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CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 7

 

THE BUSH-BIN LADEN CONNECTION AND STONEWALLING THE 9/11 INVESTIGATION

THE BUSH-BIN LADEN CONNECTION

Before his death in a 1968 plane crash, Osama Bin Laden’s father, Mohammed Bin Laden, made a fortune off construction contracts awarded by the Saudi royal family. The $5 billion per year construction conglomerate, known as the Binladin remained closely tied to the Saudi royal family. After the death of Mohammed bin Laden, control of the company passed to Salem Bin Laden, Osama’s half brother. (The Texas Observer, “The Bush-Bin Laden Connection,” November 9, 2001)

The George W. Bush/Jim Bath connection began the following decade. In the early 1970s, the two flew fighter jets together in the Texas Air National Guard. In 1976, Bath was recruited by CIA Director George Herbert Bush to create offshore companies to move CIA funds and aircraft between Texas and Saudi Arabia. (The Texas Observer, “The Bush-Bin Laden Connection,” November 9, 2001; Toronto Sun, September 24, 2001)

In 1978, Salem Bin Laden, older brother to Osama, invested a large chunk of money in Bush’s first oil company, Arbusto Energy. Salem appointed James Bath, a close friend of Bush who served with him in the Air National Guard, as his representative in Houston, Texas. Bath himself invested $70,000 in the company. (Toronto Sun, September 24, 2001)

Bath acted as the Bin Laden family’s representative in North America, investing money in various business ventures. Bath also became the business representative of Khalid Bin Mahfouz, a member of Saudi Arabia’s most powerful banking family and owners of the National Commercial Bank, the principal bank of the Saudi royal family. Mahfouz’s sister was also a wife of Osama Bin Laden. (Beaty, Jonathan and Gwynne, The Outlaw Bank: A Wild Ride into the Secret Heart of BCCI, New York: Random House, 1993; Judicial Watch: Bush/Bin Laden Connection, October 6, 2001; Toronto Sun, September 24, 2001; Wayne Madsen, In These Times)

A friendship was struck between the Bin Ladens and Bushes in the 1970s in Houston, Texas. The Bin Laden family helped fund Arbusto Energy, George W. Bush’s first oil venture. One of many investors, Bath gave Bush $50,000 for a 5 percent stake in Arbusto. (Beaty, Jonathan and Gwynne, The Outlaw Bank: A Wild Ride into the Secret Heart of BCCI, New York: Random House, 1993; Judicial Watch: Bush/Bin Laden Connection, October 6, 2001; Wayne Madsen, In These Times, November 12, 2001; Center for Research on Globalization, February 28, 2002)

When Arbusto Energy teetered on the brink of bankruptcy, the company remained solvent by merging with Arbusto 7 Oil Company. Bath invested money from Salem Bin Laden and Mahfouz in the new company. Bath said more than $1-million of the Saudis’ money was pumped into Bush’s venture. Bath bought the Saudi royalty an airport, office, and apartment buildings. Eventually, Salem and Mahfouz bought an enormous mansion in River Oaks, Houston’s most affluent neighborhood. (Beaty, Jonathan and Gwynne, The Outlaw Bank: A Wild Ride into the Secret Heart of BCCI, New York: Random House, 1993; Judicial Watch: Bush/Bin Laden Connection, October 6, 2001)

Bush’s third oil firm, Harken Energy, was operated by Alan Quasha, a New York lawyer who was also a Republican Party fundraiser. Sheikh Abdullah Bahksh of Saudi Arabia, a 16 percent shareholder in Harken Energy. He was represented by a Palestinian-born Chicago investor named Talat Othman, who served with George W. Bush on the board of Harken Energy. (Beaty, Jonathan and Gwynne, The Outlaw Bank: A Wild Ride into the Secret Heart of BCCI, New York: Random House, 1993; Judicial Watch: Bush/Bin Laden Connection, October 6, 2001)

Mahfouz and other Saudis attempted to transfer $3 million to various Bin Laden front operations in Saudi Arabia in 1999. Saudi officials stopped Mahfouz from contributing money directly to Bin Laden. (Wayne Madsen, In These Times)

