Almost 15 years ago, warnings of an Al Qaeda attack were flashing red amid evidence of Saudi complicity, but George W. Bush ignored the alarms and the 9/11 attacks changed history, a mystery that 9/11 widow Kristen Breitweiser continues to plumb.
By Kristen Breitweiser
Over the weekend, the New York Times published an article by Mark Mazzetti regarding Saudi Arabia’s role in the 9/11 attacks. The article describes some important facts and circumstances surrounding the support that two Saudis gave to two 9/11 hijackers (and recounts how Saudi consular official Fahad al-Thumairy stonewalled the 9/11 Commission by insisting that phone records and other evidence tying him to the hijackers must be wrong or fabricated).
However, there is more to the story. In addition to the reporting on Thumairy, there is also an FBI and CIA report that indicates that Khallad bin Attash (an Al Qaeda operative now imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay) was in Los Angeles in June 2000 — compliments of “diplomatic arrangements” provided by Thumairy.
To understand the relevance of this key piece of information, it is necessary to have some context. In 1997, Saudi intelligence arrested Khalid al Mihdhar and Nawaf al Hazmi as they attempted to bring weapons into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. From that point on, the Kingdom monitored the activities of these known Al Qaeda operatives.
In other words, these two men were not just random young Saudis who had a passing interest in jihad. They were “known” Al Qaeda operatives who planned and participated in Al Qaeda attacks — and, more importantly, they were being closely watched by Saudi intelligence.
Also around that time, U.S. intelligence (and quite possibly their good friends at Saudi intelligence) came across the Yemen Switchboard. The Yemen Switchboard was a calling station where Al Qaeda operatives around the world checked in and passed information back and forth to one another — especially to Osama Bin Laden who was up in the hills of Afghanistan.
Essentially, if you listened to the conversations going back and forth on the Switchboard, you had the Rosetta Stone of Al Qaeda’s movements, activities and plans for terrorist attacks around the globe. Admittedly, some information might have been spoken in code; but nonetheless, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency discovered the mother lode when they started listening to the conversations on the Yemen Switchboard.
By eavesdropping on the switchboard, intelligence agencies discovered information regarding: the African Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the bombing of the USS Cole, the attempted bombing of the USS The Sullivans, and the 9/11 attacks. The problem, of course, with having the Rosetta Stone in their pocket, was not letting Al Qaeda and Bin Laden know that they had it.
Unfortunately, instances like this cause collateral damage. Much like in “The Imitation Game,” when the English cracked the German Code. In order for the Germans to not realize the English had cracked their Enigma code, the English had to allow some attacks to happen — innocent people had to be sacrificed for the greater cause.
For example, the German bombing of the quaint little town of Coventry that killed 600 innocent people, illustrates this harsh reality. So, too, do the possible 3,239 people killed and 10,539 people seriously injured as a result of the Embassy bombings, the USS Cole, and the 9/11 attacks.
It was via their monitoring of the Yemen Switchboard that U.S. intelligence learned about the now infamous meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, also known as the “terrorist summit,” held in January 2000. U.S. authorities tracked Mihdhar and Hazmi to this meeting when they traveled there with Al Qaeda operative Khallad bin Attash.
U.S. intelligence agencies monitored this meeting with help from certain foreign friends, Malaysian intelligence, among them. Whether our good friends and allies over at Saudi intelligence were also involved in the surveillance of this meeting remains unknown. Also attending the Malaysia meeting were Al Qaeda operatives: Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, Ramzi bin al Shibh, and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri. At the meeting in Malaysia, the 9/11 attacks and the bombing of the USS Cole were discussed and planned in great detail.
After the meeting wrapped up, Mihdhar and Hazmi flew to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Jan. 15, 2000 — and quite possibly, according to one FBI report, so did Attash. Recall that the period between December 1999 and January 2000 was a time of extreme high alert in Al Qaeda threat reporting and warnings because it was the Millennium period.
On Dec. 14, 1999, Al Qaeda terrorist Ahmed Ressam was arrested at a Seattle, Washington ferry crossing. Ressam was arrested with explosives found in his car, on his way to blow up LAX as part of al Qaeda’s Millennium attacks. Ressam — without the use of torture, I might add — immediately and completely cooperated with U.S. authorities, sharing vital information about Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda’s attempts to attack the United States.
