TBR News September 11, 2017

Sep 11 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., September 11, 2017:”We will be out of the office until September 12. ed

Table of Contents

  • Florida reels after Irma’s heavy punch, fresh floods in north
  • Hurricane Irma: Two-thirds of Florida without power
  • Saudi government allegedly funded a ‘dry run’ for 9/11
  • Crime and Punishment: Will the 9/11 case finally go to trial?
  • Why Did Robert Mueller Obstruct Congress’s 9/11 Probe?
  • US-Saudi relations: A timeline
  • The Government-Approved Rip-Off
  • Facebook hit with €1.2mn fine in Spain for privacy violations

 Florida reels after Irma’s heavy punch, fresh floods in north

September 11, 2017

by Andy Sullivan and Brian Thevenot


FLORIDA CITY/ESTERO, Fla. (Reuters) – Displaced Florida residents started heading back to their homes on Monday as a weakened Hurricane Irma advanced inland, flooding several cities in the northeast of the state while millions of people remained without power.

Downgraded to a tropical storm early on Monday, Irma had ranked as one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes recorded. It cut power to millions of people and ripped roofs off homes as it hit a wide swath of Florida on Sunday and Monday.

Authorities said the storm had killed 38 people in the Caribbean and one in Florida, a man found dead in a pickup truck that had crashed into a tree in high winds on the Florida Keys over the weekend.

With sustained winds of up to 60 mph (100 kph), Irma had crossed into Georgia and was situated about 47 miles (76 km)northeast of the Florida state capital Tallahassee, the National Hurricane Center said at 11 a.m. ET.

High winds snapped power lines and left almost 6.5 million homes and businesses without power in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama, state officials and utilities said. They said it could take weeks to complete repairs.

Miami International Airport, one of the busiest in the country, halted passenger flights through at least Monday.

Police in Miami-Dade County said they had made 29 arrests for looting and burglary. Fort Lauderdale police said they had arrested 19 people for looting.

About two dozen vehicles filled with people hoping to return home after fleeing the Florida Keys, where Irma roared ashore on Sunday with sustained winds of up to 130 mph (209 kph), lined up near the entrance to the highway that connects the archipelago to the mainland with a series of bridges and causeways.

They expressed anger at police who asked them to drive to a racetrack a few miles away to register first.


Hurricane Irma: Two-thirds of Florida without power

September 11, 2017

BBC News

About 6.5 million homes in Florida, two-thirds of the total, are without power after Hurricane Irma cut a deadly path through the state, officials say.

Relief operations are under way and engineers are working to restore power, but many areas remain stranded.

The islands of the Florida Keys and western parts of the US state bore the brunt of the category-four hurricane.

Irma hit Florida on Sunday, before weakening to a tropical storm as it moved north on Monday.

Media reports link at least four deaths to the storm in Florida. Last week it killed at least 37 people in Caribbean islands

Florida Governor Rick Scott said it was “going to take some time” before people could return to their homes, the Miami Herald website reports.

Speaking as he went on an aerial tour of the Keys to survey the damage early on Monday, he said: “Power lines are down throughout the state. We’ve got roads that are impassable, so everybody’s got to be patient as we work through this.”

The Keys are cut off from the mainland, as the 42 bridges that link them are being assessed for damage. Reports say that 10,000 people decided to ride out the storm.

At 18:00 GMT, its centre had moved into southern Georgia, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

How big will the disaster response be?

Although Miami was spared the worst, large parts of the city are under water. Winds have snapped power lines and 72% of homes there are without electricity, officials say.

On the west coast of Florida, drone footage from Naples, a town on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico about 125 miles (200km) to the north-west, shows rows of shattered suburban homes on streets under water.

President Donald Trump has released emergency federal aid for Florida, describing the hurricane as a “big monster”.

How have residents felt the impact?

“We feel the building swaying all the time,” restaurant owner Deme Lomas told Reuters news

At least four deaths have been connected to the storm:

  • Two police officers died when their vehicles collided in Hardee County in central Florida
  • A person died in a single-car crash near Orlando
  • A man died in the town of Marathon in the Florida Keys when his vehicle hit a tree on Saturday

Some 6.3 million people in the state were told to evacuate before Irma arrived.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Miami International Airport were closed on Monday.

Night-time curfews have been imposed in areas such as Miami, where 13 people were arrested on suspicion of looting.

Which areas were hit before Florida?

Irma is the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade, and caused widespread destruction on several Caribbean islands:

  • Cuba: At least 10 people were killed by the storm on the island, officials say. Three quarters of the population are without power
  • St Martin and St Barthelemy: Six out of 10 homes on St Martin, an island shared between France and the Netherlands, are now uninhabitable, French officials say. Nine people had died and seven were missing in the French territories, while four are known to have died in Dutch Sint-Maarten
  • Turks and Caicos Islands: Widespread damage, although extent unclear
  • Barbuda: The small island is said to be “barely habitable”, with 95% of the buildings damaged. One death has been confirmed
  • Anguilla: Extensive damage with one person confirmed dead
  • Puerto Rico: More than 6,000 residents of the US territory are in shelters and many more without power. At least three people have died
  • British Virgin Islands: Widespread damage reported, and five dead
  • US Virgin Islands: Damage to infrastructure was said to be widespread, with four deaths confirmed

Another hurricane, Jose, has been weakening over the western Atlantic, with swells due to affect parts of Hispaniola (the island split into Haiti and the Dominican Republic), the Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos Islands, later this week.

Saudi government allegedly funded a ‘dry run’ for 9/11

September 9, 2017

by Paul Sperry

New York Post

Fresh evidence submitted in a major 9/11 lawsuit moving forward against the Saudi Arabian government reveals its embassy in Washington may have funded a “dry run” for the hijackings carried out by two Saudi employees, further reinforcing the claim that employees and agents of the kingdom directed and aided the 9/11 hijackers and plotters.

Two years before the airliner attacks, the Saudi Embassy paid for two Saudi nationals, living undercover in the US as students, to fly from Phoenix to Washington “in a dry run for the 9/11 attacks,” alleges the amended complaint filed on behalf of the families of some 1,400 victims who died in the terrorist attacks 16 years ago.

The court filing provides new details that paint “a pattern of both financial and operational support” for the 9/11 conspiracy from official Saudi sources, lawyers for the plaintiffs say. In fact, the Saudi government may have been involved in underwriting the attacks from the earliest stages — including testing cockpit security.

“We’ve long asserted that there were longstanding and close relationships between al Qaeda and the religious components of the Saudi government,” said Sean Carter, the lead attorney for the 9/11 plaintiffs. “This is further evidence of that.”

Lawyers representing Saudi Arabia last month filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which may finally be headed toward trial now that Congress has cleared diplomatic-immunity hurdles. A Manhattan federal judge has asked the 9/11 plaintiffs, represented by lead law firm Cozen O’Connor, to respond to the motion by November.

Citing FBI documents, the complaint alleges that the Saudi students — Mohammed al-Qudhaeein and Hamdan al-Shalawi — were in fact members of “the Kingdom’s network of agents in the US,” and participated in the terrorist conspiracy.

