Oct. 5, 2004
NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE REFORM ACT OF 2004-CONTINUED
Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, may I inquire as to the parliamentary situation in the Senate?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. We are postcloture on S. 2485.
Mr. GRAHAM. I thank the Chair. I wish to make some remarks on an amendment that I have filed. I will not ask that that amendment be brought before the Senate this evening, but I look toward doing so at an appropriate time.
Mr. President, 3 years have passed since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Largely because of the anger and the concern and the desire to show that the lives of those 3,000 Americans who were sacrificed on that day had meaning, we are nearing passage of a meaningful intelligence reform plan. But as we commit ourselves to implementing this plan, I remain convinced that we still will not be doing all we can do, all we should do to win the war on terror and to hold our adversaries to account.
Why do I hold those views?
It is my view that we have allowed to escape at least one and possibly more make-believe allies that have and may be today supporting terrorists with financial, logistical, and even diplomatic resources. These allies are saying one thing in their public relations campaign but doing quite another in their palaces, in the halls of government when it comes to nurturing al-Qaida and other terrorist networks.
Let me give a little explanation of why I think this issue is so important. For 19 relatively young men, most of whom were strangers to each other, to be able to come into the United States without much command of the English language and almost no knowledge of American culture and practices, stay in this country for, in some cases, 18 months, to be able to refine a plan that had been developed prior to their entry, to deal with unexpected complications, such as the detaining of the 20th hijacker, and to be able to practice that plan and finally execute it with the tragic consequences of September 11 is not an easy task. Many have asked how could they have done it.
I believe, for one thing, these 19 people were more capable than we may have originally thought, and that itself is a chilling observation, because it says something about the adversary we are going to continue to be facing once we restart the war on terror.
But second, I also believe they were not here alone. In that famous August 2001 briefing which the President received at Crawford, TX, one of the items in that briefing which has, in my opinion, been inadequately observed was that the President was told that al-Qaida had a network inside the United States.
Supplementing that network, I believe the Saudis were given license to take advantage of a network that was already in existence in the United States for another purpose, primarily the purpose of surveilling countrymen who were in the United States to determine if they were fulminating any plots that might be adverse to the interests of the royal family. That network was then made available to at least 2 and maybe more, possibly all, of the 19 hijackers.
I will remind my colleagues again, as I have previously, that much of the information that makes this case is contained in the 27 pages of the final report of the House and Senate inquiry into 9/11, the 27 pages which were censored by the administration and, therefore, have never been made available to the American people. But I can say this: A California-based former employee of the Saudi Civil Aviation Authority, a then 42-year-old Saudi national named Omar al-Bayoumi, had extensive contacts with two of the Saudi national hijackers, Khalid al Mihdhar and Nawaf al Hazmi. These two men had entered the United States in January of 2000 after having attended a summit of terrorists in Malaysia a few weeks earlier.
Bayoumi was paid $40,000 a year by a Saudi Government subcontractor, but he never showed up for work. He was what is referred to as a ghost employee. Indeed, a CIA agent described him as a spy of the Saudi Government assigned to keep track of Saudi citizens in southern California, particularly the large number of Saudi students studying at higher education institutions there.
The day that al-Bayoumi met the two hijackers at a Los Angeles restaurant, he had first attended a meeting at the Saudi consulate with a Saudi official who subsequently was denied reentry into the United States because of his alleged terrorist background.
He then, over lunch, invited the two terrorists to come from Los Angeles to San Diego where he proceeded to first allow them to live with him until they could arrange for an apartment, he cosigned their lease, paid their first month's rent, hosted a welcome party, and helped them get a variety of services, including driver's licenses and flight school applications. He introduced them to others who served as their translator and other support roles.
This is just one strand in the web of connections between hijackers and the Saudi Government. But, again, I am restricted in terms of how fulsome the details can be.
There is other evidence of Saudi complicity, especially when it comes to financing al-Qaida. In a monograph on the finances of al-Qaida prepared by the 9/11 Commission, staff investigators found government-sponsored Islamic charities had helped provide funds for Osama bin Laden. The monograph states:
Fund-raisers and facilitators throughout Saudi Arabia and the Gulf raised money for al Qaeda from witting and unwitting donors and diverted funds from Islamic charities and mosques.
It attributed this thriving network to "a lack of awareness and a failure to conduct oversight over institutions [which] created an environment in which such activity has flourished."
The 9/11 Commission investigators concluded:
It appears that the Saudis have accepted that terrorist financing is a serious issue and are making progress in addressing it. It remains to be seen whether they will (and are able to do) enough, and whether the U.S. Government will push them hard enough, to substantially eliminate al Qaeda financing by Saudi sources.
At least one other authority body is even more skeptical. The Council on Foreign Relations established a task force on terrorist financing, and representatives of the task force testified last week on the 29th of September before a hearing of the Senate Banking Committee.
