For this article, I’m going to skip the partnerships between the CIA, Saudi Arabia, and the Pakistani ISI during the Afghanistan/Russia War to support the Mujahideen against the Soviet Union. Instead, I’m going to move past that time, and into the 90’s where a lot of interesting things took place.
First, we’ll take a look at what was called “Vulgar Betrayal.” In 1996, “the most significant US government investigation into terrorist financing before 9/11, is launched. This investigation grows out of investigations Chicago FBI agent Robert Wright had begun in 1993, and Wright appears to be the driving force behind Vulgar Betrayal. He later will say, “I named the case Vulgar Betrayal because of the many gross betrayals many Arab terrorists and their supporters” committed against the US, but the name will later prove to be bitterly ironic for him. Over a dozen FBI agents are assigned it and a grand jury is empanelled to hear evidence.” On August 3rd, 1999, “Chicago FBI agent Robert Wright is abruptly removed from the Vulgar Betrayal investigation into terrorism financing. The entire investigation apparently winds down without his involvement, and will shut down altogether in 2000. A New York Post article will state, “[T]he official reason was a fear that Wright’s work would disrupt FBI intelligence-gathering. My sources find this dubious: After years of monitoring these individuals, the bureau had likely learned all it could.… [But] conversations with FBI personnel indicate that HE WAS TOLD INFORMALLY THAT HIS WORK WAS TOO EMBARRASSING TO THE SAUDIS (emphasis mine). In support of this is the fact that Wright was shut down as he seemed to be closing in on Yassin al-Qadi.”
In the late 1990’s, George Tenet will develop 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 (emphasis mine), 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 (emphasis mine).
In 1996, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia allegedly collaborated on illegal weapons deliveries to Bosnian Muslims. The Washington Post reports that the Saudi Arabian government spent hundreds of millions of dollars to channel weapons to the Muslim Bosnians, and that the US government KNEW ABOUT IT AND ASSISTED IT (emphasis mine). An anonymous Saudi official who took part in the effort will say that the US role “was more than just turning a blind eye to what was going on.… It was consent combined with stealth cooperation.… American knowledge began under [President George] Bush and became much greater under [President] Clinton.” The Bosnian program was modeled on Saudi and US cooperation to fund the mujaheddin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
After June 25th 1996, CIA Agents are told not to track militants in Saudi Arabia. In the wake of the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi government continues to stonewall about their knowledge of radical militants in the country. Official inquiries about bin Laden go unanswered and the Saudis give no help to a US probe about the bombing. BUT OFTEN THE U.S. DOES NOT EVEN ASK THE SAUDIS QUESTIONS FOR FEAR OF UPSETTING THE SAUDI GOVERNMENT (emphasis mine). Former US officials will later claim that even after the bombing, the CIA instructed officials at its Saudi station not to collect information on Islamic extremists in Saudi Arabia. It is not known how long this policy will continue, but there is evidence it continues until 9/11. In August 2001, former CIA agent Robert Baer will attempt to give the CIA a list of hundreds of al-Qaeda operatives in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, BUT THE CIA WILL SHOW NO INTEREST IN IT (emphasis mine). Fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers will reportedly come from Saudi Arabia.
In Early 2000, the Treasury Department is blocked from freezing assets of Al-Qaeda financiers in Saudi Arabia. Treasury Department official Richard Newcomb has been to Saudi Arabia with other US officials in an attempt to pressure the Saudis to crack down on financing al-Qaeda, but no action has resulted. He had threatened to freeze the assets of certain individuals and groups funding al-Qaeda if not action is taken, and now he starts to act on that threat. As head of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, he submits names for sanctions. But imposing sanctions requires approval from an interagency committee, AND THE PERMISSION TO GO AHEAD IS NEVER GIVEN (emphasis mine). CIA and FBI officials are “lukewarm to the idea, worried that sanctions would chill what little cooperation they had with their Saudi counterparts.” But the State Department puts up the most opposition. One official will later recall, “The State Department always thought we had much bigger fish to fry.”
After George W. Bush came into office, his administration tells U.S. intelligence to “back off” from investigating Bin Laden financing and Saudi connections. The BBC later reports, “After the elections, [US intelligence] agencies [are] told to ‘back off’ investigating the bin Ladens and Saudi royals, and that anger[s] agents.” This follows previous orders to abandon an investigation of bin Laden relatives in 1996, and difficulties in investigating Saudi royalty. An unnamed “top-level CIA operative” says there is a “major policy shift” at the National Security Agency at this time. Bin Laden could still be investigated, BUT AGENTS COULD NOT LOOK TOO CLOSELY AT HOW HE GOT HIS MONEY (emphasis mine).
Between February and March 2001, the Bush Administration shuts down surveillance of Saudi Arabians. The Defense Intelligence Agency began a project to monitor Saudi Arabian targets in the 1990s. The project, called Monarch Passage, was originally intended to track Saudi assistance to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, but is expanded to become a comprehensive communications spying program against Saudi businessmen and members of the royal family. However, it is shut down in the early days of the Bush administration. THIS IS PART OF A LARGER U.S. POLICY CHANGE THAT MAKES SAUDI LINKS TO TERRORISM OFF LIMITS TO U.S. INVESTIGATORS (emphasis mine).
Sometime in mid July 2001, FBI Agent John O’Neill rails against the White House over Saudi Obstructionism. FBI counterterrorism expert John O’Neill privately discusses White House obstruction in his bin Laden investigation. O’Neill says, “THE MAIN OBSTACLES TO INVESTIGATE ISLAMIC TERRORISM WERE U.S. OIL CORPORATE INTEREST AND THE ROLE PLAYED BY SAUDI ARABIA IN IT (emphasis mine).” He adds, “All the answers, everything needed to dismantle Osama bin Laden’s organization, can be found in Saudi Arabia.” O’Neill also believes the White House is obstructing his investigation of bin Laden because they are still keeping the idea of a pipeline deal with the Taliban open.
Right now there is a push to get the 28 redacted pages from the Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11 released. You can read about it at www.28pages.org. I am all for transparency. I have fought for the release of these pages going on a decade. This practice of protecting and collaborating with Saudi Arabia has continued LONG AFTER 9/11 (emphasis mine).
If we want the full truth about the situation with Saudi Arabia, NO ONE must be allowed to point a finger at Saudi Arabia for their connections to terrorism, knowing full well how we have enabled them and even collaborated with them, without having 5 fingers pointing back to the United States.