With the country distracted by the terror attack in France, Donald Trump's choice of Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate, and the Republican National Convention starting in three days, Congress pulled a classic summer Friday afternoon news dump, finally releasing the long-classified "28 pages" of a joint congressional inquiry focused on possible Saudi Arabian government support for the 9/11 hijackers. You can read the whole heavily redacted and blurry-scanned document here.
The "28 pages" constitute a section of an over-800 page report, and are frustratingly filled with speculative clauses, lots of information attributed to "FBI sources," and unnamed persons with "ties to the Saudi Royal Family."
But the juiciest piece of verifiable information concerns former Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. (and close confidant of the Bush family) Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who reportedly provided thousands of dollars to Osama Bassnan, a neighbor of two of the hijackers in San Diego, who allegedly boasted to an "FBI asset that he did more…for the hijackers" than another Saudi-connected associate.
From page 427 of the report:
One at least one occasion Bassnan received a check directly from Prince Bandar's account. According to the FBI, on May 14, 1998, Bassnan cashed a check from Bandar in the amount of $15,000. Bassnan's wife also received at least one check directly from Bandar.
The report also states that the FBI considered Bassnan "an extremist and supporter of Usama Bin Ladin, and has been connected to the Eritrean Islamic Jihad and the Blind Shaykh [sic]." In addition, a CIA memo mentions "Bassnan reportedly received funding and possibly a fake passport from Saudi Government officials."
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Ca.), one of the two senior members of House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement, "I hope that the release of these pages, with appropriate redactions necessary to protect our nation's intelligence sources and methods, will diminish speculation that they contain proof of official Saudi Government or senior Saudi official involvement in the 9/11 attacks," according to USA Today. The committee's chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, (R-Ca.) said in a statement, "It's important to note that this section does not put forward vetted conclusions, but rather unverified leads that were later fully investigated by the Intelligence Community."
It may take a closer examination to come to the conclusion that there truly is "no there there," but Bandar's name included in the report is significant no matter what way Congress chooses to spin it. Still, it's no secret that the Saudi government has long supported Wahabbist extremism, has one of the world's worst human rights records, and continues to wage a devastating proxy war (with U.S. support) in Yemen. They remain a problematic ally, at best.