Also in 1970s, Charles W. “Bill” White, a former Annapolis graduate and United States Navy pilot, became part of the Bush-White-Bin Laden connection. Bath hired White as his partner in his real estate firm. Bush used Bath to funnel money from Osama Bin Laden’s rich father, Sheikh Bin Laden, to set up Arbusto Energy. Bath went on to make a fortune by investing money for Mahfouz and Sheikh Bin Laden. (Beaty, Jonathan and Gwynne, The Outlaw Bank: A Wild Ride Into the Secret Heart of BCCI, New York: Random House, 1993; Judicial Watch: Bush/Bin Laden Connection, October 6, 2001)

In sworn depositions, Bath said he represented four prominent Saudis as a trustee, one of whom was Saudi Sheik Salem Bin Laden. In return, he said, he would receive a 5 percent interest in their deals.

Bath was named in a 1976 trust document as the business representative for Salem Bin Laden who was killed in a private plane crash in Texas in 1988. White claimed that Bath was involved in a secret conspiracy to funnel Saudi money into the United States. He claimed that since 1976, Bath had worked as a CIA liaison to Saudi Arabia. White also claimed that Bath ran an aviation business and obtained several aircraft from the CIA.,/P>

In 1986, Bath filed 28 frivolous lawsuits against White, leading to White’s financial ruin and expulsion from Houston’s business community. White announced Bath’s relationship to the Saudis and Bush family.

Bush’s third oil firm, Harken Energy, had ties to the notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), a Middle Eastern banking concern. In 1988, the BCCI scandal broke with the exposure of Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega, terrorist leaders Abu Nidal, and the Medellin drug cartel. BCCI also laundered money that involved the Iran-Contra scandal. (Beaty, Jonathan and Gwynne, The Outlaw Bank: A Wild Ride Into the Secret Heart of BCCI, New York: Random House, 1993; Judicial Watch: Bush/Bin Laden Connection, October 6, 2001),/P>

Mahfouz was chief operating officer of BCCI. He was fined $212 million to settle felony charges for stealing investors’ money. He was also barred from involvement in any American banking activity. The Wall Street Journal in 2000 reported that he provided financing to a “charitable front” that raised money for Bin Laden. He was reportedly placed under house arrest in Saudi Arabia since at least March of 2000. (Wall Street Journal, September 28, 2000),/P>

Another business partner of Bush was involved in BCCI. Sheikh Abdullah Bahksh of Saudi Arabia was a 16 percent shareholder in Harken Energy. Bahksh was a co-investor in BCCI, whose primary objective in the Middle East was to obtain political influence using oil money. Bahrain's prime minister, Sheik Khalifah bin-Sulman al-Khalifah, was a major investor in BCCI’s parent company, BCCI Holdings, of Luxembourg. Through its commodities affiliate, Capcom, BCCI was used as a money laundering service by drug traffickers and arms dealers. (Beaty, Jonathan and Gwynne, The Outlaw Bank: A Wild Ride into the Secret Heart of BCCI, New York: Random House, 1993; Judicial Watch: Bush/Bin Laden Connection, October 6, 2001; Wayne Madsen, In These Times, November 12, 2001; Center for Research on Globalization, February 28, 2002)

As President George Herbert Bush prepared for war in 1991, Osama Bin Laden urged the Saudi royal family to find an Arab solution, by raising an army on their own to fight Hussein. However, the Saudis sided with the Bush administration, allowing American bases on their soil from which to launch attacks. Subsequently, Bin Laden was allowed to leave Saudi Arabia for Sudan with his fortune. In 1996, Bin Laden joined Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. (Beaty, Jonathan and Gwynne, The Outlaw Bank: A Wild Ride Into the Secret Heart of BCCI, New York: Random House, 1993; Judicial Watch: Bush/Bin Laden Connection, October 6, 2001)

The Carlyle Group, a major global corporation, employed prominent former politicians such as the senior Bush to provide an opening to government ministries around the world. Carlyle’s ties to the Bush family dated back more than a decade. ,/P>

