Philadelphia Freedom

More proof of Saudi support of terrorism, from a series of reports in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

A former al Qaeda fighter accuses a Saudi charity

DOBOJ, Bosnia – For years, Saudi Arabia flatly denied it had provided money and logistical support for Islamist militant groups that attacked Western targets.

But that assertion is disputed by a former al-Qaeda commander who testified in a United Nations war-crimes trial that his unit was funded by the Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia and Herzegovina. …

…Hamad admits having done “bad things” as an al-Qaeda fighter, and he is serving a 10-year sentence in a Bosnian jail for his role in a 1997 Mostar bombing.

Yet Hamad’s account of his time in the Balkans went largely uncontroverted during the U.N. trial, where he was a prosecution witness.

He contends that the Saudi High Commission, an agency of the Saudi government, and other Islamist charities supported al-Qaeda-led units that committed atrocities. Mujaheddin units, he said, recruited fighters, prepared for battle, and financed their operations in the Balkans.

He said the Saudi High Commission had poured tens of millions of dollars into mujaheddin units led by al-Qaeda operatives who fought with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.

Money intended for humanitarian relief bought weapons and other military supplies.

The charities also provided false identification, employment papers, diplomatic plates and vehicles that permitted Islamist fighters to enter the country and pass easily through military checkpoints, Hamad said.

Several charity offices, including those of the Saudi High Commission, were led by former mujaheddin or al-Qaeda members, at least one of whom trained with Hamad in an al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, he said.

Like other al-Qaeda fighters, Hamad said, he was an employee of the Saudi High Commission for a time and traveled through the war zone in commission vehicles with diplomatic plates.

That wonderful diplomatic immunity. The Inquirer also notes the law’s exceptions allow citizens to sue foreign nations. One Philadelpia lawyer, Stephen Cozen, is putting this law to use..

A Phila. law firm wages an epic legal battle to win billions from Saudi Arabia.

Among the suit’s key assertions:

Senior Saudi officials and members of the royal family or their representatives served as executives or board members of the suspect charities when they were financing al-Qaeda operations. Overall, the Saudi government substantially controlled and financed the charities, the lawsuit alleges.

The charities laundered millions of dollars, some from the Saudi government, into al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups and provided weapons, false travel and employment documents, and safe houses.

Regional offices of the charities employed, in senior positions, al-Qaeda operatives who helped coordinate support for terror cells.

Although the lawsuit argues that the Saudi government “intended” the 9/11 attacks to happen, the public record supporting that allegation is thin, and lawyers suing the kingdom have yet to generate direct evidence that any senior Saudi official conspired with al-Qaeda to attack the United States.

Instead, the lawsuit compiles hundreds of incremental disclosures from U.S government and other sources and weaves them together to form one basic assertion: Al-Qaeda’s development from ragtag regional terrorists into a global threat was fueled by Saudi money, some of it from the government.

And the charities, the lawsuit contends, were the money’s conduit.

With the help of charities affiliated with the Saudi government, the lawsuit contends, al-Qaeda spread to the vicious 1990s Balkans war, which pitted indigenous Muslims, their al-Qaeda allies, and other mujaheddin against Serbs and Croats.

The organization then leapfrogged to attack Western targets, including two U.S. embassies in East Africa, the U.S. destroyer Cole, and finally the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

“In a lot of ways this case is very unique, and in a lot of ways it is very mundane,” Cozen said in an interview. “It is unique in that it is grounded in one of the worst events in U.S. history. It is mundane in that we are not breaking new ground in tort [liability] law. The law has always recognized the liability of those who participate in a conspiracy and those who aid and abet.”

Unless those conspirators are good and generous friends of Republicans and Democrats. But still, Cozen plows forward:

How Cozen took on a kingdom for 9/11 liability

Cozen lawyers argued that the Saudis not only had funded and controlled the charities, but had been warned that the charities helped launder money into al-Qaeda. The defense insisted that there was no evidence that the Saudi government had supported acts of terrorism, and that the kingdom itself had been a victim of extremist groups, including al-Qaeda.

In one particularly intense hearing, Casey pushed back hard against Saudi arguments. For a while, Cozen lawyers thought they had been able to convince him.

But only a few weeks later, in January, and then in September, Casey issued two hard-hitting and emphatic rulings. He found the Saudi government immune from being sued because its oversight and financial support for the charities constituted normal government activities.

And he discounted information that the Saudis had been warned about the charities’ money-laundering, and cited a 9/11 Commission finding that it had “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” al-Qaeda.

