Suaram the Deafness Before the Storm

Suaram says it is being persecuted by the Malaysian Government

Human rights group Suaram has claimed that it is being persecuted by the authorities for having filed a case in the French courts on alleged corruption in Malaysia’s purchase of two Scorpene-class submarines.

“The BN government has embarked on this shameful frame-up to the extent (of) perverting the government agencies and civil servants for this purpose,” Suaram Executive Director E Nalini  said in a statement today.

“It is clear that these desperate actions by the government are attempts to discredit Suaram and its selfless service to the rakyat and to stop Suaram from revealing further damning evidence relating to the Scorpene scandal.”

Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry Ismail Sabri Yaakob had repeatedly questioned Suaram’s financial sources and stated that the Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM) was looking at its German funding as well as possible links to currency speculator George Soros (picture above).

The passage of time since September 11, 2001, has not diminished the distrust many of us feel surrounding the official story of how 9/11 happened and, more specifically, who financed and supported it. After eleven years, the time has come for the families of the victims, the survivors and all Americans to get the whole story behind 9/11.

Yet the story of who may have facilitated the 19 hijackers and the infrastructure that supported the attacks — a crucial element of the narrative — has not been told. The pieces we do have underscore how much more remains unknown.

Did the hijackers execute the plot alone, or did they have the support of forces other than the known leaders of al-Qaeda — a network even — that provided funds, assistance, and cover?

It is not merely a question of the need to complete the historical record. It is a matter of national security today.

If a support network was available to the terrorists before 9/11, why should we think it has now disbanded or been rolled up? It may still be in place, capable of supporting al-Qaeda or other extremist groups that hate America — of which there are many.

This is also about justice. Thousands of Americans, who suffered unimaginable loss, have been denied their day in court in part because evidence of support was either never gathered by law enforcement or remains locked away, sealed as “Classified.”

From the outset of the Congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11, it seemed implausible that the hijackers — most of whom spoke no English and had never been to the U.S. — could have executed the heinous plot on their own. The inquiry proved those suspicions justified, and a 28-page chapter in its report centered on sources of foreign support for some of the September 11 hijackers while they were in the United States. That chapter remains censored, denied to the American people.

Sadly, those 28 pages represent only a fraction of the evidence of Saudi complicity that our government continues to shield from the public, under a flawed classification program which appears to be part of a systematic effort to protect Saudi Arabia from any real accountability for its actions. For example, after a nearly eight year delay, the CIA recently responded to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests submitted on behalf of the 9/11 families in 2004, for reports and documents cited in the notes of the 9/11 Commission’s Final Report. Unfortunately, when it came to documents such as a 16-page CIA report titled “Saudi Based Financial Support for Terrorist Organizations,” our own government redacted every word of substantive text.

Despite the carefully orchestrated campaign to protect our Saudi “friends,” ample evidence of Saudi Arabia’s intimate ties to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks has come to light. The executive director of the 9/11 Commission, Dr. Philip Zelikow, stated in 2007 that while at that time he did not feel the evidence established “Saudi government agents,” were involved “there is persuasive evidence of a possible support network…”

The information indicating there were networks, foreign sources of support within the United States other than al-Qaeda, and that those networks had the backing of Saudi Arabia, is today stronger than ever.

Here are some of the pieces of the puzzle.

Much of what we know has been learned through the energy and competence of external investigators, state and local law enforcement officers, reporters and authors, and plaintiffs’ attorneys. Concisely:

Often over the FBI’s objections, the Congressional Joint Inquiry uncovered a good deal about a support network in San Diego, California. There, a man named Omar al-Bayoumi, whom the FBI had identified as a Saudi agent even before 9/11, provided direct assistance to future hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar. Those two Saudi citizens, who came to the U.S. only ten days after attending a terrorist summit, were the vanguard of the operation on U.S. territory. Bayoumi, a “ghost employee,” was paid by a Saudi company but not expected to report for work. The company’s monthly non-salary payments to him increased eight-fold after the two hijackers arrived in San Diego. He and his family left the country seven weeks before 9/11.

