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Sunday, September 05, 2004

Graham: Bush Ran Interference for Al Qaeda 

Ben Barnes tells all on 60 Minutes tonight, and Kitty Kelley's book is about to ship. But while you're waiting: remember how, during the primary campaign, Bob Graham would talk about his work on the Senate Intelligence Committee post-9/11, and a pained, angry look would inevitably cross his face? There were a lot of things he thought the public should know, but he couldn't say them out loud -- until now. Courtesy of Atrios:
Two of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers had a support network in the United States that included agents of the Saudi government, and the Bush administration and FBI blocked a congressional investigation into that relationship, Sen. Bob Graham wrote in a book to be released Tuesday.

The discovery of the financial backing of the two hijackers "would draw a direct line between the terrorists and the government of Saudi Arabia, and trigger an attempted coverup by the Bush administration," the Florida Democrat wrote.

And in Graham's book, Intelligence Matters, obtained by The Herald Saturday, he makes clear that some details of that financial support from Saudi Arabia were in the 27 pages of the congressional inquiry's final report that were blocked from release by the administration, despite the pleas of leaders of both parties on the House and Senate intelligence committees.

Graham also revealed that Gen. Tommy Franks told him on Feb. 19, 2002, just four months after the invasion of Afghanistan, that many important resources -- including the Predator drone aircraft crucial to the search for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda leaders -- were being shifted to prepare for a war against Iraq.

Graham recalled this conversation at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa with Franks, then head of Central Command, who was "looking troubled":

"Senator, we are not engaged in a war in Afghanistan."

"Excuse me?" I asked.

"Military and intelligence personnel are being redeployed to prepare for an action in Iraq," he continued.

Graham concluded: 'Gen. Franks' mission -- which, as a good soldier, he was loyally carrying out -- was being downgraded from a war to a manhunt' . . . .

Graham wrote that the staff of the congressional inquiry concluded that two Saudis in the San Diego area, Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Bassan, who gave significant financial support to two hijackers, were working for the Saudi government.

Al-Bayoumi received a monthly allowance from a contractor for Saudi Civil Aviation that jumped from $465 to $3,700 in March 2000, after he helped Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhdar -- two of the Sept. 11 hijackers -- find apartments and make contacts in San Diego, just before they began pilot training.

When the staff tried to conduct interviews in that investigation, and with an FBI informant, Abdussattar Shaikh, who also helped the eventual hijackers, they were blocked by the FBI and the administration, Graham wrote.

The administration and CIA also insisted that the details about the Saudi support network that benefited two hijackers be left out of the final congressional report, Graham complained.

Bush had concluded that "a nation-state that had aided the terrorists should not be held publicly to account," Graham wrote. "It was as if the president's loyalty lay more with Saudi Arabia than with America's safety."

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