Family Security Matters
After many years of lobbying, the so-called “28 pages,” a classified section of the Congressional 9/11 report, have been declassified and released to the public.
The pages, which many had long suspected would show the level of Saudi Government support for the 9/11 hijackers, had been a source of tension between U.S.-Saudi relations, with the Saudi government warning against their exposure.
The pages themselves primarily focus on what the FBI and CIA knew about five Saudi nationals: Omar Al-Bayoumi, Osama Bassnan, Shakyh al-Thumiary and Saleh Hussayen and Osama Bin Laden’s half-brother Abdullah Bin Laden, all men with documented ties to the Saudi government. The pages also provide clear evidence that U.S. obsequiousness to the Saudi government hindered efforts to combat terror.
Finally, the documents show that, in the years immediately after 9/11, U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials had a preliminary understanding of an intricate web of support for jihadist terror that included foreign government officials, Islamic charities, Mosques, NGOs, and for-profit companies. These entities backed not just Al Qaeda, but multiple terror groups, including Hamas. That understanding has since been lost as law enforcement focuses increasingly on “radicalization” theories and social media.
The pages note the FBI had received multiple reports that Omar Al-Bayoumi was a Saudi intelligence officer since at least as early as 1999. FBI investigation revealed Al-Bayoumi was receiving funds from a Saudi defense company with links to the Bin Ladens, from the Saudi Finance ministry, and from a Saudi government student scholarship. Al-Bayoumi was in close contact with Saudi diplomatic facilities, calling various Saudi government diplomatic facilities over 100 times.
Al-Bayoumi was also recognized as a jihadist supporter who was indoctrinating young American Muslims, according to documents acquired and translated during a surreptitious FBI search.
Al-Bayoumi provided two 9/11 hijackers with an apartment in San Diego, and assisted them in settling in. He also introduced them to a contact he had made at the Islamic Center of San Diego (ICSD) who went on to provide them with assistance in acquiring driver’s licenses and enrolling at flight school.
The FBI also noticed a pattern in Al-Bayoumi’s funding from Saudi government sources, which was raised during the time he was in contact with the 9/11 hijackers, and then decreased afterwards.
ICSD’s deed is held by the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), a division of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). A federal judge found that the government had provided “ample evidence” to identify both ISNA and NAIT as organizations tied to the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas.
Al-Bayoumi himself was also apparently tied to this Hamas support network: “The FBI determined that Al-Bayoumi was in contact with several individuals under FBI investigation and with the Holy Land Foundation, which has been under investigation as a fundraising front for Hamas.”
The Department of Justice would go on to win convictions on 108 counts of material support for terrorism and money laundering against the Holy Land Foundation and its founders in 2008, proving in federal court that the largest U.S. Islamic charity at the time was in fact part of a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood network founded to support the terrorist group Hamas.
The FBI would come to believe that the Islamic Center of San Diego may also have been engaging in assisting Saudi money laundering on behalf of terrorism facilitated through the Somali Al Barakaat Trading Company, which would be designated for supporting Al Qaeda.
While in San Diego, the two hijackers would meet with Anwar Awlaki, the now-deceased Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader. But at the time, Awlaki was considered a “moderate” cleric. He would later move to Falls Church, Virginia to take up the position as imam of the Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Dar al-Hijrah mosque. Dar al Hijrah was founded by multiple Muslim Brotherhood members, including Ismail Elbarasse, at whose home the FBI would find the trove of Muslim Brotherhood documents used as evidence against the Holy Land Foundation; and Abdelhaleem Al-Asqhar, who ran the Al Aqsa Education Foundation, a Hamas financing front. Long-time Dar al Hijrah imamMohammed Al-Hanooti, now deceased, had multiple Muslim Brotherhood ties and was believed by the FBI to have raised $6 million for Hamas.
The contact from Islamic Center of San Diego would also bring the 9/11 hijackers to the King Fahd Mosque, closely associated with the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles. One of its imams was Saudi consulate official Shakyh al-Thumiary. In 2003, the State Department refused Al-Thumiary reentry to the United States due to suspected terrorist ties.
Osama Bassnan, an associate of Al-Bayoumi, also provided assistance to two of the 9/11 hijackers in San Diego. Although the FBI was not as certain of its information as it was in the case of Al-Bayoumi, they had also received reports from informants that Bassnan was a Saudi intelligence officer.
The 28 pages note that Bassnan was recognized as a being a supporter of Osama Bin Laden, who Bassnan described as the true leader of the Caliphate. Bassnan also once threw a party for terrorist leader Omar “the Blind Sheikh” Abdel Rahman, who orchestrated the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Bassnan once remarked regarding the cancellation of Student visas that there were already “enough Muslims in the United States to destroy the United States and make it an Islamic State.” The Student visa program has long been a bugbear for immigration policy critics who warned the program, which brings thousands of Saudi students to the United States, created serious terrorism risks.
Bassnan’s wife received a regular monthly stipend from the wife of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then Saudi Ambassador to the United States. Bassnan himself also received funds from Bandar.
