On Sept. 11, 2001, at least 19 men — 15 of them Saudi citizens — boarded several commercial flights and executed the largest terrorist attack ever on U.S. soil. That event set off two major wars in the Middle East, both still ongoing at some level, and it signaled a new age in American foreign policy in which the U.S. is increasingly focused on deterring state sponsors of global Islamic terrorism.
The connection between Saudi financial support for the 9/11 attacks has become clearer as plaintiffs in several federal cases seeking compensation have revealed in discovery documents. It is clear that the attackers had major financial and organizational support for their U.S. operations, support that could not have been possible without Saudi citizens’ ability to conduct themselves and their business on U.S. soil without special scrutiny.
There is also evidence that lower-level officials within Saudi Arabia’s U.S. diplomatic corps, acting on the auspices of the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, provided “charitable” contributions to individuals who later carried out the attacks.
Whether the Saudi government itself was responsible for the attacks, or whether elements within the Saudi regime were key enablers of the attacks, it makes little difference in practice. It is indisputable that the U.S.-Saudi relationship provided cover for elements within the country to penetrate and attack innocent Americans on U.S. soil.
As President Obama returns from a foreign trip that included Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Saudi relations are at an all-time low. A bipartisan coalition within the U.S. Congress has pressed the government to release documents related to the 9/11 Commission report that have not been publicly shared. It is alleged that some of those documents, in a so-called “28-page report,” detail Saudi Arabia’s awareness, involvement and/or complicity in the attacks.
On Friday, the former chairmen of the commission released a statement saying the 28 pages are merely “comparable to preliminary law enforcement notes” that form leads for investigations but are usually not released to the public. They said those leads and the subsequent investigations uncovered no evidence of direct Saudi government complicity.