Greg Palast: Spiking The Investigation Of Bin Laden


Richard Moore

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Subject: Did Our President Spike The Investigation Of Bin Laden?
Date: Mon, 3 Mar 2003 16:09:07 -0500

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See No Evil: What Bush Didn't (Want To) Know About 9/11
(excerpted from "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy," as
reprinted by

Did Our President Spike The Investigation Of Bin Laden?

On my BBC television show, Newsnight, an American
journalist confessed that, since the 9/11 attacks, U.S.
reporters are simply too afraid to ask the
uncomfortable questions that could kill careers: "It's
an obscene comparison, but there was a time in South
Africa when people would put flaming tires around
people's necks if they dissented. In some ways, the
fear is that you will be neck-laced here, you will have
a flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your
neck," Dan Rather said. Without his makeup, Rather
looked drawn, old and defeated in confessing that he
too had given in. "It's that fear that keeps
journalists from asking the toughest of the tough
questions and to continue to bore in on the tough
questions so often."

Investigators were ordered to "back off" from any
inquiries into Saudi Arabian financing of terror

The reports I did based on this information won the
California State University School of Journalism's
Project Censored Award in 2002. It's not the kind of
prize you want to win -- it's given to crucial stories
that were effectively banned from U.S. airwaves and
papers.3 I don't want any misunderstanding here, so I
must emphasize what we did not find: We uncovered no
information, none whatsoever, that George W. Bush had
any advance knowledge of the plan to attack the World
Trade Center on 9/11, nor, heaven forbid, any
involvement in the attack.

FBI Document 199I

What we did discover was serious enough. To begin with,
from less-than-happy FBI agents we obtained an
interesting document, some 30 pages long, marked
"SECRET." I've reproduced a couple of pages here
(figure 2.1). Note the designation "199I" -- that's
FBI-speak for "national security matter." According to
insiders, FBI agents had wanted to check into two
members of the bin Laden family, Abdullah and Omar, but
were told to stay away by superiors -- until September
13, 2001. By then, Abdullah and Omar were long gone
from the United States.

Why no investigation of the brothers bin Laden? The
Bush administration's line is the Binladdins (a more
common spelling of the Arabic name) are good folk.
Osama's the Black Sheep, supposedly cut off from his
Saudi kin. But the official line notwithstanding, some
FBI agents believed the family had some gray sheep
worth questioning -- especially these two working with
the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), which the
file labels "a suspected terrorist organization." ....

No matter how vile WAMY's indoctrination chats, they
are none of the FBI's business. Recruitment for terror,
however, is. Before 9/11, the governments of India and
the Philippines tied WAMY to groups staging murderous
attacks on civilians. Following our broadcast on BBC,
the Dutch secret service stated that WAMY, "support(ed)
violent activity." In 2002, The Wall Street Journal's
Glenn Simpson made public a report by Bosnia's
government that a charity with Abdullah bin Laden on
its board had channeled money to Chechen guerrillas.
Two of the 9/11 hijackers used an address on the same
street as WAMY's office in Falls Church, Virginia.

The "Back-Off" Directive and the Islamic Bomb

Despite these tantalizing facts, Abdullah and his
operations were A-OK with the FBI chiefs, if not their
working agents. Just a dumb SNAFU? Not according to a
top-level CIA operative who spoke with us on condition
of strictest anonymity. After Bush took office, he
said, "there was a major policy shift" at the National
Security Agency. Investigators were ordered to "back
off" from any inquiries into Saudi Arabian financing of
terror networks, especially if they touched on Saudi
royals and their retainers. That put the bin Ladens, a
family worth a reported $12 billion and a virtual arm
of the Saudi royal household, off-limits for
investigation. Osama was the exception; he remained a
wanted man, but agents could not look too closely at
how he filled his piggy bank. The key rule of any
investigation, "follow the money," was now violated,
and investigations -- at least before 9/11 -- began to

And there was a lot to investigate -- or in the case of
the CIA and FBI under Bush -- a lot to ignore. Through
well-known international arms dealers (I'm sorry, but
in this business, sinners are better sources than
saints) our team was tipped off to a meeting of Saudi
billionaires at the Hotel Royale Monceau in Paris in
May 1996 with the financial representative of Osama bin
Laden's network. The Saudis, including a key Saudi
prince joined by Muslim and non-Muslim gun traffickers,
met to determine who would pay how much to Osama. This
was not so much an act of support but of protection --
a payoff to keep the mad bomber away from Saudi

Clinton Closed an Eye

True-blue Democrats may want to skip the next
paragraphs. If President Bush put the kibosh on
investigations of Saudi funding of terror and nuclear
bomb programs, this was merely taking a policy of Bill
Clinton one step further.

