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"Former President George Bush met with King Fahd, right, on a trip to Saudi Arabia last year as part of his work for the Carlyle Group." (NYT, 3/5/01)


BBC, NEWSNIGHT - BIN LADEN/ PALAST, 6/11/01 GREG PALAST:

The CIA and Saudi Arabia, the Bushes and the Bin Ladens. Did their connections cause America to turn a blind eye to terrorism?

UNNAMED MAN:
There is a hidden agenda at the very highest levels of our government.

JOE TRENTO, (AUTHOR, "SECRET HISTORY OF THE CIA"):
The sad thing is that thousands of Americans had to die needlessly.

PETER ELSNER:
How can it be that the former President of the US and the current President of the US have business dealings with characters that need to be investigated?

PALAST:
In the eight weeks since the attacks, over 1,000 suspects and potential witnesses have been detained. Yet, just days after the hijackers took off from Boston aiming for the Twin Towers, a special charter flight out of the same airport whisked 11 members of Osama Bin Laden's family off to Saudi Arabia. That did not concern the White House.

Their official line is that the Bin Ladens are above suspicion - apart from Osama, the black sheep, who they say hijacked the family name. That's fortunate for the Bush family and the Saudi royal household, whose links with the Bin Ladens could otherwise prove embarrassing. But Newsnight has obtained evidence that the FBI was on the trail of other members of the] Bin Laden family for links to terrorist organisations before and after September 11th.

This document is marked "Secret". Case ID - 199-Eye WF 213 589. 199 is FBI code for case type. 9 would be murder. 65 would be espionage. 199 means national security. WF indicates Washington field office special agents were investigating ABL - because of it's relationship with the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, WAMY - a suspected terrorist organisation. ABL is Abdullah Bin Laden, president and treasurer of WAMY.

This is the sleepy Washington suburb of Falls Church, Virginia where almost every home displays the Stars and Stripes. On this unremarkable street, at 3411 Silver Maple Place, we located the former home of Abdullah and another brother, Omar, also an FBI suspect. It's conveniently close to WAMY. The World Assembly of Muslim Youth is in this building, in a little room in the basement at 5613 Leesburg Pike. And here, just a couple blocks down the road at 5913 Leesburg, is where four of the hijackers that attacked New York and Washington are listed as having lived.

The US Treasury has not frozen WAMY's assets, and when we talked to them, they insisted they are a charity. Yet, just weeks ago, Pakistan expelled WAMY operatives. And India claimed that WAMY was funding an organisation linked to bombings in Kashmir. And the Philippines military has accused WAMY of funding Muslim insurgency. The FBI did look into WAMY, but, for some reason, agents were pulled off the trail.

TRENTO:
The FBI wanted to investigate these guys. This is not something that they didn't want to do - they wanted to, they weren't permitted to.

PALAST:
The secret file fell into the hands of national security expert, Joe Trento. The Washington spook-tracker has been looking into the FBI's allegations about WAMY.

TRENTO:
They've had connections to Osama Bin Laden's people. They've had connections to Muslim cultural and financial aid groups that have terrorist connections. They fit the pattern of groups that the Saudi royal family and Saudi community of princes - the 20,000 princes - have funded who've engaged in terrorist activity.

Now, do I know that WAMY has done anything that's illegal? No, I don't know that. Do I know that as far back as 1996 the FBI was very concerned about this organisation? I do.

PALAST:
Newsnight has uncovered a long history of shadowy connections between the State Department, the CIA and the Saudis. The former head of the American visa bureau in Jeddah is Michael Springman.
MICHAEL SPRINGMAN:
In Saudi Arabia I was repeatedly ordered by high level State Dept officials to issue visas to unqualified applicants. These were, essentially, people who had no ties either to Saudi Arabia or to their own country. I complained bitterly at the time there. I returned to the US, I complained to the State Dept here, to the General Accounting Office, to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and to the Inspector General's office. I was met with silence.

PALAST:
By now, Bush Sr, once CIA director, was in the White House. Springman was shocked to find this wasn't visa fraud. Rather, State and CIA were playing "the Great Game".

SPRINGMAN:
What I was protesting was, in reality, an effort to bring recruits, rounded up by Osama Bin Laden, to the US for terrorist training by the CIA. They would then be returned to Afghanistan to fight against the then-Soviets.

The attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 did not shake the State Department's faith in the Saudis, nor did the attack on American barracks at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia three years later, in which 19 Americans died. FBI agents began to feel their investigation was being obstructed. Would you be surprised to find out that FBI agents are a bit frustrated that they can't be looking into some Saudi connections?

MICHAEL WILDES, ( LAWYER)
I would never be surprised with that. They're cut off at the hip sometimes by supervisors or given shots that are being called from Washington at the highest levels.

PALAST:
I showed lawyer Michael Wildes our FBI documents. One of the Khobar Towers bombers was represented by Wildes, who thought he had useful intelligence for the US. He also represents a Saudi diplomat who defected to the USA with 14,000 documents which Wildes claims implicates Saudi citizens in financing terrorism and more. Wildes met with FBI men who told him they were not permitted to read all the documents. Nevertheless, he tried to give them to the agents.