The FBI withheld from the Congressional Inquiry, and from the subsequent 9/11 Commission, the fact that it had investigated another potential support pod for the hijackers in Sarasota, Florida. That information became public on the tenth anniversary last year, following persistent work by Anthony Summers, co-author of The Eleventh Day, this year’s Pulitzer Prize for History finalist, and his colleague Dan Christensen, an investigative journalist in South Florida with BrowardBulldog.org.

In the Sarasota case, law enforcement officials suspected that several hijackers, including their leader Mohamed Atta, repeatedly visited the home of a Saudi couple in a suburban gated community. Their visits, sources who were involved at the time say, were on record — the license plates of vehicles they used to enter the community had been automatically photographed. The Saudi couple abruptly left their posh home, bound for Saudi Arabia, about two weeks before 9/11. The husband and his father-in-law were apparently on a watch list at the FBI and a U.S. agency involved in tracking terrorist funds was interested in both men even before 9/11.

When the Sarasota case erupted in September of 2011, the FBI issued two public statements, each of which declared there had been a full investigation of the alleged relationship between hijackers and persons in Sarasota; that investigation determined there was no such relationship; and that the Congressional Joint Inquiry and the 9/11 Commission had been informed.

Through personal knowledge, interviews and files which were made available it was found that these public statements were untrue.

In July of this year, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Committee on Homeland Security, issued a 330-page report faulting banking giant HSBC for ignoring the ties to terrorist financing of Al Rajhi Bank, Saudi Arabia’s largest private bank. The report states that after the 9/11 attacks, “evidence began to emerge that Al Rajhi Bank and some of its owners had links to organizations associated with financing terrorism, including that one of the bank’s founders was an early financial benefactor of al Qaeda.” This individual was identified in the report as being part of Osama bin-Laden’s “Golden Chain” of al-Qaeda financiers.

Other information indicating that there was a Saudi role has come from the determined litigation by survivors of 9/11, the families of the dead and property insurers. A U.S. report, disclosed only after a FOIA lawsuit, hints at deeper institutional links between the Kingdom and al-Qaeda. It states that the Saudi charity, International Islamic Relief Organization’s (IIRO), “support for terrorist organizations began in the early 1990s and continued through at least the first half of 2006” and linked a Saudi IIRO official to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

The legal efforts that target Saudi Arabia, however, have so far been thwarted. The Saudis have been able to dodge the suits, thanks to what is known as “sovereign immunity” which exempts most foreign states from being sued.

The Saudis claimed, meanwhile, that the 9/11 Commission Report exonerated the Kingdom. As former U.S. senator and 9/11 Commission member Bob Kerrey — and one of the authors of this article Bob Graham, as co-chair of the Congressional Joint Inquiry —emphasized in affidavits filed last March, the Commission and the congressional inquiry did not do that at all.

Our Department of State supported the Saudis’ dismissal from the litigation, arguing that delicate matters of U.S.-Saudi relations should be handled not by the judiciary but by the executive branch. An appellate court later found this to be an erroneous interpretation of the law in a case against Afghanistan, but the State Department’s intervention on behalf of Saudi Arabia in the 9/11 families’ suit had already placed the Kingdom beyond judicial reach.

What should the United States do now?

The investigation of the extent of foreign support for the 9/11 hijackers ought to be reopened by the president, who has the authority to order the FBI to pursue the existing leads seriously, or he should designate another appropriate entity to do so. This investigation should reach all the places where the hijackers spent significant time, such as Paterson, New Jersey, Falls Church and Arlington, Virginia, and Delray Beach, Florida.

The president should also order the declassification of the relevant documents. They have been hidden from the American people too long. That declassification must include the 28-page chapter that has been censored from the report of the Congressional Joint Inquiry, as well as the reports cited in the notes of the 9/11 Commission’s Final Report concerning al-Qaeda’s financial and logistical support network.

The Congress should amend the sovereign immunity statute. Those who framed it did not intend that it should shield terrorists or their collaborators from claims against them for the murder of Americans on U.S. soil. A bill pending in both the Senate and House called the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which enjoys broad bi-partisan (or more accurately non-partisan) support, would achieve that goal through modest amendments to the sovereign immunity statute, and should be passed immediately.

What the Joint Inquiry learned — and has emerged since — shows where the proverbial finger of suspicion points. It points to Saudi Arabia, and we need to know the full truth.