Indeed, several of the things detailed by Ressam were likely included in the Aug. 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,” as well as the top-secret documents that Clinton National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, scandalously stole from the National Archives.
These highly classified and apparently very damning documents were permanently destroyed by Berger — so, we’ll never know what was so secretive and problematic in that Millennium after-action report that Berger stuffed in his socks. Perhaps a Saudi role? Who’s to say? Berger is dead, and he certainly didn’t leave any clues behind.
We do know, however, that some of Ressam’s information was used in the indictments of several Al Qaeda operatives who carried out the Embassy bombings, the USS Cole bombing, and the 9/11 attacks. Clearly, Ressam knew a lot. And, he shared that abundance of information openly and willingly with U.S. intelligence agencies — starting in December 1999.
Al Qaeda’s Connections
More notably to me, of course, is that Ressam detailed his connections to known Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah. This is relevant because after 9/11, by Zubaydah’s own admission (albeit through torture), Zubaydah acknowledged having direct connections to Osama bin Laden, Saudi intelligence and the Saudi Royal Family.
So, let’s review what we have so far: the 1997 arrest of al Mihdhar and al Hazmi by Saudi intelligence (our allies); Saudi monitoring of the two Al Qaeda operatives from that point onwards; monitoring and eavesdropping of the Yemen Switchboard by U.S. intelligence and quite possibly Saudi intelligence; the Meeting in Malaysia where the USS Cole and 9/11 attacks were further planned and discussed; the arrest of Ressam in December 1999; the cooperation of Ressam and his sharing of boatloads of Al Qaeda information with U.S. intelligence; and the eventual arrival of Mihdhar, Hazmi, and potentially Attash into LAX on Jan. 15, 2000.
So now, let’s get back to Mazzetti’s article. In addition to the material Mazzetti discusses in his article is the curious evolution of facts surrounding the arrival of these 9/11 hijackers on Jan. 15, 2000, and precisely how, when and why Saudi agent Omar Bayoumi met them.
Right after Sept. 11, 2001, the media, the Joint Inquiry, and several well-respected authors routinely and regularly reported that Bayoumi met the hijackers on the day of their arrival at LAX. Indeed, to this day, the FBI’s official timeline of the 9/11 attacks, has the hijackers being met by Bayoumi and living with Bayoumi for the first two weeks of their stay in the United States.
The fact that Bayoumi met the hijackers at the airport on Jan. 15, 2000, has been, not surprisingly, softened, glossed over, and morphed by the Saudis and their allies into the notion that Bayoumi merely crossed paths with the hijackers by coincidence at some random, Middle-Eastern restaurant some two weeks after their arrival into the U.S. It is perhaps not a surprise that given the millions the Saudis have dropped on lobbyists, PR campaigns and gifts that this narrative is still being pressed by those who want to obscure the Saudi role on 9/11.
Hoping to leave a fantasy saleable to the U.S. public, the Saudis want us to believe that Bayoumi was just being a good Muslim when he “coincidentally” met the two operatives.
By the way, the frequent excuse and invocation of “just being a good Muslim” employed by Saudi agents and officials when it comes to their connections to the 9/11 hijackers needs to be properly addressed. Muslim culture does not entail offering your home, phone, and/or money to complete strangers. Nor does it call for Muslim Saudi royalty to randomly and wantonly write $150,000 checks to unknown acquaintances.
Typically, Muslim tradition entails some sort of introduction or connection being made first by a trusted intermediary or third party. So who “vouched” for the 9/11 hijackers? Apparently, no U.S. investigator wants to know.
The Saudi Consulate
Nevertheless, Bayoumi met Mihdhar and Hazmi after reportedly being at the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles. While at the Consulate, he met with a man who fits the description of Fahad al Thumairy.
Fahad al Thumairy was an accredited administrative officer and diplomat at the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles. Bayoumi and Thumairy had known each other prior to the hijackers arrival. After 9/11, U.S. authorities learned that Fahad al Thumairy had extensive contacts with Al Qaeda. Evidence now points to Bayoumi being tasked as the advance man for Mihdhar and Hazmi. His job was to provide financial and logistical support for the two terrorists since neither of them spoke English, nor had they ever lived in the United States.
