Vappala Balachandran | 18 FEBRUARY, 2015
‘Reserve” Hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui creates a new storm over 9/11
MUMBAI: 9/11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui’s statement alleging involvement of some Saudi Arabian royal family members in terrorist attacks against the US was highlighted by the world media on February 5.
Moussaoui who was suspected to be the “reserve” hijacker was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2006. He is being held in the maximum security prison in Colorado. Last year he had written to the New York federal judge who is hearing a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia, filed by the relatives of those killed during 9/11. He wanted to testify in that case. Following this, a team of lawyers was permitted in October 2014 to enter his prison and question him for two days. His 100 page testimony was filed at the federal court on February 2, 2015.
The contents of his statement have caused global sensation as it coincided with the change of guard in Saudi Arabia.
Following this allegation, there is a clamour in the US to declassify Part Four of the Permanent Congressional Joint Intelligence Committees’ report. The US Congress had initially instituted a joint Senate-House enquiry through their permanent intelligence committees to probe into the 9/11 attack well before the President had instituted a National Commission (Kean-Hamilton Commission) on 27 November, 2002. This was described as unprecedented in the Congressional history. The report numbering 838 pages was submitted on December 20, 2002.
The Committees held nine public hearings and 13 closed sessions. 600 witnesses from intelligence, local law & order agencies and private sector were interviewed. The report was initially classified as “Top Secret” as it contained classified intelligence. However Senator Bob Graham (Chairman) and Senator Richard Shelby (Vice-Chairman) had explicitly stated in their letter to Senator Robert Byrd, President pro-tempore of the Senate, that the classified portions would be submitted for declassification and the entire unclassified text of the report would be produced “as early as possible in the 108th Congress”. This did not happen as the 108th Congress ended on January 3, 2005. Part Four is “Finding, discussions & narrative regarding certain sensitive national security matters”. This portion was held back while releasing other contents for public perusal in 2002. Even the released pages contained a lot of redacted portions. According to The New York Times, Bob Graham has now called for the release of part four which had dealt with Saudi Arabia.
Moussaoui now says that he was asked by Qaeda leaders to prepare a digital data base of donors in 1998 or 1999. According to The New York Times, he had said in halting English (His mother-tongue is French): “Sheikh Osama wanted me to keep a record who give money… who is to be listened to or who contributed to the jihad”. He had named Prince Turki al-Faisal, then Saudi Intelligence Chief, Prince Bander Bin-Sultan, long time Saudi ambassador to United States and Prince al-Waleed bin Talal. He also claimed that he had discussed a plan “to shoot down Air Force One with a stinger missile with a staff member at the Saudi Embassy in Washington”. He further said that he had acted as bin Laden’s courier for carrying personal messages to “Prominent Saudi princes and clerics”. Kean-Hamilton Commission who had opportunity to gather more details on 9/11 confirms Moussaoui’s proximity with bin Laden. They said that Moussaoui had been selected and assigned by bin Laden himself for the 9/11 operation.
The Saudi Embassy denounced the allegations on February 2 calling Moussaoui a “deranged criminal whose own lawyers presented evidence that he was mentally incompetent”. It is true that he was diagnosed to have mental illness but was certified fit to stand trial. Even during his Colorado deposition he “was of completely sound mind” according media, who quoted a lawyer who was present.
The Senate-House enquiry revealed total lack of coordination between CIA and FBI. On March 5, 2000 CIA received information that Nawaf al- Hazmi and al-Mihdhar had entered the US in January. CIA also was aware of an earlier meeting of Arab Afghan veterans including Hazmi and Mihdhar in Malaysia in January. Al-Mihdhar’s call to a telephone in Yemen which was earlier used by bin Laden was also intercepted. They came to San Diego for flight training. The CIA did not inform FBI about their possible arrival in USA. Had they informed, these two could have been kept under close watch since FBI had a source in San Diego who could have access to people like Hazmi and Mihdhar.
Moussaoui entered on a French passport through Chicago on February 23, 2001. Since he arrived without a visa he was permitted to stay only for 90 days. He had come for flight simulator training for crop dusting work. First he tried to get training at Oklahoma but shifted to Minnesota at “Pan Am”, a flight school. His conduct was suspicious. On August 15 a Pan Am employee alerted FBI’s Minneapolis field office. He was taken into custody on August 16 for overstaying his stay permit. His computer and papers were not searched although he was initially suspected for a possible hijacking attempt. The Senate-House report said that FBI wasted precious time in trying to connect him with a Chechen- al Qaeda plot. Later Kean-Hamilton Commission corrected this impression saying that it was based on a French government reply. The FBI wanted to deport him to France.
On July 10, 2001 FBI’s Phoenix field office sent a general alert to FBI’s HQ and “bin-Laden special unit” that some suspicious Arab trainees were being seen in America. All these bits of information on Hazmi, Mihdhar and Moussaoui lay dormant on intelligence files till 9/11 attack took place. Surprisingly the CIA sent a “Daily Brief” to the President on August 6, 2001 titled “Bin Laden determined to strike in US”. However it contained no specific information on the attack. The story unfolded was a classic case study of how intelligence could slip between the cracks without adequate coordination.
9/11 had attracted several conspiracy theories. The “Truth Movement” alleges “cover up” or “insider job” on 9/11. Will Moussaoui’s allegations be another strand in the “9/11 truth Movement”?