Saudi Arabia, an ally country and preferred partner of the United States, monopolizes all suspicions as a launching pad, ideological and material, of 9/11. This is what the 1,800 relatives and friends of victims of the quadruple attack in 2001 believe in their demand for transparency to President Joe Biden, by declassifying confidential material about the Saudi connection. But the compass of doubt draws a wider circle, encompassing countless common suspects. The questions also extend to the role of intelligence agencies in anticipating the massacre.
Many analysts are surprised that the US intelligence services did not seem to notice what was going on in Egypt and Pakistan, two other allied countries such as Saudi Arabia. The deep-rooted Islamist activity in Cairo or the effervescence in Peshawar, the headquarters of the so-called arab afghans, the legion of volunteers who in the eighties fought alongside the Mujahideen against the Soviet invader and who, once the war was over — if it ever ended — returned to their countries of origin and spread the word. jihad globally. From Algeria to Iraq, from Syria to the suburbs of Brussels colonized by the barbarism of ISIS, a further derivative of the instability that George W. Bush’s war on terror caused in the region.
Since the conclusion of the official 9/11 commission of inquiry in 2004, “a lot of evidence has been found showing the support of Saudi officials for the attacks,” explains the letter from relatives to Biden, “but the Justice Department and the FBI have tried to keep that information secret and prevent the American people from knowing the whole truth. ” The letter, whose content was revealed in August by the television network NBC, refers to another investigation that lasted until 2016 and that would directly target Riyadh, still classified.
Business interests – oil; arms sales in a highly competitive market … – fueled the fluid bilateral relationship between Washington and Riyadh, until the presidency of Joe Biden printed a twist, last February, by declassifying an intelligence report on the involvement of the Saudi crown prince , Mohamed bin Salmán, in the atrocious murder and dismemberment of dissident Jamal Khashoggi, at the time a co-religionist and good friend of Bin Laden in his younger years. The change in the course of the relationship could lead to greater transparency about the investigation, according to different sources.
The names of the usual suspects, from the Saudi warlord to the Egyptian Ayman al Zawahiri or Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, alleged mastermind of 9/11, had been known for years by the intelligence services in the area, which seems to corroborate the initial neglect of EE. An FBI official named Dan Coleman, says Lawrence Wright in his book The elevated tower, was sent in the early nineties to the headquarters of the CIA, where he found an extensive dossier on a financing network “of Islamic causes” led by Bin Laden. For many analysts at that time, the Saudi was just a financier, as intelligence sources recall in the documentary Tipping point: 9/11 and the war on terror, just released. Coleman tipped off his superiors that something was being hatched, but his warning fell on deaf ears, until he was tasked with leading a joint FBI-CIA team in 1996 to track down the Saudi.
Just a year later Coleman proposed a plan to forcibly remove bin Laden from Afghanistan, but the mission was not approved by his commanders, according to the official 9/11 commission of inquiry. That is why the savage attacks against the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, attributed to Al Qaeda, could not be prevented either. The tracking of the activities of the jihadists continued with mixed results, as evidenced by the infinity of cables declassified by the National Security Archive, George Washington University.
Among all of them, one particularly premonitory stands out. “Documents released by the CIA detail the thoroughness of Al Qaeda’s plot against the US and the agency’s attempts to counter the growing terrorist threat. An intelligence report that became the basis for the information transmitted on December 4, 1998 to the president [Bill Clinton], points out that five years before the actual attack [del 11-S], Al Qaeda operatives had successfully circumvented security at a New York airport to test their vulnerability, “reads a December 1998 document, published by the Archive in 2012, and titled” Osama bin Laden’s Planning to Hijack a Plane of the United States and successful circumvention of security measures at the airport ”.
The same document explained the reasons why the US intelligence agencies –18, not always well coordinated among themselves – could not stop the coup. “Despite mounting warnings about Al Qaeda, documents released today illustrate how prior to September 11, the CIA’s counterterrorism units lacked the funds to aggressively pursue Bin Laden.” The culmination of the errors of calculation and interpretation committed before 2001 had its most obvious demonstration this year, in the face of myopia on the vertiginous advance of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the first — and last — consequence of 9/11.
From the determined financial support of the United States to the Afghan mujahideen who fought the Soviets – the last bitter conflict of the Cold War – it also follows that radical mobilization was not a secret from Washington. The lost time, the information and coordination gaps, became like a boomerang against the West. “The errors of the FBI and the CIA in failing to detect and prevent the 9/11 plot, despite extensive warnings, fueled the public’s distrust of intelligence agencies. The deficient information on non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq undermined public confidence not only in the governments that propagated these claims, ”argued analyst Barbara Keys in an article published in 2018, at the height of the fake news under Trump. “The result has been a climate of general distrust towards authority”, prone to populism, he concludes.
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