They had trained at al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan at the same time some of the hijackers were there. And while living in Arizona, they had regular contacts with a Saudi hijacker pilot and a senior al Qaeda leader from Saudi now incarcerated at Gitmo. At least one tried to re-enter the US a month before the attacks as a possible muscle hijacker but was denied admission because he appeared on a terrorist watch list.

Qudhaeein and Shalawi both worked for and received money from the Saudi government, with Qudhaeein employed at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. Shalawi was also “a longtime employee of the Saudi government.” The pair were in “frequent contact” with Saudi officials while in the US, according to the filings.

During a November 1999 America West flight to Washington, Qudhaeein and Shalawi are reported to have tried multiple times to gain access to the cockpit of the plane in an attempt to test flight-deck security in advance of the hijackings.

“After they boarded the plane in Phoenix, they began asking the flight attendants technical questions about the flight that the flight attendants found suspicious,” according to a summary of the FBI case files.

“When the plane was in flight, al-Qudhaeein asked where the bathroom was; one of the flight attendants pointed him to the back of the plane,” it added. “Nevertheless, al-Qudhaeein went to the front of the plane and attempted on two occasions to enter the cockpit.”

The pilots were so spooked by the Saudi passengers and their aggressive behavior that they made an emergency landing in Ohio. On the ground there, police handcuffed them and took them into custody. Though the FBI later questioned them, it decided not to pursue prosecution.

But after the FBI discovered that a suspect in a counterterrorism investigation in Phoenix was driving Shalawi’s car, the bureau opened a counterterrorism case on Shalawi. Then, in November 2000, the FBI received reporting that Shalawi trained at terrorist camps in Afghanistan and had received explosives training to perform attacks on American targets. The bureau also suspected Qudhaeein was a Saudi intelligence agent, based on his frequent contact with Saudi officials.

More, investigators learned that the two Saudis traveled to Washington to attend a symposium hosted by the Saudi Embassy in collaboration with the Institute for Islamic and Arabic Sciences in America, which was chaired by the Saudi ambassador. Before being shut down for terrorist ties, IIASA employed the late al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki as a lecturer. Awlaki ministered to some of the hijackers and helped them obtain housing and IDs.

The FBI also confirmed that Qudhaeein’s and Shalawi’s airline tickets for the pre-9/11 dry run were paid for by the Saudi Embassy.

“The dry run reveals more of the fingerprints of the Saudi government,” said Kristen Breitweiser, one of the New York plaintiffs, whose husband perished at the World Trade Center.

“These guys were Saudi government employees for years and were paid by the Saudi government,” she added. “In fact, the Saudi Embassy paid for their plane tickets for the dry run.”

After the Nov. 19, 1999, incident — which took place less than two months before the first hijackers entered the US — both Saudi men held posts as Saudi government employees at the Imam Muhammad Ibn Saudi Islamic University, the parent of IIASA — “a further indication of their longstanding ties to the Saudi government,” the 9/11 complaint states.

Carter said in an interview that the allegations that the Saudi Embassy sponsored a pre-9/11 dry run — along with charges of other Saudi involvement in the 9/11 plot, from California to Florida — are based on “nearly 5,000 pages of evidence submitted of record and incorporated by reference into the complaint.”

They include “every FBI report that we have been able to obtain,” though hundreds of thousands of pages of government documents related to Saudi terror funding remain secret.

Attempts to reach lawyers representing the Saudi government by phone and email were unsuccessful. However, in last month’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, they argued that the plaintiffs cannot prove the kingdom or its employees directly supported the hijackers.


Crime and Punishment: Will the 9/11 case finally go to trial?

September 10, 2017

by Andrew Cockburn


Meeting with the leaders of NATO countries in May, President Trump chastised them sternly for their shortcomings as allies. He took the time, however, to make respectful reference to the ruler of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, whom he had just visited at the start of his first overseas trip as president. “I spent much time with King Salman,” he told the glum-looking cluster of Europeans, calling him “a wise man who wants to see things get much better rapidly.”

Some might find this fulsome description surprising, given widespread reports that Salman, who took the throne in January 2015, suffers from dementia. Generally seen wearing a puzzled look, the king has been known to wander off in the middle of conversations, as he reportedly did once while talking with President Obama. When speaking in public, he depends on fast-typing aides whose prompts appear on a discreetly concealed monitor.

Whatever wisdom Trump absorbed from his elderly royal friend, the primary purpose of his trip to Riyadh, according to a former senior U.S. official briefed on the proceedings, was cash — both in arms sales and investments in crumbling American infrastructure, such as highways, bridges, and tunnels. The Trump Administration is “desperate for Saudi money, especially infrastructure investments in the Rust Belt,” the former official told me. An influx of Saudi dollars could generate jobs and thus redound to Trump’s political benefit. As a cynical douceur, the Saudis, derided by Trump during his campaign as “people that kill women and treat women horribly,” joined the United Arab Emirates in pledging $100 million for a women’s-empowerment initiative spearheaded by Ivanka Trump. A joyful president took part in the traditional sword dance and then helped launch a Saudi center for “combating extremism.”

This was not the first time the Saudis had dangled the prospect of massive investments to leverage U.S. support. “Mohammad bin Salman made the same pitch to the Obama people,” the former official told me. “ ‘We’re going to invest all this money here, you’re going to be our great economic partner, etc.’ Because the Trump Administration doesn’t know much about foreign affairs, they were really seduced by this.”

The president certainly viewed the visit as a huge success. “We made and saved the U.S.A. many billions of dollars and millions of jobs,” he tweeted as he left Saudi Arabia. The White House soon trumpeted $110 billion in weapons sales and billions more in infrastructure investments, with the total purportedly rising to $350 billion.

Yet amid the sword dances and flattery, a shadow lingered over the occasion: 9/11. After years of glacial legal progress, the momentous charge that our Saudi allies enabled and supported the most devastating act of mass murder on American soil may now be coming to a resolution. Thanks to a combination of court decisions, congressional action, and the disclosure of long-sequestered government records, it appears increasingly likely that our supposed friend and peerless weapons customer will finally face its accusers in court.

Over the years, successive administrations have made strenuous efforts to suppress discussion of Saudi involvement in the September 11 attacks, deploying everything from abusive security classification to the judiciary to a presidential veto. Now, at last, we stand a chance of discovering what really happened, largely because of a court case.

In re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001, which grew out of a suit filed in 2002 on behalf of bereaved family members and other victims of the attacks, includes a charge of direct Saudi government involvement in 9/11. It also claims that Riyadh directly funded the creation, growth, and operations of Al Qaeda worldwide. The Saudis, though scorning the accusation, have been striving ever more desperately to prevent the case from advancing through the legal system. To that end, they have employed to date no fewer than fifteen high-powered Washington lobbying firms.

