“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Thursday, May 12, 2016

If US Citizens are Allowed to Sue Saudi Arabia for 911, Will Iraqis be Suing the US for the Damage Done to Iraq?

Saudi officials were 'supporting' 9/11 hijackers, commission member says

A former Republican member of the 9/11 commission, breaking dramatically with the commission’s leaders, said Wednesday he believes there was clear evidence that Saudi government employees were part of a support network for the 9/11 hijackers and that the Obama administration should move quickly to declassify a long-secret congressional report on Saudi ties to the 2001 terrorist attack.

The comments by John F Lehman, an investment banker in New York who was Navy secretary in the Reagan administration, signal the first serious public split among the 10 commissioners since they issued a 2004 final report that was largely read as an exoneration of Saudi Arabia, which was home to 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11.

“There was an awful lot of participation by Saudi individuals in supporting the hijackers, and some of those people worked in the Saudi government,” Lehman said in an interview, suggesting that the commission may have made a mistake by not stating that explicitly in its final report. “Our report should never have been read as an exoneration of Saudi Arabia.”

He was critical of a statement released late last month by the former chairman and vice-chairman of the commission, who urged the Obama administration to be cautious about releasing the full congressional report on the Saudis and 9/11 – “the 28 pages”, as they are widely known in Washington – because they contained “raw, unveiled” material that might smear innocent people.

The 9/11 commission chairman, former Republican governor Tom Kean of New Jersey, and vice-chairman, former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton of Indiana, praised Saudi Arabia as, overall, “an ally of the United States in combatting terrorism” and said the commission’s investigation, which came after the congressional report was written, had identified only one Saudi government official – a former diplomat in the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles – as being “implicated in the 9/11 plot investigation”.

The diplomat, Fahad al-Thumairy, who was deported from the US but was never charged with a crime, was suspected of involvement in a support network for two Saudi hijackers who had lived in San Diego the year before the attacks.

In the interview Wednesday, Lehman said Kean and Hamilton’s statement that only one Saudi government employee was “implicated” in supporting the hijackers in California and elsewhere was “a game of semantics” and that the commission had been aware of at least five Saudi government officials who were strongly suspected of involvement in the terrorists’ support network. 

“They may not have been indicted, but they were certainly implicated,” he said. “There was an awful lot of circumstantial evidence.” 

The 9/11 commission vice-chairman, former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton of Indiana, and the chairman, former Republican governor Tom Kean of New Jersey.
The 9/11 commission vice-chairman, former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton of Indiana, and the chairman, former Republican governor Tom Kean of New Jersey. Photograph: Paul J.richards/AFP/Getty Images

Although Lehman said he did not believe that the Saudi royal family or the country’s senior civilian leadership had any role in supporting al-Qaida or the 9/11 plot, he recalled that a focus of the criminal investigation after 9/11 was upon employees of the Saudi ministry of Islamic affairs, which had sponsored Thumairy for his job in Los Angeles and has long been suspected of ties to extremist groups.

He said “the 28 pages”, which were prepared by a special House-Senate committee investigating pre-9/11 intelligence failures, reviewed much of the same material and ought to be made public as soon as possible, although possibly with redactions to remove the names of a few Saudi suspects who were later cleared of any involvement in the terrorist attacks.

Lehman has support among some of the other commissioners, although none have spoken out so bluntly in criticizing the Saudis. A Democratic commissioner, former congressman Tim Roemer of Indiana, said he wants the congressional report released to end some of the wild speculation about what is in the 28 pages and to see if parts of the inquiry should be reopened. When it comes to the Saudis, he said, “we still haven’t gotten to the bottom of what happened on 9/11”.

Another panel member, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of offending the other nine, said the 28 pages should be released even though they could damage the commission’s legacy – “fairly or unfairly” – by suggesting lines of investigation involving the Saudi government that were pursued by Congress but never adequately explored by the commission.

“I think we were tough on the Saudis, but obviously not tough enough,” the commissioner said. “I know some members of the staff felt we went much too easy on the Saudis. I didn’t really know the extent of it until after the report came out.”
The commissioner said the renewed public debate could force a spotlight on a mostly unknown chapter of the history of the 9/11 commission: behind closed doors, members of the panel’s staff fiercely protested the way the material about the Saudis was presented in the final report, saying it underplayed or ignored evidence that Saudi officials – especially at lower levels of the government – were part of an al-Qaida support network that had been tasked to assist the hijackers after they arrived in the US.

In fact, there were repeated showdowns, especially over the Saudis, between the staff and the commission’s hard-charging executive director, University of Virginia historian Philip Zelikow, who joined the Bush administration as a senior adviser to the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, after leaving the commission. The staff included experienced investigators from the FBI, the Department of Justice and the CIA, as well as the congressional staffer who was the principal author of the 28 pages.

