Saturday, September 18, 2004

Bob Graham's book

He's got still more fresh criticisms about the Bush record on terror. This is a short excerpt from the Forward, for which you have to register.

In his book, Graham focuses on the contacts between two of the 19 hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, and a Saudi man named Omar al-Bayoum, based in San Diego. Citing an FBI assessment, Graham claims that Bayoumi was a Saudi intelligence agent in charge of monitoring Saudi students.

Shortly after the two men flew into Los Angeles after attending what American officials believe was a key planning meeting in Malaysia, Bayoumi drove from San Diego to Los Angeles. He first went to the Saudi consulate to meet with an official named Fahad al-Thumairy, who was later deported for terrorism-related activities. Bayoumi then went to have lunch in a Middle Eastern restaurant where he allegedly ran into Almihdhar and Alhazmi by accident.

After that luncheon, Bayoumi took the two men under his wing, putting them in contact with people who helped them obtain phony Social Security numbers and driver's licenses, as well as bank accounts on which they would receive several thousand dollars to pay for their flight training.

. . . . .

Graham notes that Bayoumi's salary almost doubled after the two men's arrival, despite the fact that he did not show up for work at the aviation company that employed him — a subcontractor of the government-controlled Saudi civil aviation authority. He also said that Bayoumi had numerous phone conversations with Saudi officials after his encounter with the two men.

Graham cites a CIA agent saying the evidence of Saudi support for the two men is "incontrovertible."

"Saudi Arabia had set up a structure for the purpose of surveillance of Saudis in America, which they made available to Al Qaeda to support at least these two terrorists," Graham said, adding that the FBI had only "lethargically" investigated whether such an infrastructure helped the remainder of the 9/11 group. The senator added that his conversations with the 9/11 staff gave him the impression that the commission relied heavily on an interview with Bayoumi to reach its conclusion.

Graham, whose congressional probe did not talk with Bayoumi, said he was not "too sanguine" about the 9/11 Commission's interview since it took place in Saudi Arabia, probably in the presence of local officials.

Bayoumi left for Britain shortly before the 9/11 attacks. Within three weeks, the FBI asked Scotland Yard to detain him, Graham said. However, the British authorities had to let him loose after no FBI agent showed up to interrogate him within a week, the maximum period they could hold a suspect without charges.

Saudis involved in 9/11? Well, we know for certain it wasn't the Iraqis, now don't we?