The task is growing more urgent because the kingdom, long confident of essentially unlimited wealth, is facing money problems. Oil prices are in a slump and likely to stay there. The war in Yemen, launched in 2015 by Salman’s appointed heir, Mohammed bin Salman, drags on, costing an estimated $200 million a day, with no end in sight. To alleviate his cash-flow problems, the young prince is set on raising as much as $2 trillion by floating the state-owned oil company, Saudi Aramco, on international stock markets. That is part of the reason the 9/11 lawsuit poses such a threat — it raises the possibility that much-needed cash from the stock sale might never find its way to Riyadh. “They’re afraid they’re going to get a default judgment against them, and some of their domestic assets will be seized,” the former senior official explained to me.

To Sharon Premoli, one of the more than 6,500 plaintiffs in the lawsuit, that is precisely the goal. On September 11, she had been at her desk at a financial services software company, on the eightieth floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, when American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the building thirteen floors above her. Fleeing the area, she had almost reached safety when the South Tower came crashing down, propelling her into a plateglass window. Coming to, she found herself lying on top of a dead body. Like many other survivors, she has developed an encyclopedic knowledge of the legal issues around the case, not to mention the world of terrorism and Saudi connections thereto. A multibillion-dollar award “would certainly stop the Saudis from financing terrorism,” she told me. “That’s the whole point of this. It is all about money. If you can cut that off, that would make a serious impact on the dissemination of this rabid ideology around the world.”

Premoli was more fortunate than Peter Owens, a forty-two-year-old bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald, twenty-four floors above her, who had no chance of escape. He left behind a wife and three children. “It’s kind of sad to look forward to the anniversary,” Kathy Owens told me recently. Each September gives her hope that the recurring news peg will inspire journalists to explore the case. “We started a war because of 9/11 — more than one war — and the wars are still going on,” she said. “Every war we start now, we say it’s because of 9/11. It manages so much of our lives. They keep fighting the war on terror, but we are giving the Saudis a pass, despite all of this evidence.”

There has always been evidence — in abundance. The Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001 began work in February 2002. Congressional investigators soon uncovered numerous failures by the FBI and CIA. The degree of cumulative incompetence was breathtaking. Most egregiously, the CIA had been well aware that two known Al Qaeda operatives, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, were en route to the United States, but the agency had refused to tell the FBI. The FBI, meanwhile, had multiple reports in its San Diego office on locally based Saudis suspected of terrorist associations, but failed to take action.

San Diego looms large in the recorded history of 9/11, though not because it was the focal point of the plot. While preparing for the operation, the future hijackers had been dispersed around the country, in such places as New Jersey and Florida. The reason we know so much about the West Coast activities of the hijackers is largely because of Michael Jacobson, a burly former FBI lawyer and counterterrorism analyst who worked as an investigator for the Joint Inquiry. Reviewing files at FBI headquarters, he came across a stray reference to a bureau informant in San Diego who had known one of the hijackers. Intrigued, he decided to follow up in the San Diego field office. Bob Graham, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told me recently that Robert Mueller, then the FBI director (and now the special counsel investigating connections between Russia and the Trump campaign) made “the strongest objections” to Jacobson and his colleagues visiting San Diego.

Graham and his team defied Mueller’s efforts, and Jacobson flew west. There he discovered that his hunch was correct. The FBI files in California were replete with extraordinary and damning details, notably the hijackers’ close relationship with Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi living in San Diego with a no-show job at a local company with connections to the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation. The FBI had investigated his possible connections to Saudi intelligence. A couple of weeks after the two hijackers flew into Los Angeles from Malaysia, in February 2000, he had driven up to the city and met with Fahad al-Thumairy, a cleric employed by his country’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs who worked out of the Saudi Consulate. Thumairy, reported to be an adherent of extreme Wahhabi ideology — he was later denied a U.S. visa on grounds of jihadi connections — was also an imam of the King Fahad mosque in Los Angeles County, which the hijackers had visited soon after their arrival.

After meeting with Thumairy, Bayoumi had driven across town to a Middle Eastern restaurant where he “accidentally” encountered and introduced himself to Hazmi and Mihdhar. He invited them to move to San Diego, found them an apartment, paid their first month’s rent, helped them open a bank account, and introduced them to members of the local Saudi community, including his close friend Osama Bassnan.

During the time Bayoumi was catering to the hijackers’ needs, his salary as a ghost employee of the aviation company got a 700 percent boost; it was cut when they left town. That was not his only source of extra funds: After Hazmi and Mihdhar arrived in San Diego, Bassnan’s wife began signing over to Bayoumi’s wife the checks she received from the wife of the Saudi ambassador in Washington. The total value reportedly came to nearly $150,000.

Jacobson also found evidence, noted but seemingly ignored by the bureau, that Hazmi had worked for a San Diego businessman who had himself been the subject of an FBI counterterrorism investigation. Even more amazingly, the two hijackers had been close with an FBI informant, Abdussattar Shaikh. Hazmi had actually lived in his house after Mihdhar left town. Shaikh failed to mention his young Saudi friends’ last names in regular reports to his FBI case officer, or that they were taking flying lessons. Understandably, the investigators had a lot of questions for this man. Nevertheless, Mueller adamantly refused their demands to interview him, even when backed by a congressional subpoena, and removed Shaikh to an undisclosed location “for his own safety.” Today, Graham believes that Mueller was acting under orders from the White House.

Another intriguing document unearthed by the investigators in San Diego was a memo from July 2, 2002, discussing alleged financial connections between the September 11 hijackers, Saudi government officials, and members of the Saudi royal family. It stated that there was “incontrovertible evidence that there is support for these terrorists within the Saudi Government.”

Back in 2002, Graham himself was already coming to the conclusion that the 9/11 attacks could not have been the work of a stand-alone terrorist cell. As

he later wrote, “I believed almost intuitively that the terrorists who pulled off this attack must have had an elaborate support network, abroad and in the U.S.A.,” with expenses far exceeding the official estimate of $250,000. “For that reason,” he continued, “as well as because of the benefits that come with the confidentiality of diplomatic cover, this infrastructure of support was probably maintained, at least in part, by a nation-state.”

I asked Graham whether he believed that a careful search of the FBI files in Florida and elsewhere would yield similarly explosive disclosures. He told me that the inquiry would have doubtless discovered whom the hijackers were associating with in those places, and where that money came from. Fifteen years on, Graham still regretted not having pursued the possibility of revelatory FBI files in those other locations “aggressively.” Instead, he lamented, the inquiry ended up “with San Diego being the microscope through which we’ve been looking at this whole plot.”

Even the comparatively comprehensive accounts of the San Diego phase of the plot may be missing some telling leads. FBI records detailed the close connections between Bayoumi, the hijackers, and a local imam, Anwar al-Awlaki.1 Awlaki apparently served as the hijackers’ spiritual mentor. He soon moved to Northern Virginia, and when Hazmi and another hijacker arrived in the neighborhood in April 2001 to begin their final preparations, he served in that capacity again, and also found them an apartment. Many investigators, including Graham, concluded that Awlaki was not only aware of the developing plot but very much a part of it.

But before that, Awlaki reportedly served as a senior official of a “charity” — viewed by the FBI as a terrorist fund-raising operation — founded by Abdul Majid al-Zindani, a Saudi-backed cleric in Yemen. Zindani had been the spiritual mentor of Osama bin Laden himself. He also founded a powerful Yemeni political party and headed Iman University in Sanaa, often described as a jihadi recruiting hub. Both of these enterprises were supported by Saudi money.

