November 9, 2001, when you could still choke on
the dust in the air near Ground Zero, BBC Television
received a call in London from a top-level US
intelligence agent. He was not happy. Shortly
after George W. Bush took office, he told us reluctantly,
the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)
and the FBI, "were told to back off the Saudis."
knew that. In the newsroom, we had a document
already in hand, marked, "SECRET" across the top
and "199-I" - meaning this was a national security
secret memo released agents to hunt down two member
of the bin Laden family operating a "suspected
terrorist organization" in the USA. It was dated
September 13, 2001 -- two days too late for too
many. What the memo indicates, corroborated by
other sources, was that the agents had long wanted
to question these characters ... but could not
until after the attack. By that time, these bin
Laden birds had flown their American nest.
to the high-level agent. I pressed him to tell
me exactly which investigations were spiked. None
of this interview dance was easy, requiring switching
to untraceable phones. Ultimately, the insider
said, "Khan Labs." At the time, our intelligence
agencies were on the trail of Pakistan's Dr. Strangelove,
A.Q. Khan, who built Pakistan's bomb and was selling
its secrets to the Libyans. But once Bush and
Condoleeza Rice's team took over, the source told
us, agents were forced to let a hot trail go cold.
Specifically, there were limits on tracing the
Saudi money behind this "Islamic bomb."
we made another call, this time to an arms dealer
in the Mideast. He confirmed that his partner
attended a meeting in 1995 at the 5-star Hotel
Royale Monceau in Paris where, allegedly, Saudi
billionaires agreed to fund Al Qaeda fanatics.
We understood it to be protection money, not really
a sign of support for their attacks. Nevertheless,
rule number one of investigative reporting is
"follow the money" -- but the sheiks' piggy banks
were effectively off-limits to the US agents during
the Bush years. One of the men in the posh hotel's
meeting of vipers happens to have been a Bush
family business associate.
you jump to the wrong conclusion, let me tell
you that we found no evidence -- none, zero, no
kidding -- that George Bush knew about Al Qaeda's
plan to attack on September 11. Indeed, the grim
joke at BBC is that anyone accusing George Bush
of knowing anything at all must have solid evidence.
This is not a story of what George Bush knew but
rather of his very-unfunny ignorance. And it was
not stupidity, but policy: no asking Saudis uncomfortable
questions about their paying off roving packs
of killers, especially when those Saudis are so
generous to Bush family businesses.
Bill Clinton was also a bit too tender towards
the oil men of Arabia. But this you should know.
In his last year in office, Clinton sent two delegations
to the Gulf to suggest that the Royal family crack
down on "charitable donations" from their kingdom
to the guys who blew up our embassies.
when a failed Texas oil man took over the White
House in January 2001, demands on the Saudis to
cut off terror funding simply stopped.
what about the bin Laden "suspected terrorist
organization"? Called the World Assembly of Muslim
Youth, the group sponsors soccer teams and summer
camps in Florida. BBC obtained a video of one
camp activity, a speech exhorting kids on the
heroism of suicide bombings and hostage takings.
While WAMY draws membership with wholesome activities,
it has also acted as a cover or front, say the
Dutch, Indian and Bosnian governments, for the
recruitment of jihadi killers.
it was worth asking the bin Laden boys a few questions.
But the FBI agents couldn't, until it was too
November 2001, when BBC ran the report on the
spike of investigations of Saudi funding of terror
in November 2001, the Bush defenders whom we'd
invited to respond on air dismissed the concerns
of lower level FBI agents who'd passed over the
WAMY documents. No action was taken on the group
headed by the bin Ladens.
in May this year, fifty FBI agents surrounded,
invaded and sealed off WAMY's Virginia office.
It was like a bad scene out of the 'Untouchables.'
The raid took place three years after our report
and long after the bin Ladens had waved bye-bye,
it is not surprising that the feds seized mostly
empty files and a lot of soccer balls.
now this belated move on the bin Laden's former
operation? Why not right after the September 11
attack? This year's FBI raid occurred just days
after an Islamist terror assault in Riyadh, Saudi
Arabia. Apparently, messin' with the oil sheiks
gets this Administration's attention. Falling
towers in New York are only for Republican convention
199-I memo was passed to BBC television by the
sleuths at the National Security News Service
in Washington. We authenticated it, added in our
own sleuthing, then gave the FBI its say, expecting
the usual, "It's baloney, a fake." But we didn't
get the usual response. Rather, FBI headquarters
said, "There are lots of things the intelligence
community knows and other people ought not to
not to know?
else ought we not to know, Mr. President? And
when are we supposed to forget it?
Palast's reports for BBC Television Newsnight
and The Guardian paper of Britain (with David
Pallister) on White House interference in the
investigation of terrorism won a 2002 California
State University Journalism School 'Project Censored'
Posted: September 15, 2004