CIA to be planning a major attack in the USA, and in fact CIA director George Tenet had already briefed several senators about this, as evident from his own later disclosures. So it is highly questionable, to say the least, why OBL was not apprehended during this visit.

        The fourth instance of OBL being let off relates to the period starting early October and continuing till the third week of November in 2001. This is the time when the USA bombing of Afghanistan had started as a part of its war on terror but OBL had not yet escaped to Tora-Bora caves. During this period he also appeared openly in Kabul, for offering condolence for a colleague who had died and also to give an interview to a senior journalist from Pakistan. During this period there were at least two instances of his travelling openly in rather long convoys of vehicles when he and AQ fighters close to him would have been a rather easy target of US bombing. However while there were a lot of other bombings, which probably also harmed innocent persons, these long and very visible convoys passing along predictable routes were surprisingly spared from bombing attacks.

         The fifth escape relates to the period lasting from the last days of November to around December 16-17 2001 or so when Osama with about 1200 fighters had taken shelter in Tora Bora caves in East Afghanistan, rather close to tribal areas of Pakistan. The USA sent a very small force of about 100 soldiers who were supposed to enlist the help of local Afghan allies to kill or capture Bin Laden and close aides in Tora Bora.  They were supported by heavy aerial bombing of caves by the US planes.

        As Afghan allies were reluctant to remain in caves after dark, the general practice was to launch daily attacks but return to the base in the evenings. During the first week the presence of OBL in the caves was confirmed almost beyond doubt by radio intercepts. However to US fighters it also became clearer as days passed that local Afghan allies were not very reliable in terms of helping in capture of OBL. The promised help from Pakistan was also not reliable and in case was being delayed. Hence the small US force, which fought quite valiantly in the middle of several difficulties, repeatedly asked for ground-level US reinforcements. However this was refused at higher levels.

        Despite this on December 9 the US forces gained a clear edge as a 15,000 pound daisy cutter bomb, apart from its massive destruction, created so much heat in the caves that things became very difficult for OBL fighters. The situation worsened further for them when some US soldiers advanced to guide bomber planes to aim better and they stepped up bombing for about 17 hours.

        However a leading local ally pleaded with the US force to halt the bombing for a while to arrange the surrender of leading al Qaeda fighters. This proved to be just a ruse that allowed about 800 OBL loyalists to escape on the night of December 11. OBL with some of the closest buddies and bodyguards still stayed on.

        On December 14 the US forces finally prevailed upon Afghan allies to stay on for the night close to caves and a cave to cave operation was launched. Now it was clearly time for OBL and buddies also to leave and they left, most probably on December 16 or  just around that, helped by Afghan and Pakistani  contacts, partly on foot and partly on horse, to finally  cross over to Pakistan  unhindered.

      This timeline is well-confirmed in perhaps the most comprehensive and credible report on this particular OBL escape prepared for the members of the Foreign Relations Committee, US Senate, in November 2009. In his accompanying letter the Chairperson John F. Kerry stated that the focus is on learning from mistakes in the past. With this focus, this report titled ‘Tora Bora Revisited (TBR)—how we failed to get bin Laden and why it matters today’, made a strong indictment of highest levels of military and political leadership in the USA which refused to provide reinforcements to US soldiers on the ground in Tora Bora, and this resulted in the defeat of a main objective of the intervention of capturing or killing OBL and his closest deputies as soon as possible.

        As the TBR report confirms, in late November CIA senior official on counter-terrorism Henry Crumpton,  who was earlier head of the CIA unit on Afghanistan as well, made a strong plea for sending more ground troops to Tora Bora to the top army authorities and in fact went to the extent to meeting President Bush and Vice-President Cheney for this. They listened to him but did nothing to heed his suggestion.

        Gary Bernsten, senior CIA operator who was specially sent to Tora Bora by his boss to ‘kill the enemy’, later wrote—“We needed US soldiers on the ground. I had sent request for 800 Army US rangers and was still waiting for a response. I repeated to anyone at headquarters who would listen—we need rangers now! The opportunity to get bin Laden and his men is slipping away.”

        This account of frustration of ground level US forces is matched by statements of other Tora Bora force leaders. In fact even the official history of the Special Operation Command regrets this when it says, “ Given the commitment of fewer than 100 American personnel, US forces proved unable to block egress route from Tora Bora  south into Pakistan.” This as well as other reviews note that the additional US soldiers needed at Tora Bora were clearly available. There were US soldiers available for this top-priority assignment in Afghanistan, including about 1000 nearer at Kanadahar, and others could be brought in quickly from Uzbekistan and the Middle-East, and of course the US. Around 2500 soldiers were needed, including those needed closer to Pakistan border in case the fugitives could not be apprehended earlier on in the escape route or in the caves, but for this extremely important assignment only about 100 soldiers were sanctioned.

Summarizing the sad failure, the TBR report notes-        

–Calls for reinforcements for launching assault were rejected.

—Requests were also turned down for US troops to block the mountain paths leading to sanctuary a few miles away in Pakistan.

