Since the mid-eighties, British and American politicians have been operating under suspicion of being compromised by al-Yamamah, the $80 billion Anglo-Saudi black operations slush fund. It is the product of the 20-year oil-for-arms barter deal, wherein BAE Systems (formerly British Aerospace), Britain’s largest defense contractor, reportedly paid bribes to sell combat fighter planes, helicopters, tanks and ammunitions to Saudi Arabia. In return for the arms, the Saudi’s agreed to supply hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day to the British. It was the largest arms deal in UK history that was arranged in a way that circumvented any potential objections by the U.S. Congress.
BAE (the world’s second largest defense company) was said to have paid millions into accounts controlled by Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a highly influential former ambassador to Washington, DC. Prince Bandar’s close ties to the Bush family prompted the nickname “Bandar Bush”. Bandar’s children reportedly attended school with Cheney’s grandchildren. The power Bandar wielded was extraordinary. For decades he was a close friend to five U.S. Presidents and numerous CIA directors, as well as heads of state and monarchs of other countries. In the Bush years, Bandar became virtually part of the administration, able to enter the White House unannounced. Ever a master manipulator, Bandar skillfully controlled the mainstream media, with the Washington Post being his paper of choice when it came to royal leaks.
Bandar had his hand in some of the biggest scandals in modern history. During the Reagan presidency, Bandar secured the purchase of AWACs surveillance aircraft, despite opposition from AIPAC (after the U.S. rejected an arms order, Bandar covertly arranged the delivery of intermediate-range nuclear-warhead-capable missiles from China). He was exposed for his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal, having arranged $32 million in Saudi financing for the Nicaraguan Contras. Bandar’s wife was reportedly sending money to one of the 9/11 hijackers. President George W. Bush told Prince Bandar about the invasion of Iraq before he told Secretary of State Colin Powell about it (incidentally, another one of Prince Bandar’s close connections).
Planning wars is just one of many perks that come with having friends in high places. Those connections came in handy when Bandar was accused of siphoning off $100 million per year for 10 years, in a $2 billion contract between Saudi Arabia and BAE.
The al-Yamamah “slush fund” was first reported by a whistleblower in 2001, but British Ministry of Defense covered up those allegations. In 2004, another whistleblower disclosed further details of the bribery scandal to the Guardian, prompting an investigation by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office.
In 2005, British Prime Minister Tony Blair made a secret visit to Riyadh to expedite one of BAE’s deals with the Saudi princes. Blair agreed to sell to the Saudis 24 jets ahead of schedule, by letting them get their hands on the jets that were already allotted for the British armed forces.
In 2006, when investigators were about to gain access to the Swiss bank accounts linked to Saudi royal family, Tony Blair blocked a corruption investigation against them. Blair said that the probe would have led nowhere except to the “complete wreckage” of a vital strategic relationship. Translation: “We don’t want to upset our rich Saudi benefactors.” The Saudis were apparently threatening to back out of a lucrative deal and to halt their participation in anti-terrorism efforts. Bandar had arrogantly warned a U.K. official that “British lives on British streets were at risk” if the investigation was allowed to continue.
The British High Court ruled that then-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government may have interfered with the rule of law in December 2006, when it ordered the British government’s Serious Fraud Office to shut down its bribery investigation. Blair claimed that his decision to scrap the probe was made purely in the interest of national security. The court blasted him in a scathing rebuke that stated in part, “No one, whether within this country or outside, is entitled to interfere with the course of our justice…It is the failure of Government… to bear that essential principle in mind that justifies the intervention of this court.” Blair also ensured that the report by the National Audit Office (NAO) on BAE’s dealings in Saudi Arabia was not published. It remains the only NAO report never to have been made public. British Ministry of Defense stated, “The report remains sensitive. Disclosure would harm both international relations and the UK’s commercial interests.”
In 2007, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the world’s anti-bribery watchdog, rebuked the government for terminating SFO investigation and launched its own inquiry. During the same year, the U.S. Department of Justice was forced to investigate, since the U.K. government was criticized in the press for halting the inquiry. The DOJ had the jurisdiction, since Prince Bandar received some of the funds in question in Washington, DC.
Prince Bandar has retained former FBI Director Louis Freeh to represent him in connection with the DOJ probe. In a videotaped interview, Freeh admitted on behalf of Bandar that approximately $2 billion was sent from the al-Yamamah account in the United Kingdom to bank accounts of the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation at Riggs Bank in Washington, DC. Prince Bandar, who was serving at the time as Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. exercised control and had signatory authority over those bank accounts. Freeh admits that these monies were sent to purchase arms through the offices of BAE, which was done in a way that would circumvent “objection” by the U.S. Congress.