Bob Graham is a former U.S. Senator from Florida, Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and co-Chair of the Congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11. He is the author of two books on 9/11. Sharon Premoli, a survivor of the attack on the North Tower of the World Trade Center, now runs the website Justiceagainstterrorism.net.

‘Gov’t jumping the gun’

“Suaram condemns the Domestic Trade Minister for making a statement that Suaram will be prosecuted and that our accounts are ‘highly suspicious’ even while the investigation is still ongoing.

“Suaram has all along complied fully with the Companies Act in our dealings and our accounts are fully audited every year,” said Nalini.

On July 3 the CCM had attempted to serve a Notice of Inspection on Suaram but the NGO only received the notice 10 days later, after regulators ran into several technical glitches.

Suaram on July 20 furnished CCM with the requested documents – among them information on the company’s bank statements, business activities and administrative expenses for four years beginning 2008.

On September 3, Ismail Sabri declared Suaram’s accounts to be “highly suspicious” and two days later CCM seized documents from Suaram’s company secretary and auditors.

Subsequently, Wisma Putra took the German Embassy to task for allegedly funding of Suaram, while Ismail Sabri said it had identified five charges under the Companies Act 1965 against Suara Inisiatif Sdn Bhd – the vehicle for Suaram.

by Kua Kia Soong @http://www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT : In the BN government’s on-going witch hunt against Suaram to try to discredit us for pursuing the suspected corruption scandal over the Scorpene deal in the Paris court, they now try to suggest that there is a problem with us having received funds from George Soros’ Open Society Institute.

The Domestic Trade Minister wants Bank Negara to investigate if there is “money laundering” involved. In so doing, the Minister has unwittingly put Bank Negara in an embarrassing position.

George Soros is well known as a currency speculator, philanthropist and promoter of open society. What is baffling is the BN government’s problem with Soros.

From the BN government’s propaganda, there seem to be two problems: (i) He is Jewish. (ii) He is a currency speculator.

The fact that being ethnically Jewish (rather than being a Zionist) can be the basis for derision and condemnation in Malaysia (especially in the UMNO press) is evidence of the racist nature of the governing regime.

This speaks volumes about UMNO’s capacity for providing a non-racist path to progress in Malaysia. Suaram certainly does not have a problem with Soros’ ethnicity.

Smart Speculator

Soros has a reputation as a smart currency speculator. But he has made his millions through his own means and devices. On the other hand, our own Bank Negara under former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s  watch speculated in the international currency markets from 1992-94 using the rakyat’s money and incurred losses cited as ranging from RM10-30 billion!

It has been claimed that the maximum exposure of Malaysian taxpayers’ money in the forex market during that irresponsible fling was as much as RM270 billion. (Malaysian Business, April 1994)

It was the biggest disaster ever for Bank Negara which had to be bailed out by the Finance Ministry in 1994 but the biggest heads have yet to roll! It was after this fiasco and one of Mahathir’s most humiliating performances that he, in a pique of rage, called Soros a “moron”. When the 1997 Asian financial crisis struck, Soros was again blamed.

However, Mahathir eventually had to eat humble pie at a press conference with Soros on December 2006 at which he accepted that Soros had not been responsible for the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

Thus, after the 1992-94 forex scandal one would have thought that the BN government would think twice about denouncing currency speculators.

No compromise

Through the 23 years of Suaram’s existence, we have never compromised our principled stand on freedom, justice, democracy and human rights. We have never been beholden to any funders, whether foreign or local, as our anti-imperialist stand and actions in the Anti-War Coalition testify.

From the Domestic Trade Minister’s irresponsible statements about charging our company while CCM is still investigating the case and this latest gaffe involving Soros, the BN government appears to be shooting itself in the foot.

On the one hand, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is trying so hard to present himself as a reformer by promising more democracy, the rule of law and human rights in the run-up to the 13th general election.

On the other, his Minister continues to violate all these principles of good governance in his haste to try to discredit Suaram.

This seems to be the Prime Minister’s dilemma. His words do not seem to match the BN government’s actions and with every gaffe by blundering ministers, we seem to be sliding down the slippery road to banana republicanism.

