Ex-9/11 Investigator Says Evidence Links Saudi Government Officials to Terrorists' Network

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Saudi women walk along a suburban street in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 15, 2006.Credit: AP

A former U.S. Navy secretary and former Republican member of the official commission that investigated the circumstances surrounding the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 said he thinks there is clear evidence linking the Saudi government to people who were involved in a network that supported the 9/11 terrorists.

According to Britain's Guardian, John F. Lehman, who fell short of proving any intent by the Saudi regime, also called on the White House to quickly declassify a secret Congressional report on intelligence failures related to the attacks. The Guardian story was reported by Philip Shenon, a former New York Times reporter who has written a book about the 9/11 investigation.

Lehman's comments came in an interview with Shenon, who called the former navy secretary's stance "the first serious public split among the ten commissioners since they issued a 2004 final report that was largely read as an exoneration of Saudi Arabia, which was home to 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11."

“There was an awful lot of participation by Saudi individuals in supporting the hijackers, and some of those people worked in the Saudi government,” Lehman told Shenon. “Our report should never have been read as an exoneration of Saudi Arabia.”

Shenon made reference in his Guardian article to a Saudi diplomat, Fahad al-Tumairy, who was deported from the United States and, although not charged with any crime, Shenon said he had been suspected of being involved in a support network for two Saudi hijackers who lived in San Diego.

Shenon also wrote that Lehman took exception to the stance of the former chairman and vice chairman of the commission who had cautioned against the release of a secret 28-page Congressional report. Chairman Tom Kean and vice chairman Lee Hamilton were said to have been concerned that the release would expose raw material that, devoid of context, could "smear" innocent people.

"Lehman said Kean and Hamilton’s statement that only one Saudi government employee was 'implicated' in supporting the hijackers in California and elsewhere was 'a game of semantics' and that the commission had been aware of at least five Saudi government officials who were strongly suspected of involvement in the terrorists’ support network," Shenon wrote.

"Lehman has support among some of the other commissioners, although none have spoken out so bluntly in criticizing the Saudis," Shenon reported, adding that last month President Barack Obama said the White House was close to making a decision on whether to declassify all or a portion of the secret investigation's findings. Obama's CIA Director John Brennan opposed its  release on the grounds that it contained inaccurate information, Shenon reported.

The London-based Telegraph website noted that the issue of Saudi government involvement also has implications for the families of victims of the September 11th attacks in their efforts to sue the Saudi government over the deaths of their loved ones.

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