Following the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi
Arabia, Clinton hunted Osama with a passion -- but a
passion circumscribed by the desire to protect the
sheikdom sitting atop our oil lifeline. In 1994, a
Saudi diplomat defected to the United States with
14,000 pages of documents from the kingdom's sealed
file cabinets. This mother lode of intelligence
included evidence of plans for the assassination of
Saudi opponents living in the West and, tantalizingly,
details of the $7 billion the Saudis gave to Saddam
Hussein for his nuclear program -- the first attempt to
build an Islamic Bomb. The Saudi government, according
to the defector, Mohammed Al Khilewi, slipped Saddam
the nuclear loot during the Reagan and Bush Sr. years
when our own government still thought Saddam too
marvelous for words. The thought was that he would only
use the bomb to vaporize Iranians....

In 1997, the Canadians caught and extradited to America
one of the Khobar Towers attackers. In 1999, Vernon
Jordan's law firm stepped in and -- poof! -- the killer
was shipped back to Saudi Arabia before he could reveal
all he knew about Al Qaeda (valuable) and the Saudis
(embarrassing). I reviewed, but was not permitted to
take notes on, the alleged terrorist's debriefing by
the FBI. To my admittedly inexpert eyes, there was
enough on Al Qaeda to make him a source on terrorists
worth holding on to. Not that he was set free -- he's
in one of the kingdom's dungeons -- but his info is
sealed up with him. The terrorist's extradition was
"Clinton's." "Clinton's parting kiss to the Saudis," as
one insider put it.

This make-a-sheik-happy policy of Clinton's may seem
similar to Bush's, but the difference is significant.
Where Clinton said, "Go slow," Bush policymakers said,
"No go." The difference is between closing one eye and
closing them both.

Blowback and Bush Sr.

Still, we are left with the question of why both Bush
Jr. and Clinton would hold back disclosure of Saudi
funding of terror. I got the first glimpse of an answer
from Michael Springmann, who headed up the U.S. State
Department's visa bureau in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia,
during the Reagan-Bush Sr. years. "In Saudi Arabia I
was repeatedly ordered by high-level State Department
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." That was Springmann's
mistake. He was one of those conscientious midlevel
bureaucrats who did not realize that when he filed
reports about rules violations he was jeopardizing the
cover for a huge multicontinental intelligence
operation aimed at the Soviets. Springmann assumed
petty thievery: someone was taking bribes, selling
visas; so he couldn't understand why his complaints
about rule-breakers were "met with silence" at ! the
Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

Springmann complained himself right out of a job. Now a
lawyer, he has obtained more information on the
questionable "engineers" with no engineering knowledge
whom he was ordered to permit into the United States.
"What I was protesting was, in reality, an effort to
bring recruits, rounded up by Osama bin Laden, to the
United States for terrorist training by the CIA. They
would then be returned to Afghanistan to fight against
the then-Soviets."

Clinton hunted Osama with a passion ... circumscribed
by the desire to protect the sheikdom sitting atop our
oil lifeline.

But then they turned their talents against the
post-Soviet power: us. In the parlance of spook-world,
this is called "blowback." Bin Laden and his bloody
brethren were created in America's own Frankenstein
factory. It would not do for the current president nor
agency officials to dig back to find that some of the
terrorists we are hunting today were trained and armed
by the Reagan-Bush administration. And that's one of
the problems for agents seeking to investigate groups
like WAMY, or Abdullah bin Laden. WAMY literature that
talks about that "compassionate young man Osama bin
Laden" is likely to have been disseminated, if not
written, by our very own government. If Abdullah's
Bosnian-operated "charity" was funding Chechnyan
guerrillas, it is only possible because the Clinton CIA
gave the wink and nod to WAMY and other groups who were
aiding Bosnian guerrillas when they were fighting
Serbia, a U.S.-approved enemy. "What we're talking
about," says national security expert Joe T! rento, "is
embarrassing, career-destroying blowback for
intelligence officials." And, he could add, for the
presidential father.