Cozen and associates were outraged. They believed their investigation had gone considerably beyond the work of the 9/11 Commission, by showing that the Saudis had substantial control over the charities, had been warned repeatedly that the charities posed a problem, yet had had taken no actions.

Casey, Cozen felt, had profoundly misconstrued the case by failing to recognize Saudi responsibility.

Cozen lawyers began mapping their appeal.

The charities named as defendants were so tightly interwoven with the Saudi government that an appeal of Casey’s ruling had a good chance of success, they believed. Their own investigation had uncovered facts missed by Congress and the 9/11 Commission, they thought.

Absent financial support from the charities, some of it Saudi government money, they argued, bin Laden would never have been able to pull off 9/11.

At the same time, they pushed forward on their investigation, combing through files and querying defendants. One of those was a major al-Qaeda operative, founder and financier named Wa’el Julaidan. The U.S. Treasury Department designated Julaidan a terrorism financier in 2002.

But Julaidan, responding to Cozen questioning, said the government of Saudi Arabia had subjected him to no penalties or sanctions.

His response mirrored statements by U.S. officials, most recently Stuart Levey, Treasury undersecretary for international terrorism, who said last year that he was unaware of any Saudi sanctions imposed on terrorism financiers living in Saudi Arabia.

Like many Americans, I was aware that Saudi Arabia was responsible for the 9/11 attacks since about October 2001. This news is no surprise at all.

But it is surprising that that the issue is being covered by the media. Well, one media source, anyway. According to my search of Google News, the Philadelphia Inquirer is the only newspaper covering this.

The media tends to put up a unified effort to ignore news like this, just as they united in the effort to chicken out on publishing the Danish cartoons. The effort to protest the cartoons was a Saudi effort, after all, and our elites want to show the proper respect for our moderate allies in the war against terrorism.

I just wonder – what strange circumstance of fate allowed the Philadelphia Inquirer to grow a pair, and how long will they be able to keep them?

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About marypmadigan

Writer/photographer (profession), foreign policy wonk (hobby).
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15 Responses to Philadelphia Freedom

  1. Lots of smoke, no fire. We have evidence that there was Saudi government money funneled to al Qaeda in the Balkans, but that was before they were considered a threat to US interests. Even the US was funding similar Islamic extremist groups prior to that. And at the time, groups like al Qaeda were seen as protecting Muslims against genocide.

    That by itself is relatively meaningless.

    The real meat is whether the Saudi government funded al Qaeda’s operations against the US and whether they had knowledge or directed the operations. And there still remains no evidence of that.

  2. mary says:

    The real meat is whether the Saudi government funded al Qaeda’s operations against the US and whether they had knowledge or directed the operations.

    There’s plenty of evidence that the Saudi government funded al Qaeda’s operations before and after 9/11.

    But that will remain meaningless to people who think that the Sauds are essential in our global efforts to keep the Russians and Chinese from becoming our — what was the phrase you used — global overlords??

    You never explained why we should be so afraid of the Russians and Chinese. Is it because they’re reds?

  3. You never explained why we should be so afraid of the Russians and Chinese. Is it because they’re reds?

    Because neither has a tradition of democracy or humanism. The world would do far better in the long run if were influenced by the US rather than either of those two other powers.

    Do you really need that explained to you?

    Really?

  4. By the way, the Russians aren’t “reds”. That system went under about eighteen years ago or so.

  5. mary says:

    But you think we should be allied with the Saudi sponsors of 9/11. Do they have a tradition of decency and humanism?

    Should we be afraid of everyone who doesn’t have a tradition of decency and humanism?

    The world would do far better in the long run if were influenced by the US rather than either of those two other powers.

    The Saudis sent their young men into Iraq to kill Americans and Iraqis. This war against al Qaeda in Iraq has cost billions. The result – oil prices are up, our economy is a mess and Saudis are getting much richer. Now they want us to destroy our economy and the worlds oil supply by attacking Iran.

    This alliance guarantees that the US will lose its influence and its wealth. It’s morally degrading and costly.

    This lawsuit is being pursued because Saudi Arabia is responsible for the murder of thousands of people. This was a crime, it was an act of war and it was a crime against humanity. Our government’s refusal to prosecute those responsible, our willingness to ally with them is plain wrong. If we did possess decency and humanity, this alliance is proof that we’ve lost it.

  6. But you think we should be allied with the Saudi sponsors of 9/11. Do they have a tradition of decency and humanism?

    They did not sponsor 9/11. And no, they do not. The US does.

    Should we be afraid of everyone who doesn’t have a tradition of decency and humanism?