WILDES:
"Take these with you. We're not going to charge for the copies. Keep them. Do something with them. Get some bad guys with them." They refused.

PALAST:
In the hall of mirrors that is the US intelligence community, Wildes, a former US federal attorney, said the FBI field agents wanted the documents, but they were told to "see no evil."

WILDES:
You see a difference between the rank-and-file counter-intelligence agents, who are regarded by some as the motor pool of the FBI, who drive following diplomats, and the people who are getting the shots called at the highest level of our government, who have a different agenda - it's unconscionable.

PALAST:
State wanted to keep the pro-American Saudi royal family in control of the world's biggest oil spigot, even at the price of turning a blind eye to any terrorist connection so long as America was safe. In recent years, CIA operatives had other reasons for not exposing Saudi-backed suspects.

TRENTO:
If you recruited somebody who is a member of a terrorist organisation, who happens to make his way here to the US, and even though you're not in touch with that person anymore but you have used him in the past, it would be unseemly if he were arrested by the FBI and word got back that he'd once been on the payroll of the CIA. What we're talking about is blow-back. What we're talking about is embarrassing, career-destroying blow-back for intelligence officials.

PALAST:
Does the Bush family also have to worry about political blow-back? The younger Bush made his first million 20 years ago with an oil company partly funded by Salem Bin Laden's chief US representative. Young George also received fees as director of a subsidiary of Carlyle Corporation, a little known private company which has, in just a few years of its founding, become one of Americas biggest defence contractors. His father, Bush Senior, is also a paid advisor. And what became embarrassing was the revelation that the Bin Ladens held a stake in Carlyle, sold just after September 11.

ELSNER:
You have a key relationship between the Saudis and the former President of the US who happens to be the father of the current President of the US. And you have all sorts of questions about where does policy begin and where does good business and good profits for the company, Carlyle, end?

PALAST:
I received a phone call from a high-placed member of a US intelligence agency. He tells me that while there's always been constraints on investigating Saudis, under George Bush it's gotten much worse. After the elections, the agencies were told to "back off" investigating the Bin Ladens and Saudi royals, and that angered agents. I'm told that since September 11th the policy has been reversed. FBI headquarters told us they could not comment on our findings. A spokesman said: "There are lots of things that only the intelligence community knows and that no-one else ought to know....


Dear Politex, www.bushwatch.com, 11/8/01,

Saw an article from Drudge where right after George W. was put in office U.S. agents were told to back off Bin Laden and his family. Question: Did the influence of James Baker and Daddy Bush have anything to do with this? If they influenced Jr. to back off investigating Bin Laden and telling U.S. agents to stop going after the terrorists, we have something bigger than Watergate on our hands....Please inform us of anything you might have. --Jeff

The Sidney (Australia) Morning Herald story that Drudge linked you to, Jeff, was a summary of a recent report on BBC TV:

"United States special agents were told to back off the bin Laden family and the Saudi royals soon after George Bush became president, although that has all changed since September 11, a BBC television program has claimed."

The summary goes on to note that the FBI had been investigating Bin Laden family activities in the U.S. prior to Sept. 11. One relative of Osama had a relationship with a suspected terrorist organization that had been investigated " but for some reason [FBI] agents were pulled off the trail," according to the BBC report. Speaking of similar previous U.S. behavior, a former head of the U.S. visa bureau in Saidi Arabia says on camera, " I complained there. I complained here in Washington ... and I was ignored. What I was doing was giving visas to terrorists, recruited by the CIA and Osama bin Laden to come back to the United States for training to be used in the war in Afghanistan against the then Soviets."

The Sidney summary concludes, " The [BBC] program said it had been told by a highly placed source in a US intelligence agency there had always been "constraints" on investigating Saudis, but under [present] President George Bush it had become much worse. After the elections, the intelligence agencies were told to "back off" from investigating the bin Laden family and the Saudi royals. The policy was reversed after September 11, it reported."

The implied questions from the story are pretty clear: If the details of the report are true, why did the U.S. back off from investigating possible terrorist groups prior to Sept. 11, and why did the "constraints" on "investigating Saudis" grow "much worse" under Bush? As you may know, Bush Watch has two special reports on related questions, Bush And Bin Laden Money and Bush And The Arab-American. Another Bush Watch special report that seems relevant is Bush And Central Asian Oil.

Surprisingly, the Sidney summary of the BBC TV report doesn't mention the name of the reporter, Greg Palast, who is best known for his BBC documentary on vote manipulation in Forida during the Gore-Bush election, which you can see from his web site. In a Guardian story yesterday, "FBI AND US SPY AGENTS SAY BUSH SPIKED BIN LADEN PROBES BEFORE 11 SEPTEMBER," also posted on his web site, Palast writes that the BBC report on the Bin Laden family will soon be posted on his web site. His Guardian story adds a number of details to the BBC report.

