Saudi Arabia backed the 9/11 attacks, according to a former member of the 9/11 commission. In an interview with the Guardian, John F. Lehman revealed that the commission had found clear evidence of Saudi government employees being part of the support network for the September 11, 2001 attacks.
John F. Lehman, currently an investment banker working in New York and formerly the U.S. Navy Secretary for the Reagan Administration, was part of the 9/11 commission, a committee of experts put together by the Bush Administration in the aftermath of 9/11 to investigate the incident. Lehman has become the first commission member to publicly contradict the commission’s final report. Published in 2004, the report has no mentions of Saudi Arabia backing 9/11. In the interview, Lehman adds that he believes the Obama Administration should declassify a confidential congressional report on the Saudi’s ties with the 9/11 attacks.
Published in 2004, the 9/11 Commission’s report was largely criticized for its exoneration of Saudi Arabia. The report had found no evidence of collaboration between Riyadh and Al-Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for 9/11. It had promptly concluded the following.
“Saudi Arabia has long been considered the primary source of Al-Qaeda funding but we have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.”
“There was an awful lot of participation by Saudi individuals in supporting the hijackers, and some of those people worked in their government,” Lehman told the Guardian. He was clearly implying that the commission had made a mistake in not revealing Saudi Arabia’s backing of the 9/11 attacks in their final report.
Purported links between the Arab Monarch and the deadly 9/11 attacks have, from the very beginning, been a subject of scrutiny given that 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, including Osama Bin Laden, the notorious linchpin of Al-Qaeda, who, until his death in 2011, remained the most wanted man on Earth. Lehman, however, was clear in stating that he does not believe the Saudi royalty or the country’s senior leadership of having any role in supporting Al-Qaeda or the 9/11 plot.
Lehman was critical of the commission’s chairman, Republican and former governor of New Jersey Tom Kean, and its vice-chairman, Democrat and Indiana’s congressman Lee Hamilton, who have, time and again, cautioned the Obama administration against revealing the full congressional report on the Saudis and the 9/11 attacks, this including a classified section: “the 28 pages.” “The 28 pages” are said to contain “raw, unvetted” material that could potentially tarnish the reputation of innocent people.
In their statements, the chairman and vice-chairman of the commission, far from revealing any knowledge about Saudi Arabia backing the 9/11 attacks, have in fact repeatedly praised them, calling them, “an ally of the United States in combating terrorism.” The commission’s investigation had involved just one Saudi official, Fahad al-Thumairy, a diplomat in the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, in the investigation of the 9/11 plot who was suspected as being part of a support network for two Saudi hijackers who were living in San Diego a year before the attacks. Curiously, Thumairy was deported but was never convicted of any crime.
Lehman, in his interview, dismissed the findings of the investigation, calling them “a game of semantics” and revealing that the commission had identified at least five Saudi government officials who were, or might have been, involved. “There was an awful lot of circumstantial evidence,” he says that could have indicted them.
After a tense visit to Riyadh last month, President Barack had disclosed that he and his administration were contemplating declassifying some or all of “the 28 pages.” This decision has since sparked quite a controversy. Several lawmakers have demanded that the documents be made public so that it can shed light on Saudi Arabia’s backing of 9/11. While others, like CIA director John O. Brennan, have opposed the idea of full disclosure, arguing it contained mostly inaccurate material that could potentially tarnish the reputation of innocent people.
[Photo by Richard Drew/AP Images]