In 2004, the U.S. government listed Zindani as a “specially designated global terrorist” and a supporter of Al Qaeda. This in no way interfered with his travels to Saudi Arabia, however. As recently as this February, Zindani was observed in the company of prominent clerics in Mecca. Among those who have drawn attention to this in published reports is Michael Jacobson, who after service with the 9/11 inquiries returned to counterterrorism analysis with the U.S. Treasury. Currently, he is at the State Department. When I called him to discuss Zindani’s relationship with the Saudis, he quickly replied, “I can’t talk about that,” and ended the conversation with the words, “Good luck.”

After a mere ten months, in December 2002, the Joint Inquiry team presented its report to the CIA for declassification. The agency demanded numerous cuts, only a few of which, in Graham’s view, were justified. But one section had been censored in its entirety: a twenty-eight-page summary, written by Jacobson, of the evidence relating to Saudi government support for the hijackers. It was the only area on which the Bush White House absolutely refused to relent. “The president’s loyalty apparently lay more with Saudi Arabia than with America’s safety,” Graham told me bitterly. To highlight the degree of censorship, he made sure that the published version of the report included the blacked-out pages, much to the irritation of the intelligence community.

The report concluded that the FBI, in light of its lamentable performance, deserved to be drastically reformed. But many questions remained unanswered. The 9/11 families, now emerging as a powerful lobby, called for a more sweeping probe. In November 2002, Congress had authorized another bipartisan panel, a National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. The initial choice of chairperson for the new probe, Henry Kissinger, drew outrage from 9/11 families, particularly a formidable foursome of well-informed widows known as the Jersey Girls, who questioned his impartiality given his suspected professional ties to prominent Saudis. Rather than divulge his Saudi client list, Kissinger quit. Ultimately, the White House selected in his place two retired politicians — Tom Kean, the former governor of New Jersey, and Lee Hamilton, who had represented Indiana in the House. Neither, especially Hamilton, showed much inclination to challenge the Bush Administration’s preferred version of events.

For the post of executive director, Kean and Hamilton appointed Philip Zelikow, a historian and national security scholar with strong connections to the Bush Administration. (He had served on the Bush transition team and prepared an important policy paper for his friend

Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser.) A forceful personality, Zelikow maintained strict day-to-day control of the investigation. According to The Commission, by the former New York Times reporter Philip Shenon, Dana Lesemann, a Justice Department lawyer who had worked on the prior congressional investigation before transferring to the commission staff, asked for Zelikow’s permission to review the redacted twenty-eight pages. In Shenon’s account, he refused. Bucking his orders, she obtained them anyway, whereupon she was promptly fired.2

Despite these obstacles, commission staffers did energetically pursue leads uncovered by the original probe. They were therefore frustrated when telling indications of a Saudi connection were largely excluded or downplayed in the main text of the final report. The staffers were, however, able to smuggle much of what they had uncovered into endnotes at the back of the document — an act of small-print, guerrilla-style resistance. For example, Jacobson and a colleague flew to Riyadh to interview Fahad al-Thumairy, the cleric from the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles subsequently banned from the United States as a suspected terrorist. During the interview, with Saudi officials in attendance, Thumairy denied any connection to the plot — in fact, he disclaimed ever having met Bayoumi or the hijackers. The investigators concluded that he was “lying” and “dangerous.” The main text of the report mentions both the allegations and his denials, without coming to any particular conclusion. But lengthy endnotes specify the numerous phone calls between Thumairy and Bayoumi over several years, as well as evidence that Thumairy’s occasional chauffeur had driven Hazmi and Mihdhar, at Thumairy’s request, on sightseeing trips to Sea World and other spots.

The main conclusion from the final report was that there was “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.” The Saudi authorities were so pleased by this verdict that they posted the quote on the website of their Washington embassy. The published version of the report was a bestseller, nominated for a National Book Award, and hailed by the novelist John Updike as the greatest masterpiece written by a committee since the King James Bible.

So far as the U.S. government and most of the media were concerned, there was no need for further investigation. But the Bush Administration didn’t reject the notion that a nation-state had been behind the attacks. They merely offered up a different nominee for the role: Iraq. In the absence of any evidence to back this up, interrogators at Guantánamo were tasked, according to a 2008 report by the Senate Armed Services Committee, to torture detainees into admitting to such a link.

The 9/11 families, however, had no interest in letting the kingdom off the hook. Nor did their lawyers. These included Ron Motley, of the South Carolina firm Motley Rice. He had recently scored the largest civil settlement in history — some $246 billion from America’s tobacco companies — and was eager for a fresh challenge. Also enlisted in the multiple suits were Jim Kreindler, the New York aviation lawyer who had won more than $2 billion from Muammar Qaddafi in the Pan Am Flight 103 case, and Stephen Cozen of Cozen O’Connor, specialists in recovering money for insurancecompanies.

The 9/11 suit as it now stands is a compilation of many such suits. It cites evidence of direct support for the attacks by Saudi officials such as Thumairy, Bayoumi, and Bassnan. It also lays out the case for the intimate involvement of the Saudi government in the creation and expansion of Al Qaeda. Whereas the 9/11 Commission Report began its narrative with Osama bin Laden, In re Terrorist Attacks goes back to the foundation of the Al Saud family’s rule and its alliance with the puritanical and intolerant Wahhabi sect. In the 1970s, and then again in the early 1990s, violent challenges to the family’s legitimacy, fostered by its corruption and backsliding from the fundamentalist creed, persuaded the ruling princes to appease the clerics by giving them further leeway, and massive amounts of money, to export their extremist agenda.

For example, according to internal Al Qaeda documents seized by U.S. forces in 2002, a man named Abdullah Omar Naseef was simultaneously the head of one such Saudi “charity,” the Muslim World League, and a member of the Majlis al-Shura, the kingdom’s consultative assembly, which is entirely appointed by the government. Naseef not only met with bin Laden and leaders of Al Qaeda at the time of its founding but reportedly agreed that the league’s offices would be used as a platform for the new organization. He then proceeded to appoint senior Al Qaeda figures to run league offices in such key outposts as Pakistan and the Philippines, the latter position being entrusted to bin Laden’s brother-in-law. Another group, the International Islamic Relief Organization, is meanwhile said to have funded terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, from which the 9/11 hijackers graduated, and in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, for the evident use of terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Should there have been any doubt about the connection between these Wahhabi missionary groups and the Saudi government, they were dispelled by the groups themselves. In documents filed between 2002 and 2005, some formally declared themselves to be organs of the state. They could thus shelter behind the principal Saudi defensive fortification in the case: the immunity enjoyed by foreign countries against being sued in U.S. courts, granted by the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act.

For years, this appeared to be a sound strategy, in large part because of the 9/11 Commission’s concluding blanket absolution of the Saudi government. In 2005, U.S. District Judge Richard Casey dismissed the case against the kingdom itself and many of the individual defendants, on the grounds that they were covered by sovereign immunity.