The Family Business

I still didn't have an answer to all my questions. We
knew that Clinton and the Bushes were reluctant to
discomfort the Saudis by unearthing their connections
to terrorists -- but what made this new president take
particular care to protect the Saudis, even to the
point of stymying his own intelligence agencies?

The answers kept coming back: "Carlyle" and "Arbusto."

While some people have guardian angels, our president
seems to have guardian sheiks....

Behind Carlyle is a private, invitation-only investment
group whose holdings in the war industry make it
effectively one of America's biggest defense
contractors. For example, Carlyle owned United
Technologies, the maker of our fighter jets. Carlyle
has the distinction of claiming both of the presidents
Bush as paid retainers. Dubya served on the board of
Carlyle's Caterair airplane food company until it went
bust. The senior Bush traveled to Saudi Arabia for
Carlyle in 1999. The bin Ladens were among Carlyle's
select backers until just after the 9/11 attacks, when
the connection became impolitic. The company's chairman
is Frank Carlucci, Bush Sr.'s former defense secretary.
The average Carlyle partner has gained about $25
million in equity. Notably, Saudi Prince Al Waleed bin
Talal bin Abdul Aziz employed Carlyle as his advisor in
buying up 10 percent of Citicorp's preferred stock. The
choice of Carlyle for the high-fee work was odd, as the
group is not an investment bank. On! e would almost
think the Saudi potentate wanted to enrich Carlyle's

Who Lost the War on Terror?

So who lost the War on Terror? Osama? From his point of
view, he's made the celebrity cutthroats' Hall of Fame.
Where is he? Don't ask Bush; our leader just changes
the subject to Iraq. So we have the 82nd Airborne
looking for Osama bin Laden among the camels in
Afghanistan when, in all likelihood, the billionaire
butcher -- now likely beardless -- is chillin' by the
pool at the Ritz Carlton, knocking back a brewsky and
laughing at us while two blonde Barbies massage his

Bush failed to get Osama. But we did successfully
eliminate the threat of Congresswoman McKinney -- you
remember, the one who dared question ChoicePoint, the
company that helped Katherine Harris eliminate Black

Following our BBC broadcast and Guardian report in
November 2001, McKinney cited our stories on the floor
of Congress, calling for an investigation of the
intelligence failures and policy prejudices you've just
read here. She was labeled a traitor, a freak, a
conspiracy nut and "a looney" -- the latter by her
state's Democratic Senator, who led the mob in the
political lynching of the uppity Black woman. The New
York Times wrote, "She angered some Black voters by
suggesting that President Bush might have known in
advance about the September 11 attacks but had done
nothing so his supporters could make money in war." The
fact that she said no such thing doesn't matter; the
Times is always more influential than the truth. Dan
Rather had warned her, shut up, don't ask questions,
and you can avoid the neck-lacing. She didn't and it
cost her her seat in Congress.

McKinney's electoral corpse in the road silenced
politicians, the media was mum, but some Americans
still would not get in line. For them we have new laws
to permit investigating citizens without warrants, and
the label of terrorist fellow-traveler attached to
groups from civil rights organizations to trade treaty
protestors. Yet not one FBI or CIA agent told us, "If
only we didn't have that pesky Bill of Rights, we would
have nailed bin Laden." Not one said, "What we need is
a new bureaucracy for Fatherland Security." Not one
said we needed to jail everyone in the Midwest named
"Ahmed." They had a single request: for George W.
Bush's security henchmen to get their boot heels off
agents' necks and remove the shield of immunity from
the Saudis.

[Cynthia] McKinney's electoral corpse in the road
silenced politicians, the media was mum, but some
Americans still would not get in line.

That leaves one final, impertinent question. Who won?

(See for the
entire article including footnotes.)

On February 25, Plume/Penguin USA released the new,
expanded American edition of Greg Palast's New York
Times bestseller The Best Democracy Money Can Buy:  An
Investigative Reporter Exposes the Truth About
Globalization, Corporate Cons and High Finance
Fraudsters. You can view Palast's reports for BBC
Television's Newsnight and his columns for the Guardian
papers of London at


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