Interestingly enough, former FBI Director Louis Freeh is linked to another aspect of 9/11, as a former boss of John Patrick O’Neill, a top American anti-terrorism expert. In 1995, O’Neill investigated the roots of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing after he assisted in the capture of Ramzi Yousef. He also investigated the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia and the 2000 USS Cole bombing in Yemen.
After years of investigating terrorism, O’Neill was convinced that “All the answers, everything needed to dismantle Osama Bin Laden’s organization can be found in Saudi Arabia.” In spite of praising O’Neill and his efforts, not everyone shared his enthusiasm for pursuing and exposing the Saudi links to terror. O’Neill voiced his frustrations with Saudis’ lack of cooperation to Freeh.
As a Director of the FBI, Freeh was involved in controversial investigations of the events at the Ruby Ridge and Waco. The FBI under Freeh was accused of such severe cover-ups that U.S. Marshals had to be dispatched to relieve them of the evidence. Businessweek called for Freeh to resign, stating in part that he “has overseen a bureau that has bungled investigations of high-profile criminal cases and repeatedly misled probers and judges in legal proceedings — never more shamelessly than in the matter of Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee. At the same time, Freeh’s FBI has tried to run roughshod over the civil liberties of ordinary citizens, demanding access to encryption codes and elbowing its way onto every PC in the country through its Carnivore project.”
The New York Times wrote that “Freeh will probably go down as either the F.B.I. director who slept as terrorists prepared to attack the World Trade Center or as the man who hounded Bill Clinton for seven years.” Interestingly enough, just like Freeh, Bandar has been working to undermine President Bill Clinton for quite some time.
John P. O’Neill certainly wasn’t sleeping on his watch or worrying about sexual proclivities of mischievous Presidents. He had gained a tremendous knowledge of Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda terrorist network, but was repeatedly excluded from terrorism investigations. He became the target of a smear campaign and was subjected to petty internal inquiries. This is not uncommon within federal government, as a tactic that is routinely used to silence those who come across any information that has the potential of embarrassing the government. Freeh was reportedly involved in those attempts to force O’Neill out of the Bureau.
After leaving the FBI, O’Neill became the head of security at the World Trade Center, where he perished in the September 11, 2001 attacks, while attempting to save others.
In a book “The Age of Sacred Terror”, Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon state that Louis Freeh deliberately withheld information about Bin Laden and the precursors for the attack of 9/11 from the White House.
Richard A. Clarke, a former top counter-terrorism advisor for the White House, criticized Freeh and his actions in his book, “Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror.” Clarke also expressed serious concerns about Freeh’s representation of Bandar, stating, “Someone who characterizes himself as a U.S. patriot and national security advocate ought not to be on the side of someone blackmailing people not to investigate crimes by threatening to withdraw a nation’s cooperation against terrorists.”
Prior to his tenure as the FBI Director, Freeh was appointed by President George H. W. Bush as a U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York. He also forged an alliance with “Bandar Bush”. Freeh traveled to Saudi Arabia many times, meeting with Bandar and the highest levels of Saudi government in a relationship that started during Freeh’s investigation of the 1996 Khobar bombing. The secrecy surrounding it has been such that Dale Watson, the FBI’s Chief of Counter-Terrorism, once said, “It’s a killing offense around here to talk about it.”
What was Freeh doing during that time? He started courting Bandar, spending time in his heavily guarded mansion in McLean, Virginia. Bandar also visited Freeh at his FBI office, where the privileged Saudi visitor was the only one ever allowed to smoke cigars. Louis Freeh was bending over backwards to express his respect of the Arab culture and Sharia. He was “cultivating personal relationships” with Bandar, as well as the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and other prominent Saudi officials. Freeh said, “The statutory authorities and the resources and all the other factors are significant, but my experience is that none of them are as important as those relationships.”
Could those relationships be the reason behind Freeh’s failure to pursue Saudi links to terror? His shameless hobnobbing with the Saudis has proven to be important (and lucrative) indeed, since Louis Freeh left the FBI and went on to represent Prince Bandar. The New Yorker reported that “Bandar, like Freeh, is skilled at cultivating people to get things done. Unlike other ambassadors, who exist on the ceremonial fringe, Bandar has real power.”
