President Obama is visiting Saudi Arabia this week in the wake of continued requests to declassify the missing “28 pages” from the 9/11 commission and the proposed Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA bill. The JASTA legislation is designed to hold nations, such as Saudi Arabia, liable for funding terrorism.
Fifteen of the 19 September 11th hijackers were of Saudi nationality. Yet Saudi Arabia continues to deny any involvement with planning or financing the attacks on September 11th.
“The idea that the Saudi government funded, organized, or even knew about September 11 is malicious and blatantly false,” Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a member of the royal family and an ambassador to the U.S. from 1983 to 2005, said in 2003.—Vice News
The “28 pages” supposedly connects the dots for the rumored and unconfirmed Saudi connections. Two of the hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, seem to have had the closest connection to the Saudi government and potential financial support as they prepared to carry out the terror attacks on 9/11. According to the New Yorker, the two hijackers, based in Los Angeles, were funded by Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi benefactor with connections to the Saudi government. Bayoumi made frequent contact with the the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C., and the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles. Bayou set the two hijackers up with an apartment and paid their rent. The New Yorker also states there was another Saudi national who was involved with the hijackers and potentially funded them:
Another Saudi who was in San Diego at the time, Osama Basnan, also befriended Hazmi and Mihdhar. As it happened, Basnan’s wife was receiving charitable gifts from Prince Bandar’s wife, Princess Haifa. The payments—as much as seventy-three thousand dollars over a period of three years—were supposed to fund the treatment of a medical condition that Basnan’s wife suffered from. According to pleadings in the lawsuit against the Saudis, some of that money went to support the hijackers in San Diego. The F.B.I. has not found any evidence that the money got into the hands of the hijackers, however, and the 9/11 Commission found no links to the royal family.”
There is fear that Obama will oppose the JASTA legislation since Saudi Arabia threatened to offload $750 billion in U.S. assets if the legislation was approved. Even though their threat is probably a bluff—many experts don’t feel that they have access to that amount with the falling oil prices—they still are posturing to influence the upcoming legislation.
Can Obama ease their fears of potential lawsuits sure to come from the thousands of family members of 9/11 victims? Feedback from the visit so far seems to indicate a positive interaction. “President Barack Obama ‘really cleared the air’ with King Salman at a meeting Wednesday.” However, it is reported that the two “glossed over” the threat to offload assets if the JASTA bill is signed into law. This story isn’t over yet, as the newly elected president will have to pick up where President Obama left off. If passed, JASTA legislation could complicate foreign policy in the future.