Casey’s judgment was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 2008, prompting an appeal to the Supreme Court in 2009, just as Barack Obama entered the White House. Candidate Obama had talked derisively about Bush’s “buddying up to the Saudi royal family and then begging them for oil.” President Obama’s Justice Department almost immediately informed the Supreme Court that the Saudis were in no way liable. Shortly thereafter, Obama flew to Riyadh, where he was royally entertained and duly bedecked with the gold chain and medal of the Order of King Abdulaziz, an honor also conferred on Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Trump. “Goodness gracious,” he exclaimed when presented with the costly bauble, “that’s something there!”

“The mystery to me is Obama,” remarked Graham. He could, he said, understand Bush’s rationale for covering up the Saudi connection in order to bolster the case for war with Iraq. But Obama’s refusal to address the issue, which included a multi-year reluctance to release the twenty-eight pages, mystified him. Meeting with officials on Obama’s National Security Council, he found them “very non-forthcoming. ‘You’ve got all the files,’ ” he told them. “ ‘Go back and verify what I’ve just said and see if you hold the same opinion about the Saudis that you have just stated.’ Either they didn’t want to find out the facts, or if they found them out, they ignored them.”

Similarly uninterested in the facts, at least as Graham saw them, was the 9/11 Review Commission authorized by Congress in 2014 to examine the progress of reforms recommended by the original commission, and recheck its conclusions on the attacks. Three commissioners were appointed to the task by the FBI director, James Comey: Reagan’s former attorney general, Edwin Meese; the former Democratic congressman Tim Roemer; and Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert and former RAND official. This inquiry, working with the “full cooperation” of the FBI, upheld the conclusions of the original commission in full. No one from this commission contacted Graham.

In reality, the Obama Administration was well aware that Saudi Arabia was a supporter of terrorism, though it kept the information to itself. Only through WikiLeaks did we learn of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s classified cable, circulated to department officials in December 2009, stating as fact that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” Saudi Arabia was of course also a significant source of funding to the U.S. defense industry. Two years after the classified cable, Clinton aide Jake Sullivan emailed her the “good news” that the kingdom had just signed a $30 billion order for Boeing F-15 fighters. “Not a bad Christmas present,” observed someone else on the same email thread.

However, while the administration and the intelligence agencies maintained the tradition of protecting the Saudis, the long-stalled legal case against the kingdom was coming back to life. One major stumbling block remained: the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act. Faced with this legal bulwark, the families and their lawyers resolved to get Congress to change the law. The resulting legislation, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), was crafted to blow away the Saudis’ immunity from prosecution.

Kathy Owens was among the widows and other plaintiffs crowding the corridors of Congress in May 2016 to push for the bill. For the first decade after the attack, she had paid little attention to the lawsuit, adding her name only at her father’s urging. Then she happened to pick up a magazine excerpt from Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan’s book on 9/11, The Eleventh Day. “It woke me up,” she told me. “What? There was Saudi involvement and possibly our government was onto it, and nothing was being done about it, and things were being kept secret?” Learning about JASTA from a website run by Sharon Premoli, Owens started making trips to Washington.

The government warned that the proposed law could inspire similar legislation abroad, allowing foreigners to sue America, and Americans (though JASTA did not apply to individuals). The president’s press secretary pushed this argument, as did State Department officials. Prominent former national security experts dispatched warnings to Congress. Even the Dutch parliament weighed in, apparently swayed by the State Department’s pronouncements.

“It was a bogeyman they threw out in every setting,” one of the senior lawyers involved in the lawsuit told me, explaining that the government had been raising the same objection on previous occasions. Yet “we haven’t seen any floodgate of claims against the United States.” In the view of this attorney, who has spent most of his life since 9/11 working on the case, the Obama Administration was merely “feigning” concern. “They’re not dumb. They had to understand that these arguments didn’t hold water.”

There was one foreign state threatening to strike back at the United States if JASTA became law. Visiting Washington in March 2016, before Congress began voting on the measure, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir explicitly warned that his government might sell its portfolio of “$750 billion” in U.S. Treasury bonds, thereby crashing the market in government securities, should JASTA become law. (The figure was a wild exaggeration — U.S. Treasury figures showed that the real amount was $117 billion.)

Even with all the threats and warnings, the House passed the bill that September, whereupon Obama announced he would veto it, which he duly did. The battle resumed with greater intensity as both sides prepared another vote. “President Obama, you can’t hide! We’ll get Congress to override,” protesters chanted outside the White House.

Despite frantic efforts by the administration, and ranks of lobbyists for the Saudis, the Senate crushed Obama’s veto, 97 to 1. It was the first and only time Obama suffered such an indignity. Reportedly, he was “furious.” Meanwhile, bipartisan pressure to release the censored twenty-eight pages in Graham’s original report had been building for some time, led by congressmen such as the Democrat Stephen Lynch and the Republican Walter Jones. Jones, once a fervent hawk, had turned sharply dovish, through guilt, as he told me, over voting for the Iraq war on the basis of “lies.” (He writes a letter of condolence to the family of every single casualty of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.) Jones, Lynch, and others on both sides of the aisle held regular press conferences about the twenty-eight pages “to keep a drumbeat going to give the 9/11 families the complete truth.”

With the exception of that committed group, Owens was not impressed by what she found on Capitol Hill. Most of the senators and representatives she met didn’t seem to care who was behind 9/11. “They just didn’t want to be seen as voting against the 9/11 families. So they would vote yes for it, and then try to sabotage it behind the scenes. . . . Washington is an ugly place.” Encouraging this assessment was her discovery that at the very moment they were voting almost unanimously for the bill, a significant number of senators from both parties were quietly circulating and signing a letter citing “concerns” regarding JASTA’s “potential unintended consequences” to “the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” In effect, they were suggesting that the law they had just been seen enthusiastically supporting be weakened.

Front and center in this sorry initiative were Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who, following the override, introduced amendments purportedly designed to “fix” JASTA. One of the 9/11 lawyers coolly appraised this tactic as “demonstrably the brainchild of Saudi lawyers here in Washington. They don’t fix JASTA, they’re designed to gut JASTA.” The lawyer speculated that the Saudis’ lobbyists hadn’t told their clients that “even if amendments like that were to be enacted, this litigation would continue.” The lobbyists’ interests, he suggested, lay in keeping the fight going as long as possible. “I think that you’ve got dozens of retainers out there that people would like to extend into the very distant future.”

Meanwhile, after JASTA became law, dozens of veterans across the country received invitations to a “cool trip.” At no cost to themselves, they would fly to Washington, stay at the luxurious Trump Hotel — and tell Congress how the law endangered them and others who had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan by potentially opening them to lawsuits. The entire operation was sponsored by the Saudi government. However, according to multiple accounts by veterans who made the trip, they were not informed beforehand of the Saudi involvement as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act. They discovered the connection only by accident. Scott Bartels, who served two tours in Iraq, described his experience to me. “We were told that a veterans’ advocacy group [had] brought us there to propose a fix to JASTA,” he said. “If anyone in Congress asked us what group we were from, or who we were associated with, then we were to simply say we were an independent group of concerned veterans here on our own, because JASTA posed a threat to veterans.”