As such, immediately after his meeting with Thumairy at the Saudi Consulate on Jan. 15, 2000, Bayoumi picked up Mihdhar and Hazmi and drove them back to his home in San Diego where they lived with him for two weeks. Mihdhar and Hazmi stayed as guests in Bayoumi’s home until Bayoumi found them an apartment next door to his own. On Feb. 5, 2000, Bayoumi appears as co-signor and guarantor for Hazmi and Mihdhar on their rental application. They listed Bayoumi’s home as their prior address.
Bayoumi recommended Hazmi and Mihdhar to the property manager and was the co-signor and guarantor for Hazmi and Mihdhar because they did not have established credit. Upon entering the lease agreement, Bayoumi paid the 9/11 terrorists’ first two months’ rent and security deposit. In addition, according to the apartment manager, Bayoumi occasionally paid other monthly rents for Hazmi and Mihdhar. After securing them a place to live, Bayoumi then helped the two 9/11 terrorists open a bank account at Bank of America with a $9,900 cash deposit (conveniently just slightly below the $10,000 threshold for suspicious activity).
In addition, Bayoumi gave a welcoming party for the two 9/11 terrorists to introduce them to the San Diego Muslim Community. Members of that community included radical Imam Anwar Awlaki who was killed by a drone strike in 2011 and was connected to nearly 25 terrorist attacks. According to intelligence reports, Al Qaeda operative Anwar Awlaki met on many occasions with the two 9/11 hijackers and Omar Bayoumi.
During the month of February, Bayoumi apparently shared his phone with the two 9/11 terrorists. According to FBI reports, phone calls from both the hijackers’ and Bayoumi’s phones included operational calls to Anwar Awlaki, the “Yemen Switchboard,” the Saudi Embassy, Fahad al Thumairy, and the Saudi Cultural Mission in Washington D.C.
For example, between January 2000 and May 2000, someone using Omar Bayoumi’s phone made 32 calls to the Saudi Embassy in Washington D.C., 37 calls to the Saudi Cultural Mission in Washington D.C., and 24 calls to the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles.
Bayoumi also traveled often to the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles, to the Saudi Consulate in Washington D.C., and to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during this same time frame. Exactly whom Bayoumi met during these trips remains a mystery since apparently no investigator has ever bothered to ask about or look into these trips.
Because of this frequent travel, Bayoumi arranged for the hijackers to have a “handler” for the times that he was away from them. This handler’s job was to help the two terrorists obtain social security cards, driver’s licenses, purchase a new car, and arrange for their flying lessons so they would eventually be able to fly AA Flight 77 into the Pentagon on the morning of 9/11.
Also of significance is Bayoumi’s connection to a Saudi named Osama Basnan. During the time that the hijackers were living in San Diego, Omar Bayoumi was in constant contact with his close friend and Saudi associate Osama Basnan. Like Bayoumi, Basnan has been alleged by U.S. intelligence agencies to be a Saudi agent.
Basnan lived in the same apartment complex as Bayoumi and the two 9/11 hijackers. From the time that the two 9/11 hijackers arrived at the apartment complex until the attacks, Basnan signed over to Bayoumi’s wife, checks totaling some $150,000 for the alleged support of the two hijackers.
Basnan received this $150,000 from Princess Haifa al Faisal, daughter of Saudi King Faisal, and wife of Saudi Ambassador to Washington, Bandar bin Sultan. Princess Haifa says that she was merely being a good Muslim princess and sending money to Basnan to help defray the costs of Basnan’s wife’s alleged thyroid ailment.
No investigator has asked or answered whether Basnan’s wife’s ailment was legitimate. But, in this case, don’t blame the intrepid investigator — she was fired before she had a chance to investigate and answer those questions.
On May 31, 2000, Mihdhar and Hazmi moved out of Bayoumi’s apartment complex and moved into the home of an FBI informant. The FBI informant denies knowing anything about the 9/11 attacks. During the time frame that the hijackers had contact with the FBI informant, Bayoumi paid regular visits to the hijackers and the FBI informant had regular meetings with his FBI handler.
