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House of Bush, House of Saud
March 11, 2004 7:51 AM   Subscribe

The great escape - Immediately after 9/11, dozens of Saudi royals and members of the bin Laden family fled the U.S. in a secret airlift authorized by the Bush White House. One passenger was an alleged al-Qaida go-between, who may have known about the terror attacks in advance. Salon's first excerpt from Craig Unger's House of Bush, House of Saud. You'll watch an ad for Schindler's List on DVD and then...
posted by y2karl (47 comments total)

 
read a bon mot or two like

According to the same source, a young female member of the bin Laden family was the sole passenger on the first leg of the flight, from Los Angeles to Orlando. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, boarding any airplane was cause for anxiety. But now that the name Osama bin Laden had become synonymous with mass murder, boarding a plane with his family members was another story entirely. To avoid unnecessary dramas, the flight's operators made certain that the cockpit crew was briefed about who the passengers were -- the bin Ladens -- and the highly sensitive nature of their mission. However, they neglected to brief the flight attendants. On the flight from Los Angeles, the bin Laden girl began talking to an attendant about the horrid events of 9/11. "I feel so bad about it," she said. "Well, it's not your fault," replied the attendant, who had no idea who the passenger really was. "Yeah," said the passenger. "But he was my brother." "The flight attendant just lost it," the source said.

This is an interesting year for new nonfiction titles, isn't it?
posted by y2karl at 7:52 AM on March 11, 2004


The idea seems to defy logic somewhat -- if your name was Bin Laden and you knew what was going to happen on 9/11, would you really have stuck around the US and risked getting caught up in the aftermath?
posted by clevershark at 8:05 AM on March 11, 2004


UNGER: Well, that is certainly true, but you are referring to the May 12th bombing in 2003. Supposedly -- and President Bush said the Saudis were cooperative immediately after 9/11. What about the intervening year and a half? Why -- if they are so cooperative now, what was going on in the immediate year and a half right after 9/11?

BLITZER: What -- so what's the answer?

UNGER: Well, I think the Saudis have not been nearly so cooperative. And this goes back to the early years of the Clinton administration when the bombing started around '95 in Saudi Arabia, killing Americans in Riyadh. The Saudi Arabian national guard headquarters, Americans were killed there. They were killed in the Khobar Tower bombings.

And in each case, Saudis were executed at times without being allowed to be interviewed by FBI officials. So there's been a history of not being quite so cooperative as they have said they have been.

BLITZER: Craig Unger, a reporter, writer for "Vanity Fair." He's got a new book coming out next year: "House of Bush, House of Saud." I suspect the house of Bush and the house of Saud won't be happy with your book, Craig. But thanks very much for joining us.

UNGER: Thank you, Wolf.

posted by clavdivs at 8:05 AM on March 11, 2004


I'm waiting for somebody to type in "Why do you hate the House of Saud so much?"
posted by zaelic at 8:11 AM on March 11, 2004


As for Prince Ahmed, on July 22, 2002, he died mysteriously of a heart attack at the age of 43, so he was never interviewed about his connections to al-Qaida and his alleged foreknowledge of the events of 9/11

hmmmm.
posted by clavdivs at 8:13 AM on March 11, 2004


He said that several years earlier the royal family had made a deal with al-Qaida in which the House of Saud would aid the Taliban so long as al-Qaida kept terrorism out of Saudi Arabia.

it's just business
posted by larry_darrell at 8:18 AM on March 11, 2004


You'll watch an ad for Schindler's List on DVD and then...
what, will you sing, you have good saudi jokes, some soft-shoe?
what does this have to do with the story other then instructions on becoming a "day tripper" at Salon?
Are you giving us warning, instruction?

personally, send them all back if they want to go.

but wait...what about this.....

ohhh, spooky.

I hate this story because i wasted time to read things I knew before. BUT.

I hate this story because they call it the 'great escape' and dishonor the memory of Steve McQueen and, need I say, any "kreigie" who reads it.

I HATE VANITY FAIR. {but that is a bias}
posted by clavdivs at 8:23 AM on March 11, 2004


"Why do you hate the House of Saud so much?"

15 of 19.
posted by the fire you left me at 8:25 AM on March 11, 2004


This is an interesting year for new nonfiction titles, isn't it?

American Dinasty Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush
by Kevin Phillips

Intelligence Wars: American Secret History from Hitler to Al-Qaeda
by Thomas Powers

Terror in the Name of God
by Jessica Stern


coming soon:

Trust in the Gods, but Verify: Classical Intelligence Activities in Ancient Rome
by Rose Mary Sheldon
posted by matteo at 8:25 AM on March 11, 2004


if your name was Bin Laden and you knew what was going to happen on 9/11, would you really have stuck around the US and risked getting caught up in the aftermath?

