Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 18, 2016

The declassified 28 pages: connecting the dots on 9/11

Filed under: Saudi Arabia,September 11 — louisproyect @ 4:38 pm

George W. Bush and Prince Bandar bin Sultan: the two architects of 9/11?

On May 18th I wrote about the allegations that “the Saudis” were behind 9/11 that would supposedly be proved by a 28-page section of a report that remained classified. Even without having seen those pages, I was certain that nothing within them could support the notion that the Saudi monarchy would have conspired to attack the WTC and the Pentagon since a Marxist class analysis and a reading of Akbar Ahmad’s “The Thistle and the Drone” would reveal two major points against this claim:

  1. Although most of the hijackers were Saudi citizens, they were originally from Yemen and were as hostile to the monarchy as they were to the USA.
  2. Blamed for the attack, al Qaeda was hardly an instrument of Saudi royal ambitions since it had carried out terrorist attacks a number of times within Saudi Arabia itself.

Since writing this article, the 28 pages have finally been declassified and released to the press. There is nothing in them that would change my mind although the usual cast of characters has jumped at the opportunity to crow that they prove Saudi Arabia was “behind 9/11”, including Salon’s Ben Norton who wrote an article titled “28 pages” showing Saudi connection to 9/11 attacks finally released after 14 years. Norton notes that “FBI and CIA documents disclosed that, while some of the Sept. 11 hijackers were in the U.S., they likely had contact with Saudi intelligence officers, the pages reveal.” Actually, the hijackers also had contact with American intelligence operatives as well. Does that prove that the USA was “behind 9/11”? If you’ve had the intellectual deficit to believe “truther” material, you’ll nod your head in agreement of course.

You would think that someone like Ben Norton, who believes even if mistakenly that he is a serious reporter, would have taken the trouble to mention that these hijackers were also in touch with FBI informers. With superficial and propagandistic hacks such as him, you can never tell whether he is sweeping the facts under the rug or whether his ignorance is to blame. In a trial, they say that ignorance of the law is not a defense. The same thing can be said about journalism as well.

Back on July 25, 2003, the NY Times reported:

The F.B.I. may have missed its best chance to prevent the Sept. 11 plot when one of its informants developed close ties to two of the hijackers living in San Diego, yet never alerted the bureau to the impending attacks, according to a Congressional report released today.

The declassified report by a House-Senate committee focuses closely on the incidents in San Diego, where Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq Alhazmi settled soon after arriving in the country in early 2000. The informant told his F.B.I. handler they were “good Muslim Saudi youths” who had come to America to go to school.

It is likely the informant being referred to here is Abdussattar Shaikh, who rented rooms to al-Midhar and Alhazmi. One hardly knows what to make of an FBI snitch keeping the crime of the century a secret from his handlers, especially when the human beings drawn to the filthy job of informant are not especially known for their scruples.

That being said, the newly issued report is replete with references to suspicions about the men gleaned from informants. It appears that there was substantial evidence that they were up to no good but specific plans about a 9/11 attack did not appear on the FBI’s radar.

If the FBI was effectively turning a blind eye to the 9/11 terrorist attack, the CIA was even more complicit. The CIA had identified Alhamzi and Al-Midhar as al Qaeda operatives  but did not pass that information along to the FBI agents in San Diego. So naturally you can conclude that such negligence was no accident.

Indeed for the “truthers”, there was no intelligence failure. Everything pointed to 9/11 being an inside job with the hijackers, the CIA and the FBI being in cahoots. If the FBI kept the plot a secret from the American people, surely this must prove that it was the USA itself that sought a “false flag” excuse to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. Any fool could have seen that the invasion and occupation of the two countries have been the best thing that happened to the USA since its birth in 1776. The expenditure of trillions of dollars has led to utter chaos in the region, after all, and very little of it of benefit to multinational corporations.

Not only does the Times article refer to FBI failing to take action on the plotters, it also identifies the man who is key to the 28-page “revelations”:

Meanwhile, unresolved questions surround the strange relationship that developed in San Diego between the two hijackers and a man from Saudi Arabia, Omar al-Bayoumi. Mr. al-Bayoumi met the two soon after their arrival in the United States and helped them settle in San Diego, allowing them to stay at his apartment for several days and co-signing a lease on their apartment.