Prince Bandar said, “If you tell me… that we misused or got corrupted with $50 billion, I’ll tell you, “Yes.” … But, more important, more important — who are you to tell me this? … What I’m trying to tell you is, so what? We did not invent corruption, nor did those dissidents, who are so genius, discover it. This happened since Adam and Eve. … I mean, this is human nature.”
In 2008, when BAE refused to cooperate with the bribery investigation, the DOJ detained its former CEO Mike Turner and other top executives at the airport for questioning. The Times (Rupert Murdoch’s company, which boasts significant Saudi ownership) complained that “such humiliating behaviour by the DOJ was unusual because most companies co-operate with regulators.” Most companies may cooperate with regulators, but BAE was clearly not one of them.
On February 5, 2010, BAE pled guilty to foreign bribery charges, conspiring to defraud the United States, to make false statements about its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) compliance program, to violate the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). According to the statement of criminal information filed by the DOJ, BAE’s gains from these violations exceeded $200 million dollars. BAE was ordered to pay $447 million dollars in fines to U.S authorities – one of the largest criminal fines in the history of DOJ.
The DOJ filing reflected that BAE began serving as the prime contractor to the U.K. government in the mid-1980s, after the U.K. and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) entered into a formal agreement. BAE started to provide millions to Prince Bandar (whose name the DOJ conspicuously omitted from its charging papers, referring to “Bandar Bush” as “KSA official”), who was in a position of influence regarding sales of fighter jets, other defense materials and related support services. Over a billion dollars was reportedly sent to two Saudi embassy accounts in Washington, DC controlled by Prince Bandar. BAE also transferred over a billion dollars to a bank account in Switzerland controlled by an intermediary, being aware that these payments would also go to Prince Bandar. It is claimed that Bandar received over $1 billion dollars over the course of 10 years, with the knowledge and authorization of British Ministry of Defense officials.
Following BAE’s criminal conviction by the DOJ, the U.S. State Department also filed charges against the company for committing over 2,591 separate violations, which were settled in May of 2011 for a civil fine of $79 million dollars. In an Internet notice posted on March 1, 2010, the State Department advised export license applicants to remove BAE products from their applications, if possible. That portion of the notice was withdrawn the very next day. In a comment to “Defense News” about such blatant back-peddling, a Washington trade lawyer commented, “What State has done sends a terrible message. It makes it seem like State does not have a handle on what it wants to do – or that it’s being manipulated by outside interests.”
The State Department noted that BAE’s willful refusal to cooperate resulted in “the incomplete nature of the investigation” and therefore the government was unable “to assess fully the potential harm to U.S. national security.” Nonetheless, the settlement rescinded the statutory debarment, allowing BAE to get right back to business. BAE is apparently “too big to bar.” Although the company was sanctioned with a criminal fine of over $400 million for its foreign corrupt practices, none of BAE’s executives were prosecuted. A felony conviction could have interfered with BAE’s ability to compete for U.S. contracts, but it didn’t. No one seemed too concerned that BAE paid millions in bribes, to include payments made to the likes of Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator. In the 365 days that followed, BAE was awarded roughly $58 billion in US government contracts.
Similarly, nothing got in the way of BAE’s takeover of the US-based Armor Holdings. U.S. regulators approved the deal, in spite of the company’s history of multibillion dollar bribery and corruption. The Wall Street Journal (Rupert Murdoch’s company, which boasts significant Saudi ownership) reported that the purchase would bolster BAE’s expansion in the U.S. and the increase of its involvement in military ground vehicles. Bribery and corruption continued. On July 13, 2011, Armor Holdings settled charges of bribery with the Department of Justice and the SEC. The charges arise out of bribes paid to obtain contracts to supply body armor for U.N. peacekeepers (SEC v. Armor Holdings, Inc., Case No. 1:11-CV-01271). Armor Holdings agreed to pay a total of $5,690,744 to the SEC and $10,290,000 to the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve the charges. Of course, none of the company’s executives were prosecuted.
In 2005, BAE purchased United Defense Industries, maker of combat vehicles, artillery, naval guns, missile launchers and precision munitions.
The implication of these dealings is that a company under control of Saudi money and influence, with a documented history of bribery and corruption, owns an enormous slice of the American defense industry, striving to be the Pentagon’s biggest supplier. The threat surpasses the “Fast and Furious” faux pas on an unimaginable scale, because Saudi Arabia (with its undeniable links to terror) now controls massive military enterprises inside the U.S.