Carlyle had ownership stakes in 164 companies which employed more than 70,000 people and generated $16 billion in revenues in 2000. About 450 institutions -- mainly large pension funds and banks -- were Carlyle investors. The California state pension fund invested $305 million with Carlyle, and the Texas teachers pension fund -- whose board was appointed when George W. Bush was governor -- gave Carlyle $100 million to invest in November.” (New York Times, March 5, 2001),/P>

In 1990, Carlyle placed George W. Bush on the board of directors of one of its subsidiaries, Caterair, an airline catering company. Charles Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, commented, “George Bush is getting money from private interests that have business before the government, while his son is president. And, in a really peculiar way, George W. Bush could, some day, benefit financially from his own administration’s decisions, through his father’s investments.”,/P>

After leaving the White House in January 1993, George Herbert Bush accepted a post as adviser to Carlyle. He helped to strengthen Carlyle’s ties to the Saudi royal family. Other high-level officials at Carlyle included former Reagan administration Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci and former senior Bush administration Secretary of State James A. Baker III. (The Texas Observer, Andrew Wheat, The Bush-Bin Laden Connection, November 9, 2001),/P>

The Saudi Binladin group ran a $5 billion business, built by family patriarch Mohammed largely from Saudi government construction contracts. In the 1990s, the Binladin group invested $2 million in the Carlyle Group. (Wall Street Journal, September 17, 2001)

In 1996, the head of Saudi intelligence, Turki bin Faisal, and Khalid bin Mahfouz met in Paris with a representative of Al Qaeda. They agreed to extend the earlier arrangement made between the Saudi royal family and Osama Bin Laden, whereby in return for cash, Al Qaeda agreed not to attack inside Saudi Arabia. The CIA produced an internal report that documents the numerous Saudi charities that funded terrorists. Osama Bin Laden’s name was included. (Beaty, Jonathan and Gwynne, The Outlaw Bank: A Wild Ride Into the Secret Heart of BCCI, New York: Random House, 1993; Judicial Watch: Bush/Bin Laden Connection, October 6, 2001)

While serving as governor of Texas, George W. Bush met with high-level Al Qaeda leaders, hoping to get support to build a pipeline across Afghanistan. (Michael Moore, Dude, Where’s My Country?) Four months into his presidency, he rewarded the Taliban by handing over $43 million in May 2001, only six months before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.,/P>

George Herbert Bush worked with the Bin Laden family business on at least two occasions. In August 2001, George W. Bush received a detailed and lengthy presidential daily briefing from the CIA, stating that Bin Laden and Al Qaeda’s objective was to launch an attack against the United States. One month later -- on the morning of the 9/11 terrorist attacks -- George Herbert Bush met with Osama Bin Laden’s own brother at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Washington D.C. (Wall Street Journal September 27, 2001, Michael Moore, Dude, Where’s My Country?)

All airlines in the United States were grounded for two days after 9/11. Yet, on September 13, 2001, the White House authorized Saudi jets to fly 24 Bin Laden relatives out of the United States. The members of the Bin Laden family were never questioned by United States authorities.(Wall Street Journal, September 27, 2001; Judicial Watch, March 5, 2001, September 28, 2001; (Michael Moore, Dude, Where’s My Country? Beaty, Jonathan and Gwynne, The Outlaw Bank: A Wild Ride Into the Secret Heart of BCCI, New York: Random House, 1993; Judicial Watch: Bush/Bin Laden Connection, October 6, 2001; CNews, September 30, 2003))

One of Bin Laden’s brothers frantically called the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington looking for protection. Saudi’s King Fahd sent an urgent message to his embassy in Washington pointing out that there were “Bin Laden children all over America” and ordered, “Take measures to protect the innocents,” the ambassador said. (CNews, September 30, 2003)

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf struck a deal with the Bush administration not to capture Bin Laden. Musharraf feared that the capture of Bin Laden would trigger incite civil unrest in Pakistan and trigger more Al Qaida attacks on Western targets across the world. The agreement between the two heads of state came shortly after Bin Laden’s flight from Tora Bora in Afghanistan in December 2001. (London’s The Guardian, August 23, 2003)