Jason Johns, a lobbyist for Qorvis, which brought Bartels and some 140 others to Washington, denied that the veterans were ever misinformed as to who was paying the tab. He also insisted to me that his failure to mention the Saudis in various written materials distributed to the veterans did not violate the law. (Justice Department guidelines specifically stipulate that all such material must state the name of the “foreign principal.”)3

At the same time, another legal barrier, erected years before by George W. Bush, had already crumbled. Yielding to mounting pressure, Congress finally released the infamous twenty-eight pages in July 2016, albeit with many passages still censored. At long last, the discoveries unearthed by Jacobson and his colleagues in San Diego could be incorporated in the lawsuit. Though salient details, such as Omar Bayoumi’s role in assisting the hijackers, had previously been bruited about, many new ones came to light, such as the actions of Saleh al-Hussayen, a Saudi cleric and government employee who had suddenly moved to Hazmi and Mihdhar’s hotel the night before the attacks. Hussayen was “deceptive” about his relationship with the attackers when interviewed by the FBI and feigned a seizure to evade further questioning. Taken to the hospital, he escaped and fled the country. The world also learned about Mohammed al-Qudhaeein, another Saudi government agent whose “profile is similar to that of al-Bayoumi.” While on his way to a party at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, Qudhaeein researched ways to get into an American Airlines cockpit. (Thanks to a tip from a friendly government archivist, Kathy Owens meanwhile unearthed another long-censored document that had been quietly declassified. It reveals an Al Qaeda member’s flight certificate enclosed in a Saudi Embassy envelope.)

Even before the release of these documents, some with a vested interest in the official story had already begun circling the wagons. Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton penned an op-ed in USA Today misleadingly asserting that the twenty-eight pages consisted merely of “raw, unvetted material,” and stated that 9/11 Commission staff had access to the classified pages and pursued the leads before absolving the Saudi government. In their motion to dismiss the lawsuit, filed on August 1, 2017, Saudi Arabia’s D.C. lawyers, Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick, hewed to much the same posture. Employing the assertive bluster common to such documents, they derided the relevance of the missing pages, invoked the findings of the 9/11 Commission as gospel, scorned assertions regarding Saudi government collusion with Al Qaeda, and challenged the very notion that JASTA would allow the lawsuit against the Saudi government to proceed. Naturally, they demanded that the suit be dismissed.

Ironically, the newly released pages also resonated among a group of lawyers very far removed from the JASTA plaintiffs, but no less embroiled in the story of the attacks. In a courtroom in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, attorneys employed by the Defense Department were defending five of the original 9/11 conspirators, who were facing charges in a military court. Now these attorneys demanded that portions of the twenty-eight pages still being withheld by the government — a total of three pages — be made available to the defense. (The military judge rejected the motion in an order that was, naturally, withheld from the public at large.) Edwin Perry, who is defending Walid bin Attash, pointed out that his client and the other defendants were being held wholly responsible for the attacks. If there was information, he argued, that identified “other individuals more responsible,” then the government should make it known.

It seems a reasonable request.




[21st century]

[Barack Obama]

[Bob Graham]

[Career as FBI director]


[Donald Trump]


[Foreign relations]

[George W. (George Walker) Bush]

[Government policy]

[Hijacking of aircraft]

[Kathy Owens]

[Law and legislation]

[Michael Jacobson]

[National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States]

[Philip Zelikow]

[Political activity]

[Politics and government]


[Qaida (Organization)]

[Robert S. Mueller]

[Saudi Arabia]

[September 11 Terrorist Attacks]

[Sharon Premoli]


[Trials (Terrorism)]

[United States]

[United States Federal Bureau of Investigation]

[United States. Congress. Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11 2001]

[United States. Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976]

[United States. Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act]


[Views on 9/11 terrorist attacks]

[Views on Saudi Arabia]



Why Did Robert Mueller Obstruct Congress’s 9/11 Probe?

The 9/11 families’ lawsuit against the Saudis could prove revealing

September 11, 2017

by Justin Raimondo


Sixteen years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we still don’t know what happened. How did a ragtag bunch of hijackers, armed only with box cutters, manage to gain control of those airliners? How did they get into the United States to begin with? Who supported them while they were here? Why didn’t law enforcement – which had plenty of clues as to what they were up to – stop them? Prior to the attacks, our government spent billions on “anti-terrorist” programs designed to prevent precisely what occurred on September 11, 2001 – yet Mohammed Atta and his accomplices managed to slip through the cracks. How?

While some in our government may have at least partial knowledge, the American public doesn’t know the answers to these questions.

What we do know, however, is that our lives were changed forever: propelled into a war without end, the United States launched attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere that are still ongoing. Thousands of Americans and an untold number of Afghans, Iraqis, and others – hundreds of thousands – have so far perished in what our generals tell us will be a “generational” conflict with no discernible end in sight.

We also know, thanks to public agitation around this question, that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had substantial involvement in the 9/11 attacks. The campaign to reveal the redacted portions of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11 was partially successful, although there is still much the government is keeping from the American people. What we learned from the pages that were revealed is that Saudi government employees aided and directed at least two of the hijackers – and that Prince Bandar al Sultan, then Saudi ambassador to the United States, was at the center of the spider web that ensnared the nation on 9/11.

Now a lawsuit brought by some of the 9/11 families reveals that, a full two years before 9/11, the Saudi government funded a “dry run” designed to test airline security. As Paul Sperry reports in the New York Post:

“Two years before the airliner attacks, the Saudi Embassy paid for two Saudi nationals, living undercover in the US as students, to fly from Phoenix to Washington ‘in a dry run for the 9/11 attacks,” alleges the amended complaint filed on behalf of the families of some 1,400 victims who died in the terrorist attacks 16 years ago.”

The lawsuit accuses the Saudis of providing “both financial and operational support” to the operation, which was clearly a covert action by Saudi intelligence. Lawyers for the complainants allege that the two “students” — Mohammed al-Qudhaeein and Hamdan al-Shalawi – were part of “the Kingdom’s network of agents in the US.”

The evidence marshaled by the lawsuit is pretty impressive. It shows that:

  • These “students” trained at an al-Qaeda camp at the same time as some of the hijackers.
  • They had regular contact with a highly-placed Saudi leader of al-Qaeda who is now imprisoned at Gitmo.
  • Both were Saudi government employees and were in regular contact with the Saudi embassy.

It was November, 1999, when Qudhaeein and Hamdan boarded an Air West flight to Washington, D.C., and started acting in a highly suspicious manner. A summary of the FBI files on them states:

“After they boarded the plane in Phoenix, they began asking the flight attendants technical questions about the flight that the flight attendants found suspicious. When the plane was in flight, al-Qudhaeein asked where the bathroom was; one of the flight attendants pointed him to the back of the plane. Nevertheless, al-Qudhaeein went to the front of the plane and attempted on two occasions to enter the cockpit.”