Zelikow fired a staffer, who had repeatedly protested over limitations on the Saudi investigation, after she obtained a copy of the 28 pages outside of official channels. Other staffers described an angry scene late one night, near the end of the investigation, when two investigators who focused on the Saudi allegations were forced to rush back to the commission’s offices after midnight after learning to their astonishment that some of the most compelling evidence about a Saudi tie to 9/11 was being edited out of the report or was being pushed to tiny, barely readable footnotes and endnotes. The staff protests were mostly overruled.

The 9/11 commission did criticize Saudi Arabia for its sponsorship of a fundamentalist branch of Islam embraced by terrorists and for the Saudi royal family’s relationship with charity groups that bankrolled al-Qaida before 9/11.

George W Bush, with Lee Hamilton on the left, speaks to the press after receiving a report of the Iraq study group.
George W Bush, with Lee Hamilton on the left, speaks to the press after receiving a report of the Iraq study group. Photograph: Larry Downing/REUTERS

However, the commission’s final report was still widely read as an exoneration, with a central finding by the commission that there was “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually” provided financial assistance to Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network. The statement was hailed by the Saudi government as effectively clearing Saudi officials of any tie to 9/11.

Last month Barack Obama, returning from a tense state visit to Saudi Arabia, disclosed the administration was nearing a decision on whether to declassify some or all of the 28 pages, which have been held under lock and key in a secure room beneath the Capitol since they were written in 2002. Just days after the president’s comments however, his CIA director, John Brennan, announced that he opposed the release of the congressional report, saying it contained inaccurate material that might lead to unfair allegations that Saudi Arabia was tied to 9/11.

In their joint statement last month, Kean and Hamilton suggested they agreed with Brennan and that there might be danger in releasing the full 28 pages. 

The congressional report was “based almost entirely on raw, unvetted material that came to the FBI”, they said. “The 28 pages, therefore, are comparable to preliminary law enforcement notes, which are generally covered by grand jury secrecy rules.” If any part of the congressional report is made public, they said, it should be redacted “to protect the identities of anyone who has been ruled out by authorities as having any connection to the 9/11 plot”.

Zelikow, the commission’s executive director, told NBC News last month that the 28 pages “provide no further answers about the 9/11 attacks that are not already included in the 9/11 commission report”. Making them public “will only make the red herring glow redder”.

But Kean, Hamilton and Zelikow clearly do not speak for a number of the other commissioners, who have repeatedly suggested they are uncomfortable with the perception that the commission exonerated Saudi Arabia and who have joined in calling for public release of the 28 pages.

Lehman and another commissioner, former Democratic senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, filed affidavits last year in support of a lawsuit brought against the Saudi government by the families of 9/11 victims. “Significant questions remain unanswered concerning possible involvement of Saudi government institutions and actors,” Kerrey said. Lehman agreed: “Contrary to the argument advocated by the Kingdom, the 9/11 commission did not exonerate Saudi Arabia of culpability for the events of 11 September 2001 or the financing of al-Qaida.” He said he was “deeply troubled” by the evidence gathered about a hijackers’ support network in California.

In an interview last week, congressman Roemer, the Democratic commissioner, suggested a compromise in releasing the 28 pages. He said that, unlike Kean and Hamilton, he was eager to see the full congressional report declassified and made public, although the 28 pages should be released alongside a list of pertinent excerpts of the 9/11 commission’s final report. “That would show what allegations were and were not proven, so that innocent people are not unfairly maligned,” he said. “It would also show there are issues raised in the 28 pages about the Saudis that are still unresolved to this day.”

Asked on Thursday if he had any comment on Lehman’s claim about individuals working for the Saudi government, White House press secretary Josh Earnest gave a two word answer: “I don’t.”
  • Philip Shenon is the author of The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation


  1. I think it's long past time for the Cherokee to start paying reparations for holding people in slavery.

    We need to start clearing the docket of past injustices before turning to new ones.

    1. And for running the Sioux out of their ancestral forest homelands too, and pushing them up north.

    2. I think the entire moslem world ought to be paying reparations to hundreds of millions of people for the crap they've pulled over the centuries. They ought to be paying for the next 1400 years.

    3. Most of the money in The Clinton Foundation probably ought to be given to the Libyan People, with some going to the victims of BillyGoat's sexual crimes.

      When you start thinking about reparations, the sky suddenly seems not even a limit.....

  2. Iran and Saudi Arabia are at odds over a raft of regional issues, notably the conflicts in Syria and Yemen in which they support opposing sides.


    Riyadh has repeatedly denounced Iranian “interference” in the region, and fears Tehran will be further emboldened under an international nuclear deal which this year began lifting sanctions on Iran.
    Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said in February that Iranian pilgrims were still welcome to visit Islam’s holiest sites in the kingdom, despite diplomatic tensions.