    No, just those who stand a chance at dominating the world’s economy and politics. China and Russia are both candidates for that.

    So far, the oil-rich states of the Middle East have largely stood by the west, as their financial fortunes are linked to it (one of the reasons, by the way, that I think your Saudi theory fails to hold any water). But if other world powers link to the Gulf in a substantial way, the US will be going through dumpsters for food.

    I don’t think you realize how much of your power and lifestyle are depending on SA and the Gulf States. If they wanted to badly enough, they could wipe out your economy in a weekend. As it is, expect them to control most of your financial institutions by the end of the decade simply due to your failing economy and their massive foreign reserves looking for a home.

    They don’t need to rely on the theatrics of planes, office buildings, and terror when they have that much wealth.

  7. mary says:

    But if other world powers link to the Gulf in a substantial way, the US will be going through dumpsters for food.

    I don’t think you realize how much of your power and lifestyle are depending on SA and the Gulf States. If they wanted to badly enough, they could wipe out your economy in a weekend.

    Oh, yawn. I told you, FUD arguments don’t work.

    Anyway, we’ll be living out of dumpsters and hunting our own vittles as a result of a failed alliance that has already cost us more than a trillion dollars. 9/11 was proof that we needed to change our foreign policy. We failed to adapt.

    I think in their hearts, the Russians know that they shouldn’t dominate the world, but I can’t say the same thing about the Chinese. We need someone else to take over after the dollar is worth less than the peso. I’d vote for the Australians.

  8. mary says:

    Oh, and doesn’t this:

    As it is, expect them to control most of your financial institutions by the end of the decade simply due to your failing economy and their massive foreign reserves looking for a home.

    contradict this?

    Should we be afraid of everyone who doesn’t have a tradition of decency and humanism?

    No, just those who stand a chance at dominating the world’s economy and politics. China and Russia are both candidates for that.

    If you honestly believe that the Saudis will be that powerful, then they would be more of a threat than the Chinese and the Russians.

  9. If you honestly believe that the Saudis will be that powerful, then they would be more of a threat than the Chinese and the Russians.

    You assume that your financial institutions will still dominate the world economy? Then there’s your error.

    For example.

    Also, China’s foreign reserves makes the Gulf’s look anemic. China seems to be investing in developing markets rather than the declining US market.

    And if you’re going to be dismissing analysis with the “FUD” retort, you should probably know that the same could apply to all your warnings about the Saudis. FUD and more FUD.

  10. mary says:

    I don’t assume that our financial institutions will dominate the world. You appeared to be hoping that they would.

    Also, China’s foreign reserves makes the Gulf’s look anemic. China seems to be investing in developing markets rather than the declining US market.

    Then shouldn’t we dump the Saudi hub of world terrorism and ally with the Chinese?

  11. mary says:

    In any case, your analysis ignores the fact that, with about an hour’s worth of effort, we could reduce the Kingdom to a pile of glass and ash.

    Of course, that’s a stupid solution. Most of our successful efforts to deal with the Taliban immediately after 9/11 were accomplished by the CIA, and were based on our previous alliance with the mujahideen. We have better info on our longtime allies in the KSA. With about a month’s worth of effort, we could hollow out their government and their nation to the point where the royals could appear to be in power, the holy lands would still be intact, and we would actually be in control. That would help us avoid the problem of instability in the area.

    It’s a shame our govt. is too busy kissing Saudi ass to figure that out.

  12. Then shouldn’t we dump the Saudi hub of world terrorism and ally with the Chinese?

    You already have. Where do you think all their money is coming from, and who do you think is loaning you the money for the Iraq war?

    In any case, your analysis ignores the fact that, with about an hour’s worth of effort, we could reduce the Kingdom to a pile of glass and ash.

    And oil would go to $500/barrel overnight. Good plan.

  13. mary says:

    And oil would go to $500/barrel overnight. Good plan.

    It’ll eventually get there anyway. But as I said, nukes are the stupid plan.

    If the Saudis could wipe out our economy in a weekend, then it would because we allowed them to. We’re like the Sunnis in the Anbar province, expecting the Sauds to protect us from the big bad world out there. We tolerate their Saudi charm.

    At least the Iraqis in Anbar wised up, and threw the bums out.

  14. If the Saudis could wipe out our economy in a weekend, then it would because we allowed them to.

    Because? How can you control how much money they take in, or what currency they take in payment for oil? Those are the tools that they could use to disrupt the US economy, and those are in no way under your influence.

  15. mary says:

    Because we want them to keep protecting us from the big bad world. We need them.

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