The reaction of the pilots was clearly “Islamophobic” – they carried out an emergency landing in Ohio, where the duo was arrested, handcuffed, and taken in for questioning. Luckily for the Saudi conspirators, the FBI decided their behavior was no big deal and let them go. It was only later that our Keystone Kops discovered that “a suspect in a counterterrorism investigation in Phoenix was driving Shalawi’s car” and this “student” had “trained at terrorist camps in Afghanistan and had received explosives training to perform attacks on American targets.” As for Qudhaeein, the FBI concluded he “was a Saudi intelligence agent, based on his frequent contact with Saudi officials.”

Move along, folks — nothing to see here!

I wrote about the connection between the Saudi government and the activities of some of the hijackers in San Diego, which was revealed when the 28 pages of the redacted Joint Inquiry report were partially unredacted. We wouldn’t know anything about this part of the 9/11 plot if Robert Mueller – then FBI director, now the “special counsel” heading up the “Russia-gate” probe – had had his way. When the Joint Inquiry sent former FBI lawyer and counterterrorism expert Michael Jacobson to San Diego to investigate Saudi links to 9/11, Mueller was furious, as Andrew Cockburn reports in Harper’s:

“Bob Graham, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told me recently that Robert Mueller, then the FBI director (and now the special counsel investigating connections between Russia and the Trump campaign) made “the strongest objections” to Jacobson and his colleagues visiting San Diego.

“Graham and his team defied Mueller’s efforts, and Jacobson flew west. There he discovered that his hunch was correct. The FBI files in California were replete with extraordinary and damning details …”

Jacobsons’s San Diego sojourn unearthed much evidence of FBI incompetence, including the fact that two of the hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar,who had arrived in California from Malaysia and been taken under the wing of Saudi agents, “had been close with an FBI informant, Abdussattar Shaikh,” as Cockburn informs us:

“Hazmi had actually lived in his house after Mihdhar left town. Shaikh failed to mention his young Saudi friends’ last names in regular reports to his FBI case officer, or that they were taking flying lessons. Understandably, the investigators had a lot of questions for this man. Nevertheless, Mueller adamantly refused their demands to interview him, even when backed by a congressional subpoena, and removed Shaikh to an undisclosed location ‘for his own safety.’ Today, Graham believes that Mueller was acting under orders from the White House.”

Think about this for a moment: the man now in charge of investigating the President of these United States for “collusion” with Russia and possible “obstruction of justice” himself obstructed a congressional investigation into the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Was Mueller, possibly on orders from President George W. Bush, colluding with the Saudis to cover up their role?

The Bush administration, with its familial ties to the Saudis, had every interest in covering up Riyadh’s active complicity. Aside from that, they were pushing the fable of Saddam Hussein’s ‘links” to the 9/11 attacks.

So many lies! So much official obstruction! Now, however, the truth is finally coming out. With the passage of legislation stripping the Saudis of their “sovereign immunity” – over President Obama’s veto – the class action suit against the Saudis is moving forward. Armed with thousands of pages of documents showing how Riyadh and its global network of Islamic extremists have succored, aided, and directed al-Qaeda and allied organizations in terrorist attacks against US citizens and interests, the families of those killed, wounded, and traumatized on September 11, 2001, are about to get their day in court.

And what is bound to come out is the complicity of US officials in the cover-up. It looks to me like Robert Mueller’s time in the spotlight is about to get a lot more interesting.


US-Saudi relations: A timeline

An overview of the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia

May 20, 2017

by Alia Chughtai and Hala Saadani


Saudi Arabia and the United States have a relationship that stretches back almost a century, since the 1933 kickoff of oil exploration in the kingdom.

Since then, the two countries have maintained a baseline of economic and security cooperation that has kept ties between them strong. Saudi Arabia is the US’ largest foreign military sales customer, and the US has long had a physical and advisory military role in the kingdom.

While today there seems to be a strategic alignment between Saudi Arabia’s interests in the region and those of the US, mostly centring around controlling Iran’s regional reach, there have been low points in this relationship that were brought about by major events. Saudi Arabia has always sought balance between its role as a leader in the Arab world and its strong ties to the US.

During the final years of the Obama administration, “relations had undergone a period of difference of opinion”, as stated by a senior advisor to Prince Salman last March. These differences of opinion were largely centred around Saudi Arabia’s refusal to engage with Iran and the Obama administration’s cautions to the kingdom about the civilian toll of the war in Yemen.

However, under the Trump administration, relations have warmed and the US is fully supporting Saudi Arabia in its regional role.

President Trump had maintained an extremely negative view of Saudi Arabia for years before being sworn in as president, saying that he was “definitely not a big fan” of the kingdom, and that the US should not be working to “support Saudi terrorists”.

This position changed, underlined by an extremely cordial visit that that Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defence of Saudi Arabia Prince Mohammed bin Salman made to Washington, DC.

In a statement after this meeting, bin Salman’s senior advisor’s statement touched on the various topics discussed, which included an expansion of economic cooperation, an agreement that Trump’s travel ban was justified and was not a “Muslim ban”, and the two leaders’ agreement on “the same views on the gravity of the Iranian expansionist moves in the region”.

Trump will be visiting Riyadh on Friday on his first international trip as US president. He will follow that with visits to Israel, the Vatican City, Brussels and Sicily.

During the trip, Trump will be participating in three summits: the first between himself and Saudi King Salman, the second with the leadership of the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and the third with heads of state and high officials from a number of Arab and Muslim states.

The first Saudi-US summit is expected to focus on cooperation between the two countries on security, economy and regional politics. Saudi Arabia is expected to press the US on Iran and reiterate its position that Iran’s activity in the region is the cause of a great deal of instability.

There are high expectations that an arms deal worth $100bn that has been in the works for a while will be ready by that date. A US official speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters that the total value of the arms sales could exceed $300bn over the next decade.

The discussion of Iran and its supposed destabilising role in the region will carry through to the second, GCC-US summit, which will focus on “security and stability” in the GCC region and the building of trade ties.

During the third summit, which will include the leaders of a number of Arab and Muslim states, Trump is expected to deliver a speech on the religion of Islam, the US’ positive relationship with it, and the distortion of the positive image of Islam by groups who use it for their own violent gains, exhorting the gathered Arab Muslim leaders to fight this distortion in any way they can.

This has been received with a great deal of derision on social media, especially after it was revealed yesterday that the man writing the speech was Stephen Miller, a senior Trump adviser who played a large role in the creation of the travel ban known as the Muslim ban earlier this year.


The Government-Approved Rip-Off

September 11, 2017

by Christian Jürs

This is rapidly becoming a decade of official deceit and public disillusion.

The issue under discussion here is MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration System).

MERS, set up by the government in 1995, now claims to be a privately-held company and their official function is stated to be ‘keeping track of a confidential electronic registry of mortgages and the modifications to servicing rights and ownership of the loans.’

MERS is actually a U.S. government initiated organization like Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac and its current shareholders include AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, WaMu, CitiMortgage, Countrywide, GMAC, Guaranty Bank, and Merrill Lynch.