—The vast array of American military power, from sniper teams to the most mobile divisions of the Marine Corps and the Army, was kept on the side-lines.

     Further the TBR report confirms—There were enough US troops in or near Afghanistan to execute the classic sweep and block manoeuver required to prevent the escape of OBL. 

        The report noted further that this failure proved very costly as the escape of a charismatic terrorist gave more strength to his followers and al Qaeda units in many countries. By crossing over to Pakistan OBL and his AQ militants continued their plots there, the report says, including the July 2005 transit bombings in London and two aborted attacks in the USA.

        One of the important factors behind this failure was the fact, not even known to ground forces in Tora Bora, that President Bush had already shifted his focus from strengthening Afghanistan efforts to invading Iraq for removing Saddam Hussein. In fact even as senior experts were pleading with him for Tora Bora reinforcements, Bush had quietly asked his defence secretary Rumsfeld, himself a known hawk on Iraq, to prepare for Iraq invasion. This happened on November 21, just a week or so after the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, not allowing time for consolidation and focused attention here. Rumsfeld lost no time in phoning his top general Tommy Franks the same day to get the Iraq invasion files ready in just a week’s time. Franks was busy planning for Tora Bora when he got this phone call and his reaction, recorded in the official TBR report was—Son of a B…No rest for the weary.

        The sixth escape of OBL relates to the period lasting from the last fortnight of December 2001 (when he crossed over to tribal areas of Pakistan ) to May 2 2011 when he was reported to have been killed in a USA attack in Abbottabad, about 100 km. from the capital of Pakistan. The official Pakistani account differs in some respects, depending upon the source, but the overall trend has been to say that the Pakistani authorities were not aware of the whereabouts of OBL during this period till around the time he was killed in US action. It is very, very difficult to believe that  OBL , with whom the ISI had interacted  so closely for so long, who had so many common friends in Pakistan, could have stayed on in Pakistan with family and friends for over a decade without the ISI knowing about this.

        It is likely that OBL spent the first half of this decade in and around Waziristan, perhaps moving here and there. The next half of his time in Pakistan, from 2005 to the summer of 2011, was spent in conditions of more stability and comfort in a windowless mansion of Abottabad, probably specially built to house him and those close to him. This was built at a distance of just about a km. from the Pakistani Military Academy. It must require very special imagination to believe that no senior persons in the Pakistani army and the ISI were aware of OBL living in this mansion for around six long years. We can safely conclude that he lived there with their knowledge without being apprehended for about six years and so this is his sixth escape. Several accounts of OBL living with Pakistan authorities knowledge have been published (NYT magazine by Carlotta Gall, London Review of Books by Seymour Hersh etc.).  

        A more controversial point is at what stage the US authorities came to know about OBL living in this mansion. The official US version is that while the attack took place on May 2, the US authorities came to know about OBL living here only a few days before in April 2011. However due to the close, even if sometimes hostile, interactions between the US intelligence agencies and the ISI, this too is unlikely. The Daily Telegraph reported on October 18-20, 2010, quoting a NATO official, that OBL is living very comfortably in Pakistan with the knowledge of the authorities there.

        Anyway it is well-known that President Bush after getting involved in Iraq war   had stopped according priority to pursuing OBL. The Washington Post reported that the CIA unit composed of special operating paramilitary forces dedicated to capturing OBL was shut down in 2005. This happened around the same time that OBL is likely to have moved into the Abbottabad mansion. However the arrival of President Obama appears to have revived interest in the pursuit of OBL.

        Before concluding it may also be pointed out that  published accounts of May 2 attack have different versions by different soldiers, and the accounts of some Pakistani authorities differ from US authorities, some of the former claiming to have been helpful in this attack. There is even a story that residents around the mansion had been told the previous day not to venture out of their houses if they hear loud noises late in the night. It may be added that OBL was buried in sea by US forces, and the entire account of his medical condition, confirming his identity( by DNA test or in other ways) and burial in sea is based on official sources only without any other independent confirmations. However this is a divergence, and the main point sought to be made here is that of how the most wanted world-level terrorist was let off time and again when there were clear opportunities to apprehend him. This has important implications for understanding the reality of war on terror and of the various forces at work here.

    This brings us to the main point that a much better understanding of what really happened in all these contexts would not just make for better understanding of recent history but in addition it can potentially pave the way for strengthening the forces of peace, justice, democracy and peace in the USA in particular but also more generally in other western countries as a whole, something which in turn will be very useful for creating a better, more peaceful and much safer world. It is with this wider objective that the people and organizations that have been persistently and sincerely trying for the truth to be revealed in these important historical contexts deserve wider attention and support.

     Now with a renewal of interest in this relating to the presentation of more evidence on Saudi involvement, this may be an appropriate time to draw attention to other important aspects of the 9/11 tragedy as well so that the debate does not get entangled in just a few new aspects and instead wider efforts are made to get nearer to the truth and to a much more comprehensive understanding of what really happened and who were involved. Such understanding should then become the basis for extensive democratic reforms so that such tragedies can never be repeated in future.  

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Man over Machine, Protecting Earth for Children and A Day in 2071.


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