The only way to know for sure was to get them out of the country as quickly as possible.
posted by subgenius at 8:29 AM on March 11, 2004


The only way to know for sure was to get them out of the country as quickly as possible.

I think you're not getting the question there...

If someone very directly tied to Osama had known what was going to happen on 9/11, logic would dictate that he'd have been on a plane home on 9/10.

Or at least shortly before September 2001, say after the terrorists had taken their "dry run" in August of that year. Not that people who are linked, directly or not, with suicide missions are usually Mensa material or anything, but it would seem quite sensible to avoid being there when it happens.
posted by clevershark at 8:36 AM on March 11, 2004


good Thomas Powers stuff

{don't Perle look like Charles Durning}
posted by clavdivs at 8:37 AM on March 11, 2004


Not that people who are linked, directly or not, with suicide missions are usually Mensa material

Head or Gut?
you pick.
posted by clavdivs at 8:39 AM on March 11, 2004


"Zubaydah spoke to his faux Saudi interrogators as if they, not he, were the ones in trouble. He said that several years earlier the royal family had made a deal with al-Qaida in which the House of Saud would aid the Taliban so long as al-Qaida kept terrorism out of Saudi Arabia. Zubaydah added that as part of this arrangement, he dealt with Prince Ahmed and two other members of the House of Saud as intermediaries, Prince Sultan bin Faisal bin Turki al-Saud, a nephew of King Fahd's, and Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabir, a 25-year-old distant relative of the king's. Again, he furnished phone numbers from memory.

According to Posner, the interrogators responded by telling Zubaydah that 9/11 changed everything. The House of Saud certainly would not stand behind him after that. It was then that Zubaydah dropped his real bombshell. "Zubaydah said that 9/11 changed nothing because Ahmed ... knew beforehand that an attack was scheduled for American soil that day," Posner writes. "They just didn't know what it would be, nor did they want to know more than that. The information had been passed to them, said Zubaydah, because bin Laden knew they could not stop it without knowing the specifics, but later they would be hard-pressed to turn on him if he could disclose their foreknowledge."

how do the bushies defend this? hama? paris? where are you?
posted by specialk420 at 9:17 AM on March 11, 2004


What in the hell is it going to take for Americans to open their eyes and see Bush for what he really is? I can't remember who said it (maybe quonsar) but, it was something to the effect of "George W. Bush could stab a child in the throat live on national television and his supporters would continue to support him." So true...
posted by wsg at 9:21 AM on March 11, 2004


Sorry 'bout that. /rant
posted by wsg at 9:28 AM on March 11, 2004


wow. can you find that quote?

:) i like it.


liberate quonsar
posted by specialk420 at 9:57 AM on March 11, 2004


How can you equate stabbing a child in the throat with assisting in evacuating high-ranking Saudi diplomats/business people and their relatives after 9-11? What were they supposed to do, wait around until someone got lynched?

Unless you have evidence that someone suspected of having involvement with the plot was allowed to leave, what's the issue here? Where's more about this al Qaeda go-between?
posted by techgnollogic at 10:17 AM on March 11, 2004


The only way to know for sure was to get them out of the country as quickly as possible.

I think you're not getting the question there...


No, I get the question. I also get the fact the government didn't seem to be too serious about posing the question to the Bin Ladens before helping them leave the country. Even if they had absolutely no knowledge of 9-11, they could have knowledge of where OBL is, how he communicates with people, how he gives and receives funds, ad infinitum.
posted by subgenius at 10:33 AM on March 11, 2004


Unless you have evidence that someone suspected of having involvement with the plot was allowed to leave, what's the issue here?

Apparently, that some people don't read the link. In fact, at least one person on that plane is now suspected of involvement with al Qaeda and may have known about the plot in advance. In any case, at least part of the issue is whether we would have done the same if those being transported were anything other than important Saudi nationals.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:00 AM on March 11, 2004


that someone suspected of having involvement with the plot was allowed to leave

did you read the f*ckin' article technollogic?


"The name Zubaydah gave came as a complete surprise to the CIA. It was Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, the owner of so many legendary racehorses and one of the most westernized members of the royal family."