INTELLIGENCE BRIEFINGS BEFORE 9/11

In August 2000, wiretaps in Milan, Italy revealed that Al Qaeda operatives were planning plans for major attacks involving airports, airplanes, and the United States. One of the transcripts read, “This will be one of those strikes that will never be forgotten. ... This is a terrifying thing. This is a thing that will spread from south to north, from east to west: The person who came up with this program is a madman from a madhouse, a madman but a genius. He is fixated on this program; it will leave everyone turned to ice.” (Los Angeles Times, May 29, 2002)

The CIA waited 20 months before placing on a federal watch list two Al Qaeda terrorists, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar. The CIA never passed the information along to the FBI. The FBI earlier conceded that if it had known, agents could have uncovered the terrorist plot. They lived openly in the United States. They used their real names, obtained driver’s licenses, opened bank accounts, and enrolled in flight schools. (Newsweek, June 3, 2002)

A dozen intelligence warnings suggested airplanes could be used as weapons. (New York Times and Washington Post, September 19, 2002)

In July 2001, Richard Clarke, the National Security Council official in charge of counter-terrorism, put out an urgent alert, placing the government at its highest state of readiness for a possible terrorist attack. The alert faded six weeks later. (The Nation, June 10, 2002)

At least two names listed in a July 10, 2001 FBI memo about a Prescott, Arizona flight school were identified by the CIA as having links to Al Qaeda. The memo, sent to FBI headquarters by a Phoenix FBI agent, warned that Bin Laden could have been using United States flight schools to train terrorists and suggested a nationwide canvass for Middle Eastern aviation students. The FBI memo was ignored. (Washington Post and New York Times, May 18, 2002

Coleen Rowley, general counsel of the Minneapolis office, wrote a May 2002 13-page letter to FBI Director Mueller indicating the likelihood of a terrorist attack. She documented Zacarias Moussaoui ties to terrorism and his activity in a Minnesota flight school. Rowley also emphasized a July 10 FBI warning about possible terrorists taking flight training in Arizona. National Security Advisor Rice claimed that Bush was never given the memorandum. (Washington Post and New York Times, May 18, 2002)

Even after 9-11, the FBI conducted a major security breach by turning over 48 classified reports to Moussaoui as part of the pretrial discovery process. The documents contained summaries of interviews related to Moussaoui’s case and the FBI’s larger investigation of Al Qaeda. They were not marked as classified, even though they contained classified information. (New York Times, September 28, 2002)

On August 6, 2001, the CIA alerted Bush to the danger of hijackings by terrorists affiliated with Bin Laden. The top-secret briefing memo carried the headline, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” It primarily focused on recounting Al Qaeda’s past efforts to attack and infiltrate the United States. The document also underscored that Bin Laden hoped to “bring the fight to America,” in part as retaliation for American missile strikes on Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan in 1998. (Washington Post and New York Times, May 18, 2002)

Just two weeks before 9/11, one FBI agent begged his superiors to launch an aggressive hunt for Khalid Almihdhar, an Al Qaeda associate who had just reentered the United States. Almihdar was one of the hijackers of the plane that crashed in a Pennsylvania field. The CIA monitored Almihdhar at a meeting of Al Qaeda operatives in Malaysia more than 18 months before the September 11 attacks, and knew at that time that he held a visa that allowed him to enter and exit the United States repeatedly. Yet, the CIA never informed other agencies and made no effort until summer 2001 to add the names of Almihdhar or Alhazmi to immigration watch lists. (Washington Post, September 21, 2002)

The President’s Daily Briefs (PDPs) prior to 9/11 included warnings about possible attacks by Al Qaeda. According to one briefing on August 6, 1001, Bush was warned that Al Qaeda might hijack airplanes. Another report discussed evidence that individuals with Saudi government connections might have provided the hijackers aid. (Newsweek, June 2, 2003)

A joint congressional committee concluded in October 2002 that the FBI never did a comprehensive written assessment of the terrorist threats facing the United States, even though it promised to do so in 1999 and suffered significant criticism for intelligence failures before the September 11 attacks. (Newsweek, June 2, 2003),?P>