A report, prepared by a bipartisan panel of terrorism experts for the Council on Foreign Relations, sharply criticized the Bush administration for its lackadaisical approach towards Saudi Arabia’s involvement in terror funding, which remains a “lethal threat” to the United States. CFR report concludes that “it is worth stating clearly and unambiguously what official U.S. government spokespersons have not: “For years, individuals and charities based in Saudi Arabia have been the most important source of funds for al-Qaeda… It would be wrong to say that no progress has been made… But it would be equally wrong to overstate the progress that has been made—a mistake that is too often made by U.S. government spokespersons. In recent years, for instance, Saudi Arabia has taken two or three important steps to improve its capability to cooperate on these matters with the United States, for which it should be commended. A hundred more steps and Saudi Arabia may be where it needs to be.”
The report profoundly summarized why the U.S. is neither being taken seriously by the rest of the world in our “war on terror”, nor does our own government take it seriously enough to abandon its unholy alliances: “The Task Force appreciates the necessary delicacies of diplomacy and notes that previous administrations also used phrases that obfuscated more than they illuminated when making public statements on this subject. Nevertheless, when U.S. spokespersons are willing to say only that “Saudi Arabia is being cooperative” when they know very well all the ways in which it is not, both our allies and our adversaries can be forgiven for believing that the United States does not place a high priority on this issue.”
No one can deny the fact that 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia and Osama Bin Laden himself was Saudi-born. During a 2002 raid on a Saudi-based charity, Benevolence International Foundation, FBI agents discovered a handwritten list of 20 alleged Al Qaeda financiers. Bin Laden referred to this informal financial network of prominent Saudi and Gulf individuals as “the Golden Chain.” FBI agents said that two Saudis with direct links to Al Qaeda, Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Bassnan, acted as conduits for financial aid for the 9/11 hijackers and other Saudi militants. They received “seemingly unlimited funding” from Saudi Arabia. Bassnan and his family reportedly obtained significant support from Princess Haifa al-Faisal, wife of Prince Bandar.
In the days following 9/11, with the blessing of George W. Bush, at least six private jets and nearly two dozen commercial planes carried the Saudis and the Bin Ladens out of the U.S. In all, 142 Saudis, including 24 members of the Bin Laden family, were allowed to leave the country. At least one private plane flew to pick up Saudi nationals while private flights were still grounded. The White House denied the very existence of that flight for years, until they finally revealed some of its details in response to a request from the 9/11 Commission. Former Counterterrorism Chief Richard Clarke testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 3, 2003 and stated in part: “It is true that members of the Bin Laden family were among those who left. We knew that at the time. I can’t say much more in open session, but it was a conscious decision with complete review at the highest levels of the State Department and the FBI and the White House.”
In 2002, the Congress noted that Saudi links to 9/11 are not being adequately explored.
In 2003, Los Angeles Times reported that the classified pages were kept out of a congressional report about 9/11. They demonstrated that the Saudi government not only provided significant money and aid to the suicide hijackers, but also allowed hundreds of millions of dollars to flow to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups through suspect charities and other fronts. A U.S. official who has read the document said that it describes “very direct, very specific links” between Saudi officials, two of the San Diego-based hijackers and other potential co-conspirators “that cannot be passed off as rogue, isolated or coincidental.”
In his book, “Intelligence Matters”, former Florida Senator Robert Graham also highlighted connections between a Saudi government spy and the planners of the terrorist attacks, criticizing the deletion of 28 pages from the 9/11 Commission Report that dealt with Saudi Arabia.
“The Commission: The Uncensored History Of The 9/11 Investigation”, written by Philip Shenon, an investigative reporter for the New York Times, discusses revelations contained in a classified portion of a House-Senate Joint Intelligence Committee report. It discusses the Saudi links to the 9/11 attacks. The pages pertaining to the Saudi connections never saw the light of day because the White House invoked executive privilege.
While the officials refuse to declassify this information, Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld exposed them in her book, “Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It”. She was subsequently sued by Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz for “libel” and relentlessly harassed by his affiliates. Ehrenfeld, Director of the New York-based American Center for Democracy, refused to be intimidated. She championed the SPEECH Act (the Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage) to guard American authors and publishers from enforcement of frivolous foreign libel judgments that undermine the First Amendment and American due process standards. This bill was signed into law on August 10, 2010.