You can read the 28 pages at http://intelligence.house.gov/sites/intelligence.house.gov/files/documents/declasspart4.pdf. They document a myriad of contacts between the hijackers and Saudi officials, most of all Omar al-Bayoumi. But they also point to Prince Bandar as a possible accomplice. It seems, for example, that his wife had been sending money on a regular basis to Osama Bassnan who was instrumental in helping hijackers Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq Alhazmi financially when they were in San Diego. So it is a simple matter, it would seem, to connect the dots: Khalid al-Midhar/Nawaq Alhazmi –> Osama Bassnan/Omar al-Bayoumi –> Prince Bandar. In fact this was the point that Michael Moore made in “Fahrenheit 9/11”, with a lot more panache than Ben Norton and about as much credibility.

What is missing from these calculations is a “smoking gun” that would prove that Prince Bandar directed Bassman and al-Bayoumi to render financial and logistical support knowing in advance that it would be for terrorists whose goal it was to fly passenger planes into the WTC and the Pentagon. In order to make such a case, you would have to confront the most counter-indicative datum, namely the true relationship between the House of Saud and Osama bin-Laden who is referenced extensively throughout the 28 pages as if they were joined at the hip:

The FBI has also developed additional information clearly indicating that Bassnan is an extremist and supporter of Usama Bin Ladin. In 1993, the FBI became aware that Bassnan had hosted a party for the Blind Shaykh at his house in Washington, DC in October 1992. Bassnan has made many laudatory remarks to FBI assets about Bin Ladin, referring to Bin Ladin as the official Khalifate and the ruler of the Islamic world. According to an FBI asset, Bassnan spoke of Bin Ladin “as if he were a god.” Bassnan also stated to an FBI asset that he heard that the Government had stopped approving visas for foreign students. He considered such measures to be insufficient as there are already enough Muslims in the United States to destroy the United States and make it an Islamic state within ten to fifteen years. According to FBI documents, Bassnan also knew Bin Ladin’s family in Saudi Arabia and speaks on his mobile telephone with members of the family who are living in the United States.

After reading this, you’d think that the families of 9/11 casualties would be as interested in suing the FBI and CIA as they were the Saudi government. If you look through the 28 pages, you will see repeated references to the “FBI assets” knowing about every single move of the hijackers and the assistance they were receiving from people like Bassnan. So why didn’t they put them all in jail before 9/11? Maybe it is because they had no idea that 9/11 was in the works.

For some, it is easy to connect the dots. Paul Sperry, a reporter for Murdoch’s NY Post, added the missing link (Khalid al-Midhar/Nawaq Alhazmi–>Osama Bassnan/Omar al-Bayoumi–>Prince Bandar–>George W. Bush) in an April 2016 article that anticipated the declassified material:

But Bandar held sway over the FBI.

After he met on Sept. 13, 2001, with President Bush in the White House, where the two old family friends shared cigars on the Truman Balcony, the FBI evacuated dozens of Saudi officials from multiple cities, including at least one Osama bin Laden family member on the terror watch list. Instead of interrogating the Saudis, FBI agents acted as security escorts for them, even though it was known at the time that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens.

“The FBI was thwarted from interviewing the Saudis we wanted to interview by the White House,” said former FBI agent Mark Rossini, who was involved in the investigation of al Qaeda and the hijackers. The White House “let them off the hook.”

In other words, the political conclusion you are forced to draw if you are Ben Norton or any of the other hacks who believe that the Saudi royal family has ambitions indistinguishable from ISIS is the same as the 9/11 Truthers, namely that it was an “inside job”. We are forced to conclude that the CIA, the FBI, the White House and the Saudi monarchs sat down and devised a plot that would lead to the deaths of privileged stock brokers in the WTC and life-long employees of the Department of Defense in order to create a panic over al-Qaeda that would lead to the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq that most policy-makers now view as a disaster to US interests.

Since we will never be able to get our hands on “the smoking gun” until after a successful socialist revolution in the USA that will allow us to open up the safes of the CIA and FBI, we will be forced instead to rely on a class analysis no matter how boring that is. In my view, for what it is worth, the Saudi ruling class has zero interest in apocalyptic plots to create a worldwide Wahhabist empire even if that was something close to the heart of Osama Bassnan. Like capitalist ruling classes everywhere, its main interest is in stability so that its investments and future investment possibilities can be safeguarded.