"Ahmed ... knew beforehand that an attack was scheduled for American soil that day"

"Not that the FBI didn't have its chance at him. On Sept. 16, 2001, after the Bush administration had approved the Saudi evacuation, Prince Ahmed had boarded that 727 in Lexington, Ky. He had been identified by FBI officials, but not seriously interrogated. It was an inauspicious start to the just-declared war on terror. "What happened on Sept. 11 was a horrific crime," says John Martin, a former official in the Criminal Division of the Justice Department. "It was an act of war. And the answer is no, this is not any way to go about investigating it.""

pull your head out of the the sand techno - people like you really are something - if it had been clinton that had let these SOB's go - people like you would be screaming bloody murder. .... christ! you wonder why those of us who question bush and his motives get p*ssed at his dogged bush defenders like you, who when confronted with the facts ... continue to twist and turn and cling to your sad devotion to unelected president.
posted by specialk420 at 11:10 AM on March 11, 2004


Unless you have evidence that someone suspected of having involvement with the plot was allowed to leave, what's the issue here?

techgnollogic,

Doesn't it make sense that the family of Bin Laden would have some information pertinent to the investigation, or at least some valuable insight into Osama? They weren't interviewed. They were allowed to leave the country, no questions asked. The FBI should have questioned them, but apparently there was a hands-off policy that came directly from the highest offices of government. How can that not raise questions in any reasonable person's mind?
posted by wsg at 11:34 AM on March 11, 2004


If the binladens needed protection so badly, why didn't the administration simply send them to Dick Cheney's hole? We could've questioned them at length and they would have been safe.

It's not the nefariousness of it that pisses me off; it's the sheer stupidity and missed opportunity. Jesus fucking wept.
posted by DenOfSizer at 11:51 AM on March 11, 2004


Yes and the only source for the Zubaydah link is professional conspiracy theorist Gerald Posner. How would he know? Why should I believe anything he has to say? And what was the CIA supposed to do with information it obtained in March, 2002 regarding someone they allowed to leave the country in Sept, 2001? Are you under the impression that interrogating random Saudis and Bin Ladens with no known or apparent link to terrorism would have made them just up and roll over, spilling the beans of the whold conspiracy?

Why would the FBI just let all these Saudis leave if there was reason to believe they were involved in 9/11? Why would the administration just let that happen? Because they're in on it? That's the only reason I can think of... and that's a braindead conspiracy theory.

Oh, maybe the Sauds and the Bushes hatched this plot to kill 3000 people on 9/11 so that they could spark a war on terrorism and rid the world of the crazy islamists threatening the oil supply and the overthrow of the royal family. And the FBI and the FAA and the ATF and the CIA are ALL IN ON IT. They are all CONVINCED that it would be easier to kill 3000 Americans and let the bad guys fly away in posh custom jets than it would be for the Saudis to begin to institute liberalizing reforms in their own goddamn country with the help of the United Fucking States - reforms that a lot of Saudi citizens want. IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW.

If we'd detained and interrogated the bin ladens, this thread would probably have been called "FBI detains Saudis after 9/11 because they had the same last name as Osama."
posted by techgnollogic at 12:40 PM on March 11, 2004


There were all sorts of lapses and mistakes and gaps and goofs among all sorts of intelligence and law enforcement agencies that maybe could've potentially averted 9/11 had they not occurred, and it's vitally important that we recognize those flaws and mistakes and do whatever is in our power to avoid them in the future, but acting like they were all intentional and 9/11 was allowed to happen like part of some vast Bush/Saud conspiracy is stark-raving mad.
posted by techgnollogic at 12:47 PM on March 11, 2004


you know what techgno...

if... and that is a huge IF ... somehow, someone can justify allowing the families members, and known supporters of the greatest mass murderer in american history fly home days after the event without even cursory questioning ...

then why the h*ll doesn't the bush administration step up to the plate and admit to the fact that they ok'd the flights and justify the decision to let them go ...

rather than let peons like you try to defend the administration and it's outrageous policies?
posted by specialk420 at 1:22 PM on March 11, 2004


What known supporters? He was disowned by his family and stripped of his Saudi citizenship years ago.

Now as to why the FAA and the administration are denying the flights were allowed or occurred - THAT'S a legitimate question.
posted by techgnollogic at 1:43 PM on March 11, 2004


"christ! you wonder why those of us who question bush and his motives get p*ssed at his dogged bush defenders like you, who when confronted with the facts ... continue to twist and turn and cling to your sad devotion to unelected president."

Bush defenders/Clinton defenders two sides of the same coin. Change a few words in this quote and this could a neocon talking about rabid Clintonistas. But I digress...

To blame Bush for all of this is, in my opinion, unfair. Bush is no different than virtually every other politician on both sides of the aisle that for decades have been tripping over themselves to grovel before the oil fed cancer that is the House of Saud.

