Deleted sections of September 11 report document Saudi backing

Monday, July 28, 2003

A heavily-censored congressional report has detailed Saudi Arabia's complicity in the Al Qaida suicide attacks that killed more than 3,000 Americans in 2001.

Congressional sources said the lion's share of the portions deleted from the report by the U.S. intelligence community and Bush administration concerned Saudi Arabia and its role in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. They said the administration deleted most references to Saudi Arabia in an effort to avoid angering the kingdom.

The unclassified version of the reports quotes unidentified government officials as complaining of Saudi Arabia's failure to cooperate with the United States, Middle East Newsline reported. One official said the United States realized from as early as 1996 that Riyad would not provide information or help concerning Al Qaida or Osama Bin Laden.

Sen. Bob Graham, former chairman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee and a presidential candidate, hinted that the report discussed the involvement of Saudi officials in helping Al Qaida attack the United States. Graham indicated that the Saudi officials were supported by the royal family.

"High officials in this government, who I assume were not just rogue officials acting on their own, made substantial contributions to the support and well-being of two of these terrorists and facilitated their ability to plan, practice and then execute the tragedy of Sept. 11," Graham said in a television interview on Sunday.

The report also said a member of the Saudi Civil Aviation Authority, Omar Al Bayoumi, provided funds for two of the hijackers. The congressional study said Al Bayoumi, who is wanted by the United States, "had access to seemingly unlimited funding from Saudi Arabia" and suggested that he was an envoy of Saudi officials.

"The link between Al Bayoumi and the hijackers is the best evidence yet that part of official Saudi Arabia might have been involved in the attacks," Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said. "If the Saudi royal family is as committed to fighting terrorism as it claims, it will turn this guy over to U.S. officials immediately so that we can finally get to the bottom of his role in the attacks and his links to Al Qaida."

Congressional sources said the report asserts that senior Saudi officials contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to institutions that financed Al Qaida. A deleted 28-page section on foreign involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks asserted that some of the Saudi money might have helped finance the Al Qaida suicide strikes.

Sen. Richard Shelby, a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said 95 percent of the pages censored from the congressional report did not constitute national security. Shelby said the pages were classified to avoid embarrassing a foreign government.

"I think they're classified for the wrong reason," Shelby said in a television interview. "I went back and read every one of those pages, thoroughly. My judgment is 95 percent of that information could be declassified, become uncensored so the American people would know. I think it might be embarrassing to international relations."

On Friday, the State Department praised U.S. security cooperation with Saudi Arabia. Department spokesman Richard Boucher, however, dated joint security efforts from the May 12 suicide bombings in Riyad.

"Since the bombings in Riyad, we've worked jointly with Saudi law enforcement, intelligence agencies," Boucher said. "We've found this cooperation increasingly beneficial and increasingly effective. So we have a very high level of law enforcement and intelligence cooperation with the Saudi government that helps to end terrorist financing, ends the operation of terrorist groups."

Senate Select Intelligence Committee chairman Sen. Pat Roberts said the intelligence community was allowed to delete too much from the report. Roberts and Sen. Jon Kyl have said they could not vouch for the study.

"I think at some future date it will be made public," Roberts said. "I was upset with the process, and I was upset with the amount of material that was redacted."

The joint congressional committee has recommended an investigation of foreign involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks. House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Porter Goss said the deleted pages would be disclosed after the investigation is concluded.

"We do not want to contaminate that investigation," Goss said.

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