Over the past few months, the United States has had a sudden renewed interest in the details surrounding the 9/11 terror attacks, mainly due to the buzz that was created by a 60 Minutes special which told of a the last 28 pages of an investigative report being classified and not included in the final report handed over to the 9/11 commission. The pages allegedly have credible evidence that implicates the government of Saudi Arabia as being complicit in the attacks.
Former Senator Bob Graham, then Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had this exchange in the interview...
Interviewer: You believe that support came from Saudi Arabia
Interviewer: When you say the Saudis you mean the government, rich people in the country, charities
Graham: All of the above
Ever since the airing of the special, the political posturing began in Washington as everyone in Congress pretended they had no idea about these pages but now that they do, they'll definitely do something about it. That something turned out to be rushing a bill through the Senate entitled "Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act" (JASTA), which is created in order to allow survivors and victims' families to sue Saudi Arabia for its alleged involvement in 9/11 (although the narrative is that it's applicable to anyone, the reality is that it was created specifically to sue the Saudis).
Upon learning of the legislation (which is not in front of the House), Saudi Arabia immediately threatened to sell as much as $750 billion is US Treasurys and other assets in order to try and get America's attention and persuade everyone that it's not in their best interest to pursue the matter further. Since then, president Obama has promised to veto any such legislation that hits his desk, perhaps knowing full well that as a result, other nations will look to sue the United States for its perceived terrorism around the world, which wouldn't be a good look for the government.
While Saudi Arabia's response may or may not have helped add fuel to the fire of those who believe the country has something to hide, it has also tried to have a softer approach to the issue, one that perhaps works the most effectively in Washington: Lobbyists.
Saudi Arabia has eight different lobbying, legal and consulting firms under its employ in Washington, and has turned its attention to that channel in order to get further investigative steps nixed.
The Hill reports
Saudi Arabia is intensifying its outreach to Capitol Hill, fighting scrutiny on two fronts amid allegations that the kingdom has ties to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
In recent days, Americans working for the Arab kingdom have scheduled meetings with congressional offices and circulated two documents praising the work Riyadh has done to fight terrorism.
The push is part of an effort to counteract what supporters of Saudi Arabia consider to be pervasive skepticism about its support for the U.S.’s fight against terrorism, due in part to the emotions surrounding 9/11 and mounting criticism from prominent members of Congress.
Saudi Arabia’s critics are “delving into conspiracy theory territory,” one consultant hired by the kingdom told The Hill.
“The effort here is to display how the Saudis are working lockstep with the U.S. on the financial, operational and ideological fronts in countering extremism and fighting terror,” the consultant said.
“It is to show to the broader public and to the pundits and to the media here in D.C. and the broader U.S. public that it is truly a joint effort between the Saudis and the Americans.”
The first test of whether or not the lobbyist blitz is working for Saudi Arabia will be seen in how a House subcommittee hearing that was scheduled to take place today plays out. Many in congress seem to have a renewed passion for the truth in this case, and wish to see it through. There are at least some indications that the lobbyist full-court press is working, as the name of the hearing was changed from "Terrorism and the Saudi Royal Family" to "The US-Saudi Arabia Counterterrorism Relationship."
The messaging will be tested on Tuesday, when a House subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on the U.S. and Saudi efforts to combat terrorism.
“We will have a hearing and find out one way or the other if the Saudi government — members of the Saudi government — helped in any way in the 9/11 attack,” Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on terrorism, told the conservative Center for Security Policy in an interview published this weekend.
“I’m not saying they did, but we’re going to find out — and also whether the Saudi government has had any relationship with terrorist financing since then.”
Currently, Washington is being flooded with analysis stating that the 9/11 commission report found no evidence that the Saudi Government funded al Qaeda (which is strange, because former US Senator Bob Kerrey, a member of the 9/11 commission flat out denied that all of the leads were chased down prior to publishing the final report: "We certainly didn't pursue the entire line of inquiry in regards to Saudi Arabia") and a large volume of details outlining all of the things Saudi Arabia has done in order to help fight terrorism alongside the US.
Saudi Arabia’s allies are pushing back on both the release of the 28 pages and the terrorism bill with a pair of memos that have been circulated around Washington.
The first, a 34-page analysis of the 28 pages, acts as a prebuttal to the pages’ release, claiming any loose ends were subsequently chased down and came up empty. Indeed, the 9/11 Commission report — which came out two years after the separate congressional analysis containing the classified 28 pages — investigated the matter and “found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” al Qaeda.
However, that assertion “does not exclude the likelihood that charities with significant Saudi government sponsorship diverted funds to al Qaeda,” the report added.
In addition, Saudi Arabia last week began circulating a hefty 104-page volume with color photos describing its efforts to defeat “the men, the money and the mindset” that supports terrorism. The white paper, which was published shortly after the Senate passed JASTA, devotes multiple pages to the kingdom’s efforts to halt the financing of terrorism, including through charity groups.
* * *
Where all of this leads is anyone's guess, but it seems that Saudi Arabia has finally figured out that the only way to get congress to act on anything is to send scores of lobbyists to Washington to "assist" with everyone's thinking.