The recent released pages also highlight Saleh Hussayen, reportedly a Saudi interior ministry official, whose stay at a Herndon, Virginia hotel coincided with that of one of the 9/11 hijackers. During his interview with the FBI after 9/11, Hussayen was considered “deceptive,” and after apparently faking a seizure was able to flee the country.
Hussayen’s nephew, Sami Omar Hussayen, was a leader of the Islamic Assembly of North America (IANA), an Islamic non-profit to which Saleh Hussayen contributed. The FBI noted that IANA spread Salafi jihadist doctrine at the behest of many wealthy Saudi benefactors. As Terrorism researchers Rita Katz and Josh Devon noted in 2003, IANA:
receives half its funding from the Saudi government and the other half from mostly Saudi private donors, according to a New York Times interview with IANA’s director, Mohammed al-Ahmari. Al-Hussayen’s indictment notes that IANA’s proselytization activities included the “dissemination of radical Islamic ideology the purpose of which was indoctrination, recruitment of members, and the instigation of acts of violence and terrorism.” Backed by the Saudis, IANA has become a glorified al Qaeda recruitment center.
While working for IANA, Sami Omar Hussayen was also the leader of the University of Idaho’s Muslim Students Association. Evidence submitted at the Holy Land Foundation trial documented that the Muslim Students Association (MSA) was an organization of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood network. While IANA was shut down by law enforcement, the MSA remains highly active. New York City recently settled a lawsuit regarding its NYPD intelligence program, forcing the NYPD to remove an analysis which regarded MSAs as potential “incubators” of radicalization. Dozens of MSA leaders have been arrested on terrorism charges in both the United Statesand Canada.
IANA’s founder and president was Bassem Khafagi, community affairs director for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization which, like ISNA and NAIT noted above, is tied to Hamas by “ample evidence.” Khafagi pled guilty to bank fraud and visa fraud in association with his work at IANA, and was eventually deported to Egypt where he sought the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party’s support in a run for President.
Finally, Abdullah Bin Laden was an officer at the Saudi Embassy, as well as President of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), a Saudi-funded organization committed to the global spread of Islam. U.S. Law enforcement officers would raid WAMY’s Virginia offices after 9/11.
Interestingly enough, WAMY’s lawyer for the raid, Asim Ghafoor, was also the lawyer for the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation (HIF), which is also named in the 28 pages. HIF, which received Saudi government largesse, was convicted of engaging in tax fraud and named a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT). Al Haramain also had ties to suspected Saudi intelligence officer Al-Bayoumi.
According to the 28 pages, as early as 1998, the CIA had characterized WAMY “as an NGO that provides funding, logistical support, and training with possible connections to the Arab Afghan network, Hamas, Algerian extremists and Philippines militants.”
WAMY’s founders include known Muslim Brotherhood intellectual heavy-weights Jamal Barzinji, Ahmad Totonji, and Abdul Hamid Abu-Sulayman. All three men were also key participants in the founding of the Muslim Students Association, as well as the SAFA Group, an interlocking ring of over a hundred for profit and non-profit groups investigated for ties to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Al Qaeda, and suspected of funneling money on behalf of the powerful Saudi Al Rajhi family.
The SAFA Group was closely linked to convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad organizer Sami Al Arian. One of the leading members of the SAFA Group was the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) which provided Al Arian’s Islamic Jihad front organization with $50,000. One of IIIT’s employees, Tarik Abdulmalik Hamdi (who entered the country with the assistance of Al Arian) would provide logistical assistance to Al Qaeda in the lead up to the 1998 African Embassy Bombings.
Another organization tied to WAMY was the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), which was also shut down for its role in terror financing, particularly in Bosnia. A raid on the BIF offices in Bosnia would unveil the document known as the “Golden Chain,” a list of primarily Saudi funders of Al Qaeda. One of the members of the Golden Chain was Al Rajhi.
Two of Abdullah Bin Laden’s associates were also Saudi-linked, whom the FBI notes were engaged in a series of suspicious behaviors, including testing security at the southern border, and making apparent “dry runs” to test the cockpit pre-911 on a flight paid for by the Saudi Embassy. As terrorism expert Patrick Poole noted on twitter, the men were even represented by CAIR in a lawsuit against the airline after the attempt.
The 28 page describes other less detailed suspicions, including ties to Saudi naval officers, numerous Saudi embassy drivers and more.
But while much of what the formerly classified 28 pages discusses was already known – or at least suspected – prior to their release, what the document perhaps most makes clear is that federal law enforcement and intelligence officials were on the trail of a far wider and more disturbing network of jihad supporters that includes Saudi intelligence agents, Saudi Princes, powerful Saudi corporate families and non-profit organizations founded by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Many of these efforts were clearly stymied by the lack of cooperation received from the Saudi government and the mistaken view that Saudi Arabia represented an “ally.”
But increasingly law enforcement and intelligence officials have moved away from these sorts of investigations. As noted by Bloomberg News, there has not been a single prosecution or special designation against a charity for funding Islamic terrorism since President Obama took office. Instead, Law enforcement officials have allowed themselves to be overwhelmed by over a thousand investigations into individual supporters of Islamic State alone.