Opinion

Indulging my obsession

Friday, November 25, 2016

I must have seemed a bit demented when I asked U.S. Senator Joni Ernst questions following her town hall style public forum at Western Iowa Tech Cherokee Campus on Nov. 21.

I knew when I was asking questions about responsibility for the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. that I would not likely use her responses to those questions in my article on her town hall appearance. In fact, my 1,313 word article in the Nov. 23 Chronicle Times contained no reference to the 9/11 attacks. There were many questions asked about issues that were more relevant to an Iowa audience than what I felt compelled to grill Ernst on.

It didn't help that I fumbled my initial question badly, stammering out a statement regarding the money trail between the terrorists and an official from a foreign country, erroneously referring to Iraq rather than Saudi Arabia.

Ernst was helpful, respectfully correcting my error and going on to say, "There was nothing conclusive in the paperwork that came forward."

I asserted that they, meaning the U.S. government, concealed the fact for 13 years that the FBI report showed a money link between the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States and two of the earliest 9/11 terrorists to arrive in the U.S.

To recap details that were not included in my questioning of Ernst, but that she was apparently familiar with:

There were 28 pages from a 13-year-old FBI report that were concealed until August of this year that established a money trail between Prince Bandar bin-Sultan al-Saud, ambassador to the U.S. from 1983 to 2005, and two of the early arrivals among the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks.

Osama Bassnan, a former employee of the Saudi government, lived across the street from two of the 9/11 hijackers in San Diego: Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar. Bassnan's wife received tens of thousands of dollars in monthly stipends from a Saudi charity run by Bandar's wife, Princess Haifa al-Faisal. On at least one occasion, Bassnan received a check for $15,000 directly from Bandar's account. Bassnan's wife also received at least one check directly from Bandar himself.

At least some of the checks meant for Bassnan's wife changed hands and were given to the wife of another Saudi man living in the United States, Omar al Bayoumi. Bayoumi helped the hijackers settle in San Diego when they arrived in the country around early 2000 by finding them an apartment and even co-signing their lease.

Getting back to my questioning of Ernst, she said, "That was a long time ago... What we have seen is the Justice for Americans Act earlier this year that would allow Americans to sue foreign governments and, through the process, those foreign governments would have to turn over documents as requested, making sure that if Americans are suffering from terrorism, those families have the right to find out."

There are problems with that assumption that I didn't have time to get into. There were other reporters waiting to ask questions, questions that would elicit answers that would actually be used in broadcasts or news articles.

The fact is there is no document in the possession of the Saudi government that states, in effect, "Yeah, we did it. We murdered thousands of Americans on 9/11."

If the American government wanted to go further than the FBI report, the American government could have demanded an explanation of Bandar's actions back when he was still ambassador to the U.S. Our billions of dollars in purchases of Saudi Arabian oil every year certainly would have given us leverage to get cooperation.

There was no reason to withhold details of the FBI report from the American public other than concealing the Saudi government's role in the 9/11 attacks.

My concluding question to Ernst was, "If Saudi Arabia is civilly responsible for the murder of thousands of Americans, then how are they not criminally responsible for the greatest violation of American sovereignty since Pearl Harbor?"

Her response was, "That would be a question better through foreign affairs or the judiciary committee, so I can't comment on the legalities of the situation, but what we have done through this act this year is to allow those families to seek justice. We do have to do some tweaks to the bill moving forward but we are opening that door for families to get justice."

The response seems reasonable except that it indicates that Senator Ernst really doesn't care about Saudi involvement in the murder of thousands of Americans. She is certainly not alone. Many other members of Congress as well as past and present members of presidential administrations do not care about the murders.

Let me use an analogy to illustrate this situation.

Imagine that a bank robbery occurred in which all those who participated subsequently died except the driver of the getaway vehicle. The police and the prosecutor decide that the driver of the getaway car might have innocently thought that he was giving a ride to people who just wanted to go to the bank and after they got out of the bank he accommodated their desire to leave the scene quickly because they explained that they were late for an appointment.

The driver might be guilty of speeding in that situation, but that doesn't mean the driver knowingly participated in the bank robbery. Let us also assume that law enforcement and the prosecutors office decided not to even question the driver, just accept the possibility that there is an innocent explanation and leave it at that.

Let's further suppose that the existence of a getaway driver was concealed from the public for more than a decade, long past the time that the driver departed from the reach of local prosecution.

The public would have the right to assume that the public officials had some hidden debt they owed to the driver or the driver knew some scandalous secret about the public officials.

Let's state the obvious about Bandar. Many U.S. officials know exactly what his role was and Saudi officials know what his role was.

Our government's failure to seek justice is shameful.