Six Saudi officials are believed to have actively supported al-Qaida members in the run-up to the 9/11 attacks on America, former 9/11 Commission member and investigator John Lehman has disclosed.
Lehman, who was a member of the 9/11 Commission between 2003 and 2004, said there is documented evidence against employees of the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, and specifically against individuals who worked for the Saudi Embassy in the U.S., Saudi charities and the Saudi government-funded King Fahd Mosque in California.
"There was an awful lot of participation by Saudi individuals in supporting the hijackers, and some of those people worked in the Saudi government," said Lehman, stressing that these individuals had strong ties with the Saudi government in Riyadh.
The issue is resurfacing now as pressure builds to release the 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission investigation that had been redacted. Lehman’s disclosure of this information to the media is expected to increase this pressure.
Lehman’s disclosures also come at a time when the long-standing relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia is being questioned and re-evaluated.
The Commission member’s disclosures contradict previous statements from other Commission members.
The Commission's chair and vice chairs, former Republican New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana, released a statement in April saying that "only one employee of the Saudi government was implicated in the plot investigation."
Still, Lehman—former Navy secretary under Ronald Reagan--stressed that “we have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.”
Despite that, “our report should never have been read as an exoneration of Saudi Arabia,” Lehman said, referring to the final document of the commission issued in 2004.
He also implored the pubic to remember that 15 of the 19 9/11 attackers were from Saudi Arabia. He is now calling for a new, thorough investigation into the extent of Saudi involvement. But more immediately, Lehman is calling for the remaining 28 pages of the redacted 9/11 Commission report to be declassified—a move that could spur along the already partial break in U.S.-Saudi relations.