The Guardian (London)
Wednesday, November 7, 2001

Officials told to 'back off' on Saudis before September 11
by Greg Palast and David Pallister

FBI and military intelligence officials in Washington say they were prevented for political reasons from carrying out full investigations into members of the Bin Laden family in the US before the terrorist attacks of September 11.

US intelligence agencies have come under criticism for their wholesale failure to predict the catastrophe at the World Trade Centre. But some are complaining that their hands were tied.

FBI documents shown on BBC Newsnight last night and obtained by the Guardian show that they had earlier sought to investigate two of Osama bin Laden's relatives in Washington and a Muslim organisation, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), with which they were linked.

The FBI file, marked Secret and coded 199, which means a case involving national security, records that Abdullah bin Laden, who lived in Washington, had originally had a file opened on him "because of his relationship with the World Assembly of Muslim Youth - a suspected terrorist organisation".

WAMY members deny they have been involved with terrorist activities, and WAMY has not been placed on the latest list of terrorist organisations whose assets are being frozen.

Abdullah, who lived with his brother Omar at the time in Falls Church, a town just outside Washington, was the US director of WAMY, whose offices were in a basement nearby.

But the FBI files were closed in 1996 apparently before any conclusions could be reached on either the Bin Laden brothers or the organisation itself. High-placed intelligence sources in Washington told the Guardian this week: "There were always constraints on investigating the Saudis".

They said the restrictions became worse after the Bush administration took over this year. The intelligence agencies had been told to "back off" from investigations involving other members of the Bin Laden family, the Saudi royals, and possible Saudi links to the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Pakistan.

"There were particular investigations that were effectively killed."

Only after the September 11 attacks was the stance of political and commercial closeness reversed towards the other members of the large Bin Laden clan, who have classed Osama bin Laden as their "black sheep".

Yesterday, the head of the Saudi-based WAMY's London office, Nouredine Miladi, said the charity was totally against Bin Laden's violent methods. "We seek social change through education and cooperation, not force."

He said Abdullah bin Laden had ceased to run WAMY's US operation a year ago.

Neither Abdullah nor Omar bin Laden could be contacted in Saudi Arabia for comment.

WAMY was founded in 1972 in a Saudi effort to prevent the "corrupting" ideas of the west ern world influencing young Muslims. With official backing it grew to embrace 450 youth and student organisations with 34 offices worldwide.

Its aim was to encourage "concerned Muslims to take up the challenge by arming the youth with sound understanding of Islam, guarding them against destructive ideologies, and instilling in them level-headed wisdom".

In Britain it has 20 associated organisations, many highly respectable.

But as long as 10 years ago it was named as a discreet channel for public and private Saudi donations to hardline Islamic organisations. One of the recipients of its largesse has been the militant Students Islamic Movement of India, which has lent support to Pakistani-backed terrorists in Kashmir and seeks to set up an Islamic state in India.

Since September 11 WAMY has been investigated in the US along with a number of other Muslim charities. There have been several grand jury investigations but no findings have been made against any of them.

Current FBI interest in WAMY is shown in their agents' interrogation of a radiologist from San Antonio, Texas, Dr Al Badr al-Hazmi, who was arrested on September 12 and released without charge two weeks later. He had the same surname as two of the plane hijackers.

He was also questioned about his contacts with Abdullah bin Laden at the US WAMY office.

Mr Al-Hazmi said that he had made phone calls to Abdullah bin Laden in 1999 trying to obtain books and videotapes about Islamic teachings for the Islamic Centre of San Antonio.

To view the BBC television broadcast of the Palast investigation, go to http://www.GregPalast.com 


Bush Seeks To Restrict Hill Probes Of Sept. 11
Intelligence Panels' Secrecy Is Favored

By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 30, 2002; Page A04

President Bush asked House and Senate leaders yesterday to allow only two congressional committees to investigate the government's response to the events of Sept. 11, officials said.

The president said the inquiry should be limited to the House and Senate intelligence committees, whose proceedings are generally secret. Senate Democratic leaders want a broader investigation, involving some committees that would be free to air their findings. The focus of the committee probes is likely to center on intelligence failures preceding the terrorist attacks that killed about 3,100 people.

A senior administration official said Congress "is already well set up through the intelligence committees to review intelligence matters, and those committees have a history of working with secret and classified documents that other committees lack. . . . The president thinks it's important for Congress to review events in a way that does not unduly burden the defense and intelligence communities as they are still charged with fighting a war."

Capitol Hill sources said Bush made the request of Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) during a breakfast meeting with congressional leaders. The White House would not confirm that. The congressional sources said Vice President Cheney called Daschle last week with the same request.

Daschle told reporters that Cheney had "expressed the concern that a review of what happened on September 11 would take resources and personnel away from the effort in the war on terrorism." Daschle said the probe will start with the Intelligence Committee in an effort "to limit the scope and the overall review of what happened."

"But clearly I think the American people are entitled to know what happened and why at some point, just as they were desirous of knowing what happened after the Pearl Harbor attack," Daschle said. "We did that right during the early stages of World War II. So we haven't made any conclusions yet."

A Senate Democratic aide said one objection to limiting the investigation is that "most of what the Intelligence Committee does is behind closed doors and never sees the light of day. If there is an issue, the public deserves to know about it."

The two intelligence committees are planning a joint, bipartisan investigation. The Democratic aide said lawmakers are expected to look into what was known before Sept. 11 about the possibility of a major attack, "why our intelligence wasn't better -- why we didn't know," how different parts of the government responded, and perhaps whether the government is prepared for a future attack.

Washington Post Company



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