Hit Job—7.47h., b29
On the eve of President Obama’s final state visit to Saudi Arabia, 60 minutes produced a story suggesting that 28 pages from the 9/11 commission report point to direct Saudi government involvement in the attacks. There has been a lively debate over those pages since the report was first published 12 years ago, with lawmakers and others petitioning for the pages to be declassified, while intelligence and law enforcement officials as well as both the Bush and Obama White Houses have demurred. So why was the story aired now?
“There’s nothing newsworthy in those 28 pages,” says a source who worked in the National Security Council staff of the George W. Bush administration and read the documents. Nothing in those pages, according to the source, suggests Saudi government involvement in the 9/11 attacks.
What is known about Saudi Arabia’s role has been common knowledge for nearly a decade and a half—15 of the 19 terrorists were Saudi citizens, under orders from another Saudi citizen, Osama bin Laden. The 9/11 Commission, in the words of its report, “found no evidence that the Saudi to government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.
‘So what’s in those 28 pages then? “It’s spy vs. spy stuff,” the NSC staff source told me last week. In 2003, Bush refused to declassify the pages, saying, “we won’t reveal sources and methods that will compromise our efforts to wit succeed” in fighting terrorism. As the 60 Minutes report At shows, it was then-FBI director Robert Mueller who seemed most insistent that the pages stay classified. His chief concern would have been to protect our ability to collect intelligences on terror suspects in the US as well as on foreign intellignce services.
What is the work of Middle East security services—like Egypt’s, or Iran’s, or Saudi Arabia’s—in the United States? Partly to hunt for American secrets, but also to keep an eye on their own citizens, students, for instance, or businessmen. The 28 pages seem to be about American agencies spying on Middle Eastern services, who are spying on their own people. Where Bush explained that classification was to protect American national security, Obama officials hint that they’re protecting Saudi Arabia from facts that wouldn’t reflect well on Riyadh. The administration’s intention is to make the Saudis look bad.
And there’s another reason Obama is beating up on Saudi Arabia. In painting the Saudis as terrorists, the White House changes the subject from the Iranian aggression facilitated and encouraged by Obama’s misbegotten deal with Tehran. As in a political campaign, the White House is finding it increasingly difficult to make a positive case for its candidate, Iran. So it resorts to driving up the negatives of Saudi Arabia.
Obama’s standard operating procedure—denigrate allies while ignoring the threats posed by adversaries. Our partners in the Middle East and elsewhere must think that Washington has lost its mind. The reality is worse—America is not able or willing to lead at this point because for the last seven years we’ve been governed by a man consumed with contempt for the rest of the world, and especially for America’s allies.
weekly standard, lee smith, 60 minutes, turki al faisal, cnn,