In highly unusual testimony inside the federal supermax prison, a former operative for Al Qaeda has described prominent members of Saudi Arabia’s royal family as major donors to the terrorist network in the late 1990s and claimed that he discussed a plan to shoot down Air Force One with a Stinger missile with a staff member at the Saudi Embassy in Washington.
The Qaeda member, Zacarias Moussaoui, wrote last year to Judge George B. Daniels of United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, who is presiding over a lawsuit filed against Saudi Arabia by relatives of those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He said he wanted to testify in the case, and after lengthy negotiations with Justice Department officials and the federal Bureau of Prisons, a team of lawyers was permitted to enter the prison and question him for two days last October.
In a statement Monday night, the Saudi Embassy said that the national Sept. 11 commission had rejected allegations that the Saudi government or Saudi officials had funded Al Qaeda. “Moussaoui is a deranged criminal whose own lawyers presented evidence that he was mentally incompetent,” the statement said. “His words have no credibility.”
Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they? Imagine, though, that Moussaoui is telling the truth, and that members of the Saudi “royal family” took an active role in the planning of 9/11 — something that, given the sheer size of the House of Saud, smart money would bet on. What would we do about it?
Mr. Moussaoui’s testimony, if judged credible, provides new details of the extent and nature of that support in the pre-9/11 period. In more than 100 pages of testimony, filed in federal court in New York on Monday, he comes across as calm and largely coherent, though the plaintiffs’ lawyers questioning him do not challenge his statements…
He said in the prison deposition that he was directed in 1998 or 1999 by Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan to create a digital database of donors to the group. Among those he said he recalled listing in the database were Prince Turki al-Faisal, then the Saudi intelligence chief; Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, the longtime Saudi ambassador to the United States; Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, a prominent billionaire investor; and many of the country’s leading clerics.
“Sheikh Osama wanted to keep a record who give money,” he said in imperfect English — “who is to be listened to or who contributed to the jihad.”
Obama, of course, would do absolutely nothing (and one wonders if this was a topic of conversation during his recent visit to the sheikdom). But the next president would have to. Wouldn’t he?