Is There Evidence Of Saudi Deception In The Sept. 11 Report?

Apr 28, 2016
Originally published on April 28, 2016 11:08 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

All right, let's stay with those 28 pages for another moment. NPR's national security correspondent, Mary Louise Kelly, is part of the NPR reporting team that covered the investigations into 9/11 years ago. She's back in our studios once again. Welcome back.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, BYLINE: Thank you.

INSKEEP: So is there evidence of aggressive deception in covering up for the Saudis here?

KELLY: Not that has been made public. We did, of course, reach out to the FBI and see if they wanted to respond to those allegations. They declined to comment. But let me say the 9/11 Commission, which was formed in part to follow on the work that Sen. Graham's team was doing, they have seen the 28 pages. They say they have run the leads in them to the ground and that they found, as we heard, no evidence that Saudi Arabia, either as a government or senior officials acting as individuals, funded al-Qaida.

INSKEEP: Well, let's ask about that loophole that Sen. Graham mentioned. The royal family seemed to be excused in that follow-up investigation, but he said that other people weren't mentioned. Is there still room for someone else quite senior in Saudi Arabia to have been involved?

KELLY: There is room. I mean, that language does not rule out, for example, that lower-level level officials in the Saudi government were in some way funding al-Qaida. It also doesn't rule out that rich Saudi donors were giving money to charities and that those charities had some sort of financial link to al-Qaida. There's still a lot we don't know.

INSKEEP: What do the Saudis say?

KELLY: The Saudis say they would love to see these 28 pages released. They say they have been unfairly maligned, that they would like to clear their name and that they can't respond to a blank page.

INSKEEP: And let's remember here, this is not just about accountability. It's about a lawsuit and legislation that would allow the Saudis to be sued. What are the Saudis saying about that?

KELLY: The Saudis have said - and this is part of, I think, a window into the broader diplomatic tension here. I mean, one of the reasons that these 28 pages have not been made public is fear about what blowback that might cause for U.S.-Saudi diplomatic relations. And as this bill that might allow 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia makes its way through Congress, the Saudis have said, really? If that's allowed to go forward, maybe we'll just sell off $750 billion in U.S. assets. This was a big point of tension on President Obama's recent trip to Riyadh.

INSKEEP: Mary Louise, thanks very much.

KELLY: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR national security correspondent Mary Louise Kelly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.