The former co-chairman of the joint congressional investigation into the 9/11 terrorist attacks said today that the murder of Jamal Khashoggi should be the beginning of revealing the full breadth of Saudi Arabia’s behavior to Americans.
In an interview with Boston NPR station WBUR’s On Point today, former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) charged that the Iraq war was “the beginning scene of the cover-up of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in 9/11.”
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers that day were from Saudi Arabia. It was the Saudis, Graham added, who “had placed people in the United States months — or in some cases years — ahead of 9/11, who played a critical role in organizing and facilitating 9/11.”
“What I’ve been urging is that the United States government, particularly the FBI and the CIA, make public the information which they have, and then let the people evaluate what’s known, and come to a judgement as to responsibility,” he said.
Graham, a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that during the congressional investigation he was taken to the FBI office at Dulles International Airport while trying to fly out for Thanksgiving, and was “essentially told by the No. 2 person, the deputy director of the FBI, that we were wasting our time, and that I should shut up and go home.”
The detention happened, he said, “shortly after the situation in Sarasota was discovered.” A Saudi family in Sarasota, Fla., was visited by the leader of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta, and then abruptly left their home and three cars behind two weeks before the terror attacks.
“The mystery is, over three administrations, why has there been this reticence to release information?” Graham asked, saying President Obama doing nothing to expedite the release of the 9/11 investigation info was “the enigma to me” and adding President Trump “has made Saudi Arabia one of the darlings of U.S. foreign policy.”
“The United States has taken a position of essentially placating both the monarchy and the clerics, and there has been a major rush in recent years since the end of World War II to expand the reach of Wahhabism in places where it had not been known before, such as the Balkans and Indonesia, and that has moved Islam into an increasingly more strident form of religion,” he said. “I think that the United States needs to have a pause and look at all of the implications of Saudi Arabia in terms of U.S. interest. I think we’ve put too much importance on their large reservoir of oil, which was the original reason for this close relationship.”
“And in fact, with what has happened in the last decade, the United States is probably more oil independent than it has been in any time in the modern era, is less reliant on Saudi Arabia and is in a stronger position to demand actions which represent what a modern state that respects human rights and would not do things like cut up a journalist in a heinous murder or kill 3,000 Americans by hijacked airplanes.”
Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who had been living in exile in Virginia for the past year, went into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to get a document needed to marry his Turkish fiancee; he never emerged. Turkish officials say the journalist was tortured, killed and dismembered by a 15-member Saudi team who entered the country shortly before the murder and left soon after.
Saudi attorney general Shaikh Suood bin Abdullah Al Mo’jab said today that they “received information from the Turkish side through the Joint Working Group between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Turkish Republic, indicating that the suspects in Khashoggi’s case premeditated their crime.”
CIA Director Gina Haspel returned from her trip this week to Turkey; White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a brief statement this evening, “The president received a briefing from Director Haspel this morning following her return from Turkey. She briefed the president on their findings and her discussions.”
Khashoggi’s eldest son, dual U.S.-Saudi citizen Salah bin Jamal Khashoggi, had been prohibited from leaving the kingdom for several months. He was freed and arrived in the United States today; before being allowed to leave, he had to participate in a photo op shaking the hand of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“Look, Saudi Arabia has been a really great ally. They’ve been one of the biggest investors; maybe the biggest investor in our country. They are doing hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of investments and, you know, so many jobs. So many jobs. Thousands and thousands of jobs,” Trump told reporters Wednesday at a White House event. “…But if what happened happened, and if the facts check out, it’s something that’s very bad. At the same time, they have been a very good ally of ours. They’ve been helping us a lot with respect to Israel. They’ve been funding a lot of things.”