Furthermore, the Wahhabism of the Saudi state cannot be interpreted as a medieval version of the kind of ambitions we associate with a globally transformative movement like Socialism. Instead it is a commitment to very conservative personal behavior that in most cases leads to passive acceptance of the status quo. In Pakistan, where the Saudi state has arguably devoted more resources to spreading its religious and political values than anywhere, graduates of the Saudi-funded madrassas offer no challenge to the status quo. Like most devout people, their focus is on the afterlife rather than social transformation even of a reactionary type.

On the other hand, al-Qaeda does challenge the status quo. The 9/11 attacks were consistent with its terrorist strategy that had been unleashed all across the world, including inside Saudi Arabia. There is little question that the men who took part in the 9/11 attacks were seeking to drive a wedge between the West and the Ummah. Instead of seeing them as acting on the behalf of the Saudi state or the CIA, it makes much more sense to put them into the context of a movement that emerged after the collapse of the USSR. When there was a Soviet Union, young men and women from traditional Muslim families could see Marxism, even in its distorted forms, as an alternative to the rotten systems that the West had imposed on the Middle East and North Africa in its pursuit of oil profits. Once it vanished, new hopes were placed in political Islam—something we are still paying for now as the Arab Spring has been caught between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Islamic fundamentalism and the decrepit neoliberal ‘socialist’ states of Gaddafi’s Libya and Assad’s Syria that people like Ben Norton stepped forward to justify.




  1. The accusation is not that “the Saudis” staged the 9/11 attacks but that Saudis did, a Saudi faction, and that “the Saudis” had and still have a policy of tolerating Saudi-based terrorism outside the Saudi borders (initially including attacks on US targets); that they did not and do not cooperate with foreign investigations of Saudi-based terrorism, but insisted on settling everything “in house”; and that they actively protected and still protect terrorists who are well-connected with the royal family, while occasionally giving up a scapegoat. The Saudi state did not sponsor terrorism but they tolerated various royals who controlled huge slush funds which were used to sponsor terroribsm.

    This policy did change after 9/11, how much I don’t know, but they are still behind all kinds of fundamentalist movements throughout the Muslim world, some of them violent.

    Further, after 9/11 the US directed its attention to Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Iran, and Syria, in alliance with the Saudis and Israelis even though Saudi Arabia would have been the place to look. The Saudis were exempted because of close connections between the Saudis, the oil industry, and American politicians, so we conducted a fake war on terror against previously selected enemies and reconfigured American politics and law in conformity with this war.

    Comment by John Emerson — July 19, 2016 @ 12:10 am

  2. Thank you for summarizing the dominant view on the left about “the Saudis”.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 19, 2016 @ 12:28 am

  3. The documentary, The Spymasters: CIA in the Crosshairs, interviews leadership in the FBI and the CIA and takes on everything from torture to intelligence failures.

    Comment by aaron — July 19, 2016 @ 12:28 am

  4. I’m glad these pages have finally been declassified, revealing exactly what any sane person already knew, ie, nothing there. This has to be one of the more extraordinary episodes in modern left conspiracism. Always obsessing over what lackeys of US imperialism the Saudis are (or at least, obsessing over it with a vengeace the last few years since Saudis are known to back anti-Assad forces, so, for example, if Assad kills 100 people in a marketplace, they can say, “yes, but the Saudis, you know”); yet the exact same people also think the exact same Saudi monarchy is such an anti-US imperialist firebrand that it launched a military attack on the US in 2001. Mind-blowing in its stupidity, finally laid to rest.

    Comment by Michael Karadjis — July 19, 2016 @ 6:28 am

  5. The Saudis may have arranged for the planes that flew into the Twin Towers. They were the ‘patsies’ in case it flopped. I think the US government or the Israelis, or both brought those buildings down. The Israeli involvement in 9/1`1 is missing from the investigation too.

    Comment by baldurdasche — July 20, 2016 @ 12:24 am

  6. There was nothing you said to change my mind, since you were attacking straw men. A thorough investigation of 9/11 would have gone a lot deeper into Saudi Arabia than it did, but the Saudis didn’t allow that and the Bush administration wouldn’t or couldn’t challenge them.