For some reason "chickens coming home to roost" keeps coming to mind.
posted by MikeMc at 1:47 PM on March 11, 2004


FOX News in the hen house - oh on!
posted by techgnollogic at 1:49 PM on March 11, 2004


er... oh NO rather.
posted by techgnollogic at 1:51 PM on March 11, 2004


He was disowned by his family

Correction: His family CLAIMS PUBLICLY they disowned him.
posted by crank at 2:12 PM on March 11, 2004


Fox News would not be in the henhouse except to report or opine:
A Wartime Chickenhawk To Run The Henhouse - Vote Chickenhawk!
posted by y2karl at 3:10 PM on March 11, 2004


OK. Nobody is seriously suggesting that the Bush administration knew that the World Trade Center would be attacked on 9/11. Nobody in the thread is saying so, the author of the book is not saying so.

The point is, people who may have had a great deal of information about Osama Bin Laden -- possibly including where he was, who his agents were, how they could be contacted, etc. -- were in the country when the attack occured. As far as we can tell, only one of them knew there would be an attack; it's likely that the others were completely ignorant of that specific fact. However, they may have known the things outlined above, things we needed quite desperately to know in the attack's aftermath.

The charge here is that the Bush administration, admittedly concerned with protecting people who largely were not guilty of this attack -- nobody's saying that poor woman who got bitched out by the flight attendant had something to do with planning 9/11 -- made the wrong call. They should've brought the members of the House of Saud to extremely deep cover (they were right to think that there would be public reprisals against them if they stayed in the country) and find out everything they knew. Yes, the Bushes had a privileged relationship with the family; and yes, the Bushes probably knew -- or at least suspected -- that members of the family might know more about Al-Qaeda than they were admitting. But they let them go anyway.

Why? I'm guessing it's just because in the immediate aftermath, they thought it much more important to keep Saudi Arabia as a generous ally than as a potentially bitter unwitting accomplice to terror. Not an idiotic call, but still the wrong one: If we'd interrogated the people who were flown out of the country as described, we probably could have caught Osama Bin Laden inside of a month after the attacks.

Am I messing something up? Have I clarified this for anyone?
posted by logovisual at 5:11 PM on March 11, 2004


Why would the FBI just let all these Saudis leave if there was reason to believe they were involved in 9/11? Why would the administration just let that happen?

i can't imagine
posted by larry_darrell at 5:30 PM on March 11, 2004


If we'd interrogated the people who were flown out of the country as described, we probably could have caught Osama Bin Laden inside of a month after the attacks.

How? Why? We knew he was in Afghanistan. What makes you think any of the Saudis would have known where he was? I don't think Atta could've told you where he was.
posted by techgnollogic at 6:07 PM on March 11, 2004


In any case, at least part of the issue is whether we would have done the same if those being transported were anything other than important Saudi nationals.

Well, we know that if they were Canadian, they'd have been shipped off to Syria to be tortured.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:10 PM on March 11, 2004


Pace techgnollogic, Posner is not a conspiracy theorist; he is the opposite, a conspiracy debunker. Check Amazon if you don't believe me and don't remember his famous ode to the lone gunman/magic bullet, "Case Closed". Posner is generally hated among conspiracy theorists and considered to be a CIA stooge. So, please do a little bit of research before you mouth off with such slanderous charges.
posted by mokujin at 6:11 PM on March 11, 2004


Did the Saudis buy a president? How much money has flowed from the House of Saud to the Bush family and its friends and allies over the years? No one will ever know -- but the number is at least $1.477 billion. Part 2 of Salon's exclusive excerpt from "House of Bush, House of Saud"
posted by homunculus at 8:07 PM on March 11, 2004


How? Why? We knew he was in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is a pretty big country, techgnollogic. And no, I don't think anybody from this group could have told us "Osama Bin Laden is at these precise coordinates" and then told us which mountain pass will allow us to get around the heavy rush-hour traffic on Route 9. However, it's clear that at least one person in this group did know associates of Bin Laden and members of Al-Qaeda quite personally, and had some knowledge of the way that they planned operations. Why should we have let somebody who was, theoretically, an ally of the United States leave the country without giving us that information? Indeed, we hurried him out of here, and placed him back in a country where agents of said terrorist group could easily find him and ensure his silence. Do you fundamentally deny the idea that this was an opportunity to get information that could have led to Bin Laden? Do you deny that this ever happened? I don't know what, exactly, you're arguing here, other than a contrary position. I guess if you just doubt Posner's facts entirely, you should go out and spend several years researching the situation so you can prove us all wrong; call me crazy, but at the moment, I'm gonna trust the guy who's devoted his life to the issue and is putting his information out to the public to be analyzed and vetted. That said...