Mallory Factor, vice chairman of the Independent Task Force on Terrorist Financing, said this:
The Saudi Government has clearly allowed individual and institutional financiers of terror to operate and prosper within Saudi borders.
Let me repeat that statement:
The Saudi government has clearly allowed individuals and institutional financiers of terror to operate and prosper within Saudi borders.
Saudi Arabia has enacted a new anti-money laundering law designed to impede the flow from Saudi Arabia to terrorist groups. However, significant enforcement by Saudi Arabia of several of these new laws appears to be lacking. . . .
Furthermore, even if these laws were fully implemented, they contain a number of exceptions and flaws which weaken their effectiveness in curbing terror financing. . . . Quite simply, Saudi Arabia continues to allow many key financiers of global terror to operate, remain free and go unpunished within Saudi borders.
Lee Wolosky, the codirector of the Council on Foreign Relations Task Force, added:
There is no evidence . . . that since September 11, 2001, Saudi Arabia has taken public punitive actions against any individual for financing terror.
That directly contradicts the statements made by this administration that the Saudis have been cooperating and continue to deserve to be considered as allies.
Despite all of the evidence, President Bush has said nothing to suggest that he is reconsidering the assurance he offered to the American people in the Rose Garden on September 24, 2001, when he said:
As far as the Saudi Arabians go . . . they've been nothing but cooperative. Our dialogue has been one of-as you would expect friends to be, able to discuss issues.
On Sunday, like several million Americans, I watched the Sunday interview programs and I saw a lady I admire, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, as she attempted to explain why she and other key members of this administration, aware of the fact that there was a considerable disagreement as to whether aluminum tubes which were destined for Iraq but had been intercepted, but which had been determined by the best experts in the United States, those in the Department of Energy, to not be appropriate for the construction of a centrifuge, one of the preliminary steps in the development of weaponizable material-she said any prudent policymaker would have to take the most conservative view if there was a disagreement, take the view that would best protect the American people.
I say this: If we have the kinds of comments that have come from responsible citizens who served on the 9/11 Commission, statements that have been made by a respected independent task force of the Council on Foreign Relations, and the recommendations of the joint House-Senate task force, why do we not take the same conservative position as relates to Saudi Arabia?
This is what our colleagues in this Chamber and the House said in December of 2002. Recommendation 19 of the final report of the joint inquiry stated: The intelligence community, and particularly the FBI and the CIA, should aggressively address the possibility that foreign governments are providing support to or are involved in terrorist activity targeting the United States and U.S. interests. State-sponsored terrorism substantially increases the likelihood of successful and more lethal attacks against the United States. This issue must be addressed.
If we believe that we should take the stance which is most protective of the security of the people of the United States of America, why have we taken this position of coddling passivity and deference to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with this record of their support of terrorism?
My lack of confidence in both Saudis and the administration, my lack of confidence in their ability to level with the American people, leads me to offer this amendment on behalf of the families of those who died on 9/11.
Several groups of families and survivors have filed lawsuits against the Saudi Government, members of the Saudi Royal Family, other Saudi entities, alleging that they were part of a conspiracy that led to the successful attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.
The Saudi Government, in Federal court, has moved to strike not only the Royal Family, not only individuals but also to strike virtually every entity under the umbrella, that those entities are a part of the sovereign immunity in Saudi Arabia and therefore come under the umbrella of sovereign immunity from their acts.
The effect of this position is to prevent the victims' families from proceeding to the discovery portion of the trial which could yield valuable information about the Saudi Government's activities. This amendment would waive sovereign immunity protections for foreign governments involved in lawsuits related to the September 11 attacks. It would not automatically declare that the Saudi Government or any other government is responsible for the attacks or was complicit in the attacks, but it would give victims' families a chance to have their day in court. While exceptions like this are rare, this is because terrorist attacks of the magnitude of September 11 are rare.
Congress has waived sovereign immunity before. In the case of the Iran hostage-taking, sovereign immunity was waived because there was reason to suspect that the hostage-takers had received support from the Iranian Government. We decided an exception to the law was necessary in this case in order to both get to the truth and see that justice was provided for innocent American families.
I believe the family members of the victims of 9/11 deserve to have an equal opportunity to get to the truth, especially in light of the coverup our Government has engaged in and which has prevented the American people from a full understanding of the extent of that complicity.
For all we know, the network which functioned prior to 9/11 and which contributed to the ability of these 19 people who were new to the United States, woefully deficient in the English language, to be able to hide out for 18 months and then refine, practice, and execute a plan of terror, that infrastructure is still in place. This amendment would help these families and the people of the United States better understand what has happened to us in the past, what the threat might be today, and to hold those responsible and accountable for their actions.