From viewing the TV report yesterday when it was still posted on the BBC site, I recall three points. After Sept. 11 the Bin Landen family severed its financial connections with Carlyle, thus cutting its financial connection to both the Bush family and James Baker through Carlyle (see Bush and Bin Laden Money), days after Sept. 12 eleven members of the Bin Laden family living in the U.S. were flown out of the country to Saudi Arabia on a charter plane, which was of no concern to the White House, and an official on a later segment of the BBC show attempted to debunk Palast's report by claiming that the CIA, not the FBI would have been investigating the Bin Laden family proior to Sept. 11, so the FBI documents alluded to on the show must be bogus. He did not explain why the CIA, and not the FBI, would be investigating possible domestic terrorism.

I don't think we've heard the last of this story, Jeff. --Politex, www.bushwatch.com, 11/8/01

(c)copyright 2001, may be reprinted with attribution and link to bush watch


A Second Bush Oil Deal To Come With Murky Ties To Saudi Financiers And Osama Bin Laden

"On September 24, President George W. Bush appeared at a press conference in the White House Rose Garden to announce a crackdown on the financial networks of terrorists and those who support them. “U.S. banks that have assets of these groups or individuals must freeze their accounts,” Bush declared. “And U.S. citizens or businesses are prohibited from doing business with them.”

"But the president, who is now enjoying an astounding 92 percent approval rating, hasn’t always practiced what he is now preaching: Bush’s own businesses were once tied to financial figures in Saudi Arabia who currently support bin Laden.

"In 1979, Bush’s first business, Arbusto Energy, obtained financing from James Bath, a Houstonian and close family friend. One of many investors, Bath gave Bush $50,000 for a 5 percent stake in Arbusto. At the time, Bath was the sole U.S. business representative for Salem bin Laden, head of the wealthy Saudi Arabian family and a brother (one of 17) to Osama bin Laden. It has long been suspected, but never proven, that the Arbusto money came directly from Salem bin Laden. In a statement issued shortly after the September 11 attacks, the White House vehemently denied the connection, insisting that Bath invested his own money, not Salem bin Laden’s, in Arbusto.

"In conflicting statements, Bush at first denied ever knowing Bath, then acknowledged his stake in Arbusto and that he was aware Bath represented Saudi interests. In fact, Bath has extensive ties, both to the bin Laden family and major players in the scandal-ridden Bank of Commerce and Credit International (BCCI) who have gone on to fund Osama bin Laden. BCCI defrauded depositors of $10 billion in the ’80s in what has been called the “largest bank fraud in world financial history” by former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. During the ’80s, BCCI also acted as a main conduit for laundering money intended for clandestine CIA activities, ranging from financial support to the Afghan mujahedin to paying intermediaries in the Iran-Contra affair.

"When Salem bin Laden died in 1988, powerful Saudi Arabian banker and BCCI principal Khalid bin Mahfouz inherited his interests in Houston. Bath ran a business for bin Mahfouz in Houston and joined a partnership with bin Mahfouz and Gaith Pharaon, BCCI’s frontman in Houston’s Main Bank.

"The Arbusto deal wasn’t the last time Bush looked to highly questionable sources to invest in his oil dealings. After several incarnations, Arbusto emerged in 1986 as Harken Energy Corporation. When Harken ran into trouble a year later, Saudi Sheik Abdullah Taha Bakhsh purchased a 17.6 percent stake in the company. Bakhsh was a business partner with Pharaon in Saudi Arabia; his banker there just happened to be bin Mahfouz.

"Though Bush told the Wall Street Journal he had “no idea” BCCI was involved in Harken’s financial dealings, the network of connections between Bush and BCCI is so extensive that the Journal concluded their investigation of the matter in 1991 by stating: “The number of BCCI-connected people who had dealings with Harken—all since George W. Bush came on board—raises the question of whether they mask an effort to cozy up to a presidential son.” Or even the president: Bath finally came under investigation by the FBI in 1992 for his Saudi business relationships, accused of funneling Saudi money through Houston in order to influence the foreign policies of the Reagan and first Bush administrations.

"Worst of all, bin Mahfouz allegedly has been financing the bin Laden terrorist network—making Bush a U.S. citizen who has done business with those who finance and support terrorists. According to USA Today, bin Mahfouz and other Saudis attempted to transfer $3 million to various bin Laden front operations in Saudi Arabia in 1999. ABC News reported the same year that Saudi officials stopped bin Mahfouz from contributing money directly to bin Laden. (Bin Mahfouz’s sister is also a wife of Osama bin Laden, a fact that former CIA Director James Woolsey revealed in 1998 Senate testimony.)

"When President Bush announced he is hot on the trail of the money used over the years to finance terrorism, he must realize that trail ultimately leads not only to Saudi Arabia, but to some of the same financiers who originally helped propel him into the oil business and later the White House. The ties between bin Laden and the White House may be much closer than he is willing to acknowledge." --Wayne Madsen, 10/22/01

Wayne Madsen, an investigative journalist based in Washington, is the author of Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa 1993-1999.

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