  3. May 13, 2016

    Interpreting the Latest Clinton Email Scandal Tea Leaves

    By Jonathan F. Keiler

    The most recent revelatory tea leaves available to interpret in the Clinton email scandal give us a bit more to go on. Those recent events are the Cheryl Mills FBI interview and FBI Director James Comey’s recent comments on Clinton’s characterization of the investigation as a “security inquiry.” In order of probability we can assume the following from these events:

    Strong Probability: The Justice Department has no interest in prosecuting Hillary or her aides in this scandal. This was already fairly evident in President Obama’s comments on it, and Justice’s acquiescence permitting Clinton’s top aides to be represented by the same well-connected Washington attorney. If there were any doubt about this, the circumstances of the Mills interview confirm Justice’s lack of interest. Not only were Mills and her attorney consulted beforehand regarding questioning, but they were permitted to make certain categories of inquiry off-limits. When an FBI agent diverted from the script, Mills and her attorney stopped the interview and lodged a protest. The interview then continued on their terms, with the pair taking further consultation breaks as needed. The restricted category of questioning has been described as touching on attorney-client privileged communications. This is clearly a very broad interpretation of privileged communications between Mills, Clinton, and her aides, but evidently one the Justice Department will respect. Since Mills is a lawyer it will put off-limits most critical communications between her, Hillary, and other Hillary aides.

    Moderately Strong Probability: The FBI is unhappy with the Justice Department’s determination to let Hillary and her aides skate in the email scandal. We know pretty much for sure at least one FBI agent is frustrated by Justice’s stance -- the agent who asked the prohibited question. We can assume that the agent did not make a mistake, since these matters are meticulously prepped and rehearsed. It is also unlikely that the agent acted on his/her own, since such a move might well be a career killer. Thus, it is also probable that the question was approved by at least the agent’s immediate supervisors if not higher up, as a way of embarrassing Justice and Mills, and making the FBI’s displeasure apparent. Adding credence to this interpretation were Director Comey’s comments mocking Hillary Clinton’s characterization of the case as a “security inquiry.” While Comey did not come out and say explicitly the investigation was criminal, that was the clear implication of his comments which also embarrassed Justice and the Clinton team.

    Lesser Probability: Comey is hedging his bets as Hillary Clinton’s political position weakens. As long as she was both the presumptive Democrat nominee and the prohibitive favorite to beat the probable Republican nominee, Comey -- an experienced political hand himself -- was determined to be very careful, since Clinton would be his likely future boss. As the inevitability of her ascension to the presidency weakens, Comey is becoming bolder, and also bolstering his supposed bona fides as an incorruptible lawman in the event the blunt and mercurial Trump wins the election. None of this will likely move Justice to prosecute Hillary, but it does increase the likelihood that the FBI will refer criminal charges to Justice, embarrass Clinton, and further erode her flagging political fortunes.

  4. What Has Israel Done For Us ?

  5. Possible "Q"Nit in Progress: Andrews Air Force Base: Woman With Bomb ? Muslima ?: Details Sketchy So Far....

    1. Cancel "Q"Nit Alert: All Clear Given

  6. {...}

    The number of minimum wage and part time workers has declined over the past five years. There are currently about 2.6 million workers earning the minimum wage. That’s up from 1.7 million in 2007, but down substantially from 4.4 million in 2010.

    There are currently about six million people who work part time but want full-time hours. That’s up from about four million in 2007, but down substantially from nine million in 2009 and 2010.


    1. Highlights

      The consumer snapped back to life in April, driving retail sales 1.3 percent higher to beat Econoday's consensus by 4 tenths and the high estimate by 1 tenth. Gains are spread throughout most of the report.

      Autos are the key component, up a sharp 3.2 percent to reverse the prior month's decline. Excluding autos, retail sales rose 0.8 percent.

      Sales at gasoline stations, boosted by higher prices, also contributed strongly, up 2.2 percent in the month. But even excluding both autos and gasoline, sales still rose 0.6 percent for the third straight gain, two of which are very strong.

      Apparel was a big contributor in April along with nonstore retailers and with restaurants also showing a gain. The only component in contraction was building materials & garden equipment which hints at a little cooling for what has been very solid residential investment.

      Year-on-year rates all improved though total sales remain very soft at 3.0 percent. Auto sales, pulled down by tough comparisons with very strong sales this time last year, are up only 3.1 percent on the year. But other components show strength with the ex-auto ex-gas rate at a healthy 4.4 percent for a 5 tenths gain in the month.

      Today's report points to a solid start for the second quarter and gives some life to the possibility of a June FOMC rate hike.

      Retail Sales

    2. Highlights

      Energy prices may be up but producer prices are still not showing much life, up only 0.2 percent in April. Excluding food & energy, prices rose only 0.1 percent.

      Details are mostly soft with goods up 0.2 percent and services, which have not been showing any life at all, up only 0.1 percent. And energy prices didn't rise that much at all, up 0.2 percent in the month, with food down 0.3 percent.

      Year-on-year rates are also stalled, unchanged for the total reading and up only 0.9 percent for the core. Judging by this report, inflationary benefits from higher oil prices and the lower dollar have yet to take hold.