All of these entities have been intimately, and disastrously, involved with the so-called “housing bubble,” and were subsequently quickly bailed out by the then-supportive Bush administration

In addition to its publicly stated purpose of simplifying mortgage registration MERS was also set up to assist in the creation of so-called ‘Collateralized debt obligations (CDOs)’ and ‘’Structured investment Vehicles (SIV).’

The CDOs is a type of structured asset-backed security (ABS) whose value and payments are derived from a portfolio of fixed-income underlying assets. CDOs securities are split into different risk classes, or tranches, which permits these entities to be minced into tiny tranches and sold off by the big investment banks to pensions, foreign investors and retail investors who in turn have discounted and resold them over and over.

It is well-known inside the American banking institutions that these highly questionable, potentially unsafe investment packages were deliberately marketed to countries, such as China and Saudi Arabia, that are not in favor with elements of the American government and banking industry and were, and are, marketed with full knowledge of their fragility.

The basic problem with this MERS system that while it does organize the mortgage market, it also knowingly permits fiscal sausage-making whereby a huge number of American domestic and business mortgages, (59 million by conservative estimate) are sliced up, put into the aforesaid “investment packages” and sold to customers both domestic and foreign.

This results in the frightening fact that the holders of mortgages, so chopped and packed, are not possible to identify by MERS or anyone else, at any time and by any agency. This means that any property holder, be they a domestic home owner or a business owner, is paying their monthly fees for property they can never own. Because of the diversity of the packaging, it is totally and completely impossible to ascertain what person or organization owns a specific mortgage and as a result, a clear title to MERS-controlled property is impossible to get at any time, even if a mortgage is fully paid. No person or entity, has been, or never can be, identified who can come forward and legally release the lien on the property once the loan is paid.

In short, MERS conceals this fact from the public with the not-unreasonable assumption that by the time the owner of the home or business discovers that they have only been paying rent on property they can never get clear title to, all the primary parties; the banks, the government agencies, the mortgage companies, or the title companies, will be dead and gone. MERS is set up to guarantee this fact but, gradually, little by little, mostly by word of mouth, the public is beginning to realize that their American dream of owning a house is nothing but a sham and a delusion.

The solution to this is quite simple. If a home or business American mortgage payer, goes to the property offices in their county and looks at their registered property, they can clearly see if MERS is the purported holder of the mortgage. This is fraudulent – MERS has never advanced any funds in the transaction and owns nothing. It is merely a registry. If MERS is the listed holder, the mortgage payers will never, ever, get clear title to their property.

In this case, the property occupier has two choices: They can either turn the matter over to a real estate attorney or simply continue pouring good money after bad.

And is there relief?

Indeed there is. In case after case (95% by record) if the matter is brought to the attention of a court of law, Federal or state, the courts rule that if the actual owner of the mortgage cannot be located after a reasonable period of time, the owner receives a clear title from the court and does not need to make any further payments to an unidentified creditor!

It will stop any MERS based foreclosure mid process and further, any person who was fraudulently foreclosed by MERS, which never held their mortgage, and forced from their home can sue MERS and, through the courts, regain their lost homes.


From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2017, Issue No. 65

September 11, 2017


Do the security clearance procedures that are used for granting access to classified inf

To help answer that question, the Senate Intelligence Committee mandated a review of security clearance requirements, including “their collective utility in anticipating future insider threats.”

See the Committee’s new report on the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, filed September 7, 2017.

The report summarizes the content of the pending intelligence authorization bill (S. 1761), which was filed last month, and adds Committee comments on various aspects of current intelligence policy.

So, for example, “The Committee remains concerned about the level of protection afforded to whistleblowers within the IC and the level of insight congressional committees have into their disclosures.”

The central point of contention in the bill is a provision (sec. 623) declaring a sense of Congress “that WikiLeaks and the senior leadership of WikiLeaks resemble a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors and should be treated as such a service by the United States.”

The provision had originally stated that WikiLeaks and its leadership “constitute” a non-state hostile intelligence service. But this was amended to replace “constitute” with “resemble”. That move might have attenuated the provision’s significance except that it went on to say — whether WikiLeaks constitutes or merely resembles a non-state hostile intelligence service — that the U.S. should treat it as such.

A hostile state-based intelligence service would presumably be subject to intense surveillance by the US. A competent US counterintelligence agency might also seek to infiltrate the hostile service, to subvert its agenda, and even to take it over or disable it.

Whether such a response would also be elicited by “a non-state hostile intelligence service” is hard to say since the concept itself is new and undefined.

“The Committee’s bill offers no definition of ‘non-state hostile intelligence service’ to clarify what this term is and is not,” wrote Sen. Kamala Harris, who favored removal of this language, though she said WikiLeaks has “done considerable harm to this country.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, who likewise said that WikiLeaks had been “part of a direct attack on our democracy,” opposed the bill due to the WikiLeaks-related provision.

“My concern is that the use of the novel phrase ‘non-state hostile intelligence service’ may have legal, constitutional, and policy implications, particularly should it be applied to journalists inquiring about secrets,” Sen. Wyden wrote in minority views appended to the report. “The language in the bill suggesting that the U.S. government has some unstated course of action against ‘non-state hostile intelligence services’ is equally troubling.”


If the Trump Administration decided to terminate U.S. acceptance and implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement, how might it do that?

The Congressional Research Service considered the question, without advocating such a move, in a new report.

“There are several mechanisms or methods the Administration might use to cease implementing the JCPOA [Iran nuclear agreement] or to alter its implementation, if there is a decision to do so,” CRS found. These include provisions in the agreement itself or in the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act that was passed in 2015.

See Options to Cease Implementing the Iran Nuclear Agreement, September 7, 2017.


Facebook hit with €1.2mn fine in Spain for privacy violations

September 11, 2017


Spain’s data protection watchdog has fined Facebook, saying the social network breached laws designed to protect people’s information and confidentiality.

According to the Spanish Data Protection Agency, Facebook collected personal data from its users in Spain without obtaining their ‘unequivocal consent’ and without informing them how such information would be used.

“Facebook collects data on ideology, sex, religious beliefs, personal tastes or navigation without clearly informing about the use and purpose that it will give them,” the watchdog’s statement said.

The authority fined the corporation €600,000 for a single “very serious violation” of the country’s data protection rules and €300,000 each for other two serious violations.

Facebook’s privacy policy contains “generic and unclear terms,” and doesn’t go far enough to collect the consent of its users, the data protection agency said.

It added the average Facebook user is not aware of how the company collects and uses their data.

In a statement cited by Fortune magazine, Facebook claimed the Spanish data protection authority was wrong to say it showed people advertising based on sensitive personal data. Ad targeting was instead based on the interest people express by “liking” certain content on the social network, Facebook explained.

The Spanish watchdog’s €1.2 million fine comes as data watchdogs across Europe are investigating Facebook.

In May the social media giant was slapped with a €150,000 fine by the French data protection watchdog for the way the company targeted advertising and tracked users.

The fine was part of a wider probe carried out in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, and Germany into some of the corporation’s practices.

The EU has also fined Facebook $122 million for providing “misleading” information to Brussels about its takeover of WhatsApp.


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