    Nothing was said about The Saudi Ruling class, but only some individual Saudis. Bandar was not a conspirator but he protected the Saudi interests after the fact. Al Qaeda was his enemy, but he wanted to deal with them in-house.

    It had nothing to do with Assad and Syria today, which seem to be the lamposts you like to look for things under.

    Comment by John Emerson — July 21, 2016 @ 10:34 pm

  7. You don’t seem to get my point. People like Michael Moore, Ben Norton, Medea Benjamin, et al are arguing that the 28 pages demonstrate that the Saudi state was deeply involved in 9/11. This is insane. The Saudi state had no interest in such an attack. Undoubtedly individual Saudis were involved but the 28 pages do not prove that people like Prince Bandar were part of the conspiracy.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 22, 2016 @ 1:40 am

  8. OK, I grant that. I have not read any of their things. But all along the Saudis have been protecting terrorists of various sorts in various places all along, and they have not cooperated with our efforts to investigate individual Saudis involvement in 9/11. The oil rents go into enormous slush funds controlled by individuals and religious organizations, and Osama himself was only one of them. The investigation should have focussed on Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, but it wasn’t because they wanted to treat it as an internal matter. The Saudi State was accessory both before and after the fact. And for a multitude of reasons the US went along with this. 9/11 wasn’t even the first such case.

    Comment by John Emerson — July 22, 2016 @ 12:29 pm

  9. As I have said repeatedly here, 9/11 was organized by al Qaeda–a sworn enemy of the Saudi state that had been involved with major acts of terror inside Saudi Arabia. These are the facts. Here is one of the more high profile incidents:


    Saudi Arabia is a pretty totalitarian society so the screws were tightened after this incident to make repeats much more difficult. If you still think that the SAUDI STATE is in league with al Qaeda, there’s not much more than I can say except this. Al Qaeda is a worldwide terrorist network committed to the downfall of Western interests. The SAUDI STATE, just like the state of Israel, is committed to the defense of imperialist interests in the Middle East. The historical record on this is so vast that it is barely worth providing citations.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 22, 2016 @ 12:41 pm

  10. It is very implausible that any government leaders or government agencies would knowingly have authorized or endorsed the 9/11 attack, especially when we consider their actual responses to it. It would be something difficult to hide for a long time. It is quite possible though, that there were people outside the immediate circle of plotters who were “in the know” about what was about to happen, in varying degrees, yet who effectively allowed the crime to go ahead, either by not informing relevant law enforcement officials about relevant facts, or by actively blocking the transmission of critical information, or both. That is the real substance of the more plausible “conspiracy allegations”.

    In so doing, those “in the know” could, of course, have been motivated by a belief that the attack would have a good effect on America and the world, or benefited some or other party (perhaps in the light of their information about what the Bush administration aspired to). But the cause could also have been negligence, or it could be mixed up with some kind of personal resentment, misperception or organizational rivalry.

    Leftists who see the state as their enemy, are unlikely to look at the problem from the perspective of the state. They therefore overlook the sheer number of people who try to violate the law every day, in some or other way. Looked at administratively, there are, on any given day, hundreds of thousands of people walking around “intending” to commit crimes at some point, and for a percentage of those, it is known by law enforcers that they represent a real and major threat. It is often difficult, however, to weigh up accurately the threats or risks associated with tens of thousands of suspects on any given day. A percentage of crimes can go ahead, simply because at the time law enforcers were not looking, or not looking hard enough.

    Robert Fisk has pointed out several times, that in many Middle East countries the majority of the people live in the shadow of death as a daily reality, and they have gotten used to it, because they have to live with that where they are. It gives rise to a philosophy of life, a set of values and a mentality which is often still quite difficult to grasp for Western people. In particular, it goes against Western concepts of reason to keep fighting, even if you have no prospect of winning, of gaining a clear advantage, or if it kills all your fighters; it is also “not done” to be simply indifferent or resigned at the death of a bunch of people from a terrorist attack. Before the 9/11 attacks, very few people alive could even imagine how anybody could think of, let alone do anything like that, and afterwards, it took days to sink in what had really happened (never mind the broader significance of the events, which was misrepresented by the narratives of the mass media). There never was much of an intelligent public discussion about the meaning of the events. This is what fuels a lot of the conspiracy theories.

    Comment by Jurriaan Bendien — July 23, 2016 @ 4:03 pm

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