On Aug. 6, 2001, President George W. Bush received a classified review of the threats posed by Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, Al Qaeda. That morning’s “presidential daily brief” — the top-secret document prepared by America’s intelligence agencies — featured the now-infamous heading: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” A few weeks later, on 9/11, Al Qaeda accomplished that goal.

On April 10, 2004, the Bush White House declassified that daily brief — and only that daily brief  in response to pressure from the 9/11 Commission, which was investigating the events leading to the attack. Administration officials dismissed the document’s significance, saying that, despite the jaw-dropping headline, it was only an assessment of Al Qaeda’s history, not a warning of the impending attack. While some critics considered that claim absurd, a close reading of the brief showed that the argument had some validity.

That is, unless it was read in conjunction with the daily briefs preceding Aug. 6, the ones the Bush administration would not release. While those documents are still not public, I have read excerpts from many of them, along with other recently declassified records, and come to an inescapable conclusion: the administration’s reaction to what Mr. Bush was told in the weeks before that infamous briefing reflected significantly more negligence than has been disclosed. In other words, the Aug. 6 document, for all of the controversy it provoked, is not nearly as shocking as the briefs that came before it.

The direct warnings to Mr. Bush about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

But some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat. Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives’ suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day.

In response, the C.I.A. prepared an analysis that all but pleaded with the White House to accept that the danger from Bin Laden was real.

“The U.S. is not the target of a disinformation campaign by Usama Bin Laden,” the daily brief of June 29 read, using the government’s transliteration of Bin Laden’s first name. Going on for more than a page, the document recited much of the evidence, including an interview that month with a Middle Eastern journalist in which Bin Laden aides warned of a coming attack, as well as competitive pressures that the terrorist leader was feeling, given the number of Islamists being recruited for the separatist Russian region of Chechnya.

And the C.I.A. repeated the warnings in the briefs that followed. Operatives connected to Bin Laden, one reported on June 29, expected the planned near-term attacks to have “dramatic consequences,” including major casualties. On July 1, the brief stated that the operation had been delayed, but “will occur soon.” Some of the briefs again reminded Mr. Bush that the attack timing was flexible, and that, despite any perceived delay, the planned assault was on track.

Yet, the White House failed to take significant action. Officials at the Counterterrorism Center of the C.I.A. grew apoplectic. On July 9, at a meeting of the counterterrorism group, one official suggested that the staff put in for a transfer so that somebody else would be responsible when the attack took place, two people who were there told me in interviews. The suggestion was batted down, they said, because there would be no time to train anyone else.

That same day in Chechnya, according to intelligence I reviewed, Ibn Al-Khattab, an extremist who was known for his brutality and his links to Al Qaeda, told his followers that there would soon be very big news. Within 48 hours, an intelligence official told me, that information was conveyed to the White House, providing more data supporting the C.I.A.’s warnings. Still, the alarm bells didn’t sound.

On July 24, Mr. Bush was notified that the attack was still being readied, but that it had been postponed, perhaps by a few months. But the president did not feel the briefings on potential attacks were sufficient, one intelligence official told me, and instead asked for a broader analysis on Al Qaeda, its aspirations and its history. In response, the C.I.A. set to work on the Aug. 6 brief.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Bush officials attempted to deflect criticism that they had ignored C.I.A. warnings by saying they had not been told when and where the attack would occur. That is true, as far as it goes, but it misses the point. Throughout that summer, there were events that might have exposed the plans, had the government been on high alert. Indeed, even as the Aug. 6 brief was being prepared, Mohamed al-Kahtani, a Saudi believed to have been assigned a role in the 9/11 attacks, was stopped at an airport in Orlando, Fla., by a suspicious customs agent and sent back overseas on Aug. 4. Two weeks later, another co-conspirator, Zacarias Moussaoui, was arrested on immigration charges in Minnesota after arousing suspicions at a flight school. But the dots were not connected, and Washington did not react.

Could the 9/11 attack have been stopped, had the Bush team reacted with urgency to the warnings contained in all of those daily briefs? We can’t ever know. And that may be the most agonizing reality of all.

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Kurt Eichenwald, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a former reporter for The New York Times, is the author of “500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars.”

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