The FBI’s Office of the Inspector General castigated the agency’s counter-terrorism program for what it described as a broad array of shortcomings. It found that the agency had not followed through on promises made three years earlier to create an overall assessment of terrorist risks -- including possible attacks with chemical and biological materials or with other weapons of mass destruction. (Los Angeles Times, October 2, 2002)

BUSH STONEWALLS THE INVESTIGATION

Hoping to avoid a colossal embarrassment, Bush hoped to prevent a federal investigation into 9/11. He initially hoped to prevent the creation of an independent commission to probe into the intelligence failures leading of to September 11.

Irate family members, whose loved ones were killed on September 11, demanded an independent congressional inquiry. Bush aides still refused. They suggested that the administration focus on new areas like border security and visa issues. They also wanted the panel to investigate the “role of Congress” in overseeing the work of the intelligence agencies.

Finally in the summer of 2002, the House voted to approve a commission. Still, Bush opposed such a commission, citing concerns about possible leaks and tying up officials involved in the fight against terrorism.

When the White House still refused to listen, family members demanded meetings with top-level administration officials. They met secretly, but when the Bush administration still refused to launch an investigation, family members threatened to go public. Bush appeared to agree to an inquiry. (Newsweek, September 30, 2002)

However, Bush administration officials continued to maneuver to limit the 10-member panel’s scope. They pressed for a one-year deadline for the commission's work, while the deal struck by lawmakers called for a two-year timetable. Bush wanted to prevent the commission from being able to look into the government’s actions immediately after the terrorist attacks. (Los Angeles Times, October 12, 2002)

Finally in November, pressure forced Bush to approve a “nonpartisan” commission. Bush appointed Henry Kissinger to oversee the commission. Kissinger was notorious during the Nixon administration for his fixation in the secret war in Cambodia and his preoccupation on the incarceration of anti-war protesters. He became obsessed with the Watergate cover-up and government leaks as well as his vendetta against Daniel Ellsberg, author of the Pentagon Papers. Kissinger played a key role in the 1973 Chile coup and the assassination of democratically-elected president Salvador Allende, as well as the subsequent right-wing regime of General Augusto Pinochet.

The 800-page congressional report included 28 classified pages that reportedly showed links between the pro-United States Saudi government and Al Qaeda. The report did include:

1. The FBI “Phoenix memo” which reported that Middle Eastern nationals might be enrolling in United States flight schools.

2. Numerous intelligence agency reports in 2001 that suggested Al Qaeda was planning an upcoming attack.

3. A July 2001 CIA briefing that predicted Bin Laden was about to launch a terrorist strike “in the coming weeks.”

4. An August 2001 intelligence briefing to National Security Advisor Rice that discussed Al Qaeda operations within the United States and the possibility that the group’s members might seek to hijack airplanes. (Newsweek, April 30, 2003)

Shortly after the release of the 9/11 study, Florida’s Democratic Senator Bob Graham, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, accused the Bush administration of engaging in a “coverup” of intelligence failures before and after the September 11 attacks to shield it from embarrassment. He charged that the war with Iraq had allowed Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups to become a greater threat to Americans than ever before. (Common Dreams, May 12, 2003)

BUSH STILL STONEWALLS THE RELEASE OF IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS. Relatives of people who perished in the 9/11 attacks said a federal commission accepted too many conditions in striking a deal with the White House over access to secret intelligence documents. 9/11 family members and many others insisted that the commission should keep its word and “leave no stone unturned.” Nonetheless, the Bush administration still refused to come clean with the commission’s findings. It refused to declassify over 500 Presidential Daily Briefings (PDBs) including one titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike the U.S.” (Kyle F. Hence, 9/11 CitizensWatch, http://www.911citizenswatch.org)

The Family Steering Committee, a group of victims’ relatives who monitored the work of the independent commission, criticized the agreement. Under the deal, only some of the 10 commissioners would be allowed to examine classified intelligence documents, and their notes would be subjected to review by the Bush administration. (USA Today, November 14, 2003)