Unfortunately, the FBI did not capitalize upon these opportunities. Mihdhar lived with the FBI informant for 10 days until he flew back overseas on June 10, 2000. Hazmi lived with the FBI informant for nearly six months until he moved to Phoenix to live with Hani Hanjour, another 9/11 hijacker and the pilot of AA Flight 77 that flew into the Pentagon.
Another key piece of information is the “mini- terrorist summit” held on June 9, 2000, in Los Angeles. The mini-terrorist summit took place at a hotel near the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles and was held on Mihdhar’s last night in the United States. The meeting was attended by Mihdhar, Hazmi, and Khallad bin Attash.
According to CIA and FBI reports, this mini-terrorist summit might have been facilitated by Saudi Consulate official, Fahad Thumairy. This information is particularly damning since Attash was, at the time, a very well known, very well identified lethal Al Qaeda operative. In addition, Attash, Mihdhar and Hazmi had just traveled together (and been monitored by several intelligence agencies) five months earlier, in January 2000, when they attended the larger terrorist summit in Malaysia.
Recall that the 9/11 attacks and the bombing of the USS Cole were planned at this larger terrorist summit in Malaysia — and, that Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the mastermind behind 9/11, and Ramzi Bin al Shibh, the bagman behind 9/11, were also at this meeting. So, the arrival of Attash into the United States should have set off HUGE alarm bells. It did not.
And, even more alarming, is the information “surmised” by the New York City FBI field office that Saudi Consulate official — likely Thumairy — escorted this known Al Qaeda operative into the United States to evade the Immigration and Naturalization Service and Customs procedures and protections.
According to the report, “certain diplomatic arrangements exist at various airports which allow diplomats to meet incoming foreign nationals at the baggage carousels — before entrance into Customs. New York FBI opined that it may have been possible that someone from the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles may have met Khallad at the airport and escorted him through customs.”
Clearly, this explains how a known Al Qaeda operative (and the alleged mastermind behind the bombing of the USS Cole), Khallad bin Attash was able to enter the U.S. without anyone knowing about it. It does not explain, however, why the bombing of the USS Cole was not interrupted and 17 innocent U.S. sailors were killed.
Incidentally, Mihdhar and Hazmi were also named as co-conspirators in the USS Cole attack. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Fahad Thumairy were not. What needs to be understood by anyone who looks at just these facts surrounding the Saudi connection to the 9/11 attacks and the USS Cole bombing is that the Saudis and their relationship to Bin Laden and Al Qaeda have never been fully investigated — by anyone —either before or after 9/11.
The result of the failure to expose all these facts? Before 9/11, if there was behavior by Saudis that raised red flags or caused some concern, those questions and that investigation were shut down. Former Joint Terrorism Task Force Agent John O’Neill (who warned about the growing Al Qaeda threat and lost his life in the World Trade Center on 9/11) certainly knew how that felt.
And, on 9/11 and the days soon thereafter, what happened to questionable people, known associates, family members of Al Qaeda operatives and Osama bin Laden? They were quietly whisked out of the country, and warmly protected by the blanket of sovereign immunity — because the Saudis, though not perfect, are our “allies.”
And, in the 15 years since the 9/11 attacks? What has happened to the Saudis and their ties to the 9/11 attacks? Any real, unfettered investigation? Any genuine accountability? Any clear answers? Any truth? Not one bit.
So what’s left? The murder of more than 3,000 innocent people. Two wars. Thousands of U.S. military killed, and thousands more seriously injured. Countless innocent Afghans and Iraqis killed and injured. And, a burgeoning ISIS still hell-bent on killing Americans because of our values, our beliefs, and mostly our failed intelligence and foreign policies.
The bottom line is that it has been 15 long years and the 9/11 families, as well as the American public, are growing extremely tired of this endless battle to uncover the truth.
Kristen Breitweiser is a 9/11 widow and activist who – working with other 9/11 widows known collectively as the “Jersey Girls” – pressured the U.S. government to conduct a formal investigation into the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. 9/11 widows Patty Casazza, Monica Gabrielle, Mindy Kleinberg, and Lorie Van Auken also sign their names to this blog, which previously appeared at HuffingtonPost and is reposted with permission, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kristen-breitweiser/redacted-all-the-kingdoms_b_10573074.html= Follow Kristen Breitweiser on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kdbreitweiser .