Re: Part 2 -- more sobering stuff, although there are some obnoxious number-crunching details. Halliburton split a $40 million contract with two other companies, so why does he say they received $40 million? That's weak. I don't doubt the fundamentally tremendous nature of the Saudi financial transactions with Bush-specific interests, though.
posted by logovisual at 8:24 PM on March 11, 2004


The only people allowed to fly out of the country directly after 9/11 were Saudi royals or Bin Laden family members.

Just digest that for a moment.

The only people in the whole country that were offered the priviledge of flying carte blance around the country were those related to the guy who planned the whole thing? If it were in a movie script I wouldn't believe it possible. Why doesn't this raise more eyebrows among the right?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:47 PM on March 11, 2004


rather than let peons like you try to defend the administration and it's outrageous policies?

who in the fuck do you think you are, you made my day sweetheart. Your stupid ass can't even get a fact down, your idiot ass is worse then karls klown post decrying

hwhwhwhwhwhat wronnnnnnngggg with america.
frikkin cry baby.

The only people allowed to fly out of the country directly after 9/11 were Saudi royals or Bin Laden family members.

hey genius, how in the fuck do you know who was flying
HUH?

So, please do a little bit of research before you mouth off with such slanderous charges

The most that can be said in Posner's defense is that he seems to discredit some peripheral conspiracy arguments. But, when it comes to the central issues of the case--such as the direction and number of the shots, the magic bullet, the medical evidence, Oswald's role, etc.--Posner stumbles badly, at times offering theories and interpretations that are surprisingly strained. Also, Posner advances many claims that have already been refuted. CASE CLOSED is essentially another untenable defense of the Warren Commission's dubious single-assassin theory.

and you should too
posted by clavdivs at 9:26 AM on March 12, 2004


Your stupid ass can't even get a fact down, your idiot ass is worse then karls klown post decrying

Yeah, that's the ticket. Indulge yourself in your maggoty rancor and call names. Another we're-all-in'this-together world class contribution. How about once in awhile shooting off a round fully cocked sans the personal abuse, clav? Think you can handle that?
posted by y2karl at 10:04 AM on March 12, 2004


Ron Motley is suing prominent Saudis for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — and, as a result, meddling in international affairs. Do plaintiffs' lawyers have a place in foreign policy?
posted by homunculus at 8:14 PM on March 12, 2004


"hey genius, how in the fuck do you know who was flying
HUH?"

Wasn't all air travel restricted for something like 3 days? Wouldn't that make them (the Bin Laden family) the only ones who were being flown around American airspace, by deduction?

Also, the namecalling and profanity is uncalled for in a civil discussion.
posted by geekhorde at 12:54 AM on March 13, 2004


right, only saudis, geniuses.
no military, no civilian intelligence, cabinet, FBI people. emergency cases (only two i can find), Not to mention the COMPANY.
nothing but saudis
the title of my new poem decrying the the shame Bush put everyone through by grounding all civilian aircraft.

like some skit and karl, the three-day rule was in effect when i got PISSED, so what.

civil discussion. first create the truly cogent augment for the posts original intent and or meaning.

One passenger was an alleged al-Qaida go-between, who may have known about the terror attacks in advance

this is the contention no?
are we to wonder....hmmmm, your right karl, great post, does it foster discussion, perhaps, and how i treat one {here} is ancillary to my nature in {real life} just to catch you up on current events geekhoarde.
besides Quonsars banning has set me back meta-months in mischief and vitriol.

Homunculus has a point and has used a link and brevity to show this. perhaps i called him an ass or fool before, this does not preclude and rational outlook to others contribution to this point.

maggoty rancor, please ,your wormtoungeish posts cry derailment and vitriol for the spirited and mean. but maggoty? Cheap dickensonian retort that falls flat IMO.

FUCKING
{chuckle}
(luv ya karl)
posted by clavdivs at 12:56 PM on March 13, 2004


The Arabian candidate. Bush's close ties to Islamic lobbying groups -- and to an accused supporter of Palestinian terrorism -- may have brought him his razor-thin margin of victory in Florida. Part 3 of Salon's exclusive excerpt from "House of Bush, House of Saud"
posted by homunculus at 8:06 PM on March 14, 2004


perhaps i called him an ass or fool before

Not that I recall, but it goes without saying.
posted by homunculus at 8:08 PM on March 14, 2004


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