Frustrated by the government’s failure to hold anyone personally accountable in the BAE bribery scandal, the city of Harper Woods, Michigan has filed a lawsuit against BAE Systems over allegations that the company funneled bribes to Prince Bandar. Harper Woods was intimately involved in a $100 billion international arms deal, because its $40 million employee pension fund includes about $135,000 invested in BAE Systems. William Bradford Reynolds, who served as the Chief of the Justice Department’s civil rights division during the Reagan administration, signed on to represent Bandar in this lawsuit. During this litigation, a U.S. court froze Prince Bandar’s assets in the U.S., reportedly worth over $150 million dollars.
Bandar was clearly furious about these developments. When George W. Bush visited Saudi Arabia, he asked, “Where’s my pal Bandar?” In response, he was told that Bandar is unavailable. During Cheney’s visit to Saudi Arabia, old pal Bandar was similarly a no-show.
In 2009, the U.S. District court dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice, holding that English law controls and therefore the city of Harper Woods has no standing to pursue the action. This was a predictable outcome, given the political control of the U.S. government over the judiciary. For the last quarter of a century, motivated by greed, many of our elected officials chose to hold the interests of Saudi Arabian oligarchs above those of the American people.
gatesAs of 2011, Bandar is back as a force in world politics. He was present in recent meetings between Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates (former director of the CIA) and King Abdullah, as well as during a separate visit by National Security Advisor Tom Donilon. United States’ recently sold $60 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, including 84 new F-15 fighter jets (in addition to upgrading 70 of their existing F-15s), 190 helicopters as well as a wide array of missiles and bombs. The deal was announced while Congress was in recess, to ensure that it would move forward without interruptions by any possible opponents.
This was the largest purchase of American arms in Saudi Arabia’s history. Gates also urged King Abdullah to buy an upgraded version of Patriot air defense missiles and the Theater High-Altitude Area Defense System, which is designed to shoot down ballistic missiles of longer range. Gates told reporters, “I think the relationship is in a good place.” This “relationship” seems to be blooming indeed, since the U.S. continues to sell arms to the country with direct ties to terrorism.
You may have noticed that the mainstream media avoids discussing the issues of Saudi influence and links to 9/11. There’s a good explanation for that. It so happens that the second largest shareholder of News Corp. is Saudi billionaire, Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal. His slice of the pie is topped only by the holdings of Rupert Murdoch himself.
Al-Waleed involved himself in a variety of Western enterprises and powerhouses, including but not limited to Sony (now planning to launch more Arabic TV shows), Michael Jackson, Rupert Murdoch’s scandalous media empire, AOL/Time Warner, The Walt Disney Company, Amazon, Apple, Citigroup, Coca Cola, Compaq, Disneyland, eBay, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Ford, Hewlett-Packard, Kodak, McDonald’s, Motorola, PepsiCo, Priceline, Procter & Gamble and General Motors.
Not to be outdone, Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric, a company that owns MSNBC and is already firmly entrenched in Saudi Arabia, also approached Al-Waleed and solicited him to invest in GE.
In case you were wondering, the acronym “MSM” nowadays stands for “Mainly Saudi Media”.
Al-Waleed was quoted asserting that Arab countries can influence U.S. decision-making “if they unite through economic interests, not political…We have to be logical and understand that the U.S. administration is subject to U.S. public opinion…And to bring the decision-maker on your side, you not only have to be active inside the U.S. Congress or the administration, but also inside U.S. society.” Al-Waleed donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the building of a Muslim community center and mosque near Ground Zero in Manhattan, also known as the “Ground Zero Mosque“. The majority of the American public didn’t take too kindly to that idea.
To bolster their public image, the Saudis hired a PR firm and scores of high-powered Washington lobbyists. Saudi Arabia’s shabby public image in the U.S. has long been exacerbated by reports of a barbaric judicial system that believes in chopping off heads and limbs, complete absence of religious freedom, nonexistent human rights and ongoing abuses against women. According to the Department of Justice records, Saudi Arabia has spent over $20 million dollars on public relations, advertising and lobbying. Relentless PR efforts to clean up the Saudi image initially failed (especially when Al-Waleed claimed that the U.S. Foreign policy is to blame for the attacks of 9/11), but later started to pay off. The positive image of Saudi Arabia is being pushed in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.
Starting in 2002, series of ads appeared on American TV, in major newspapers and magazines, were broadcast on radio stations and popped up all over the Internet. All of them featured slogans, representing Saudis as America’s allies in the “war on terror”. In August 2004, following the final release of the 9/11 Commission Report, the Saudi government paid for a series of new radio ads, repeatedly reiterating that no link had been established between Saudi Arabia and the terror attacks of 9/11.
One of the PR firms hired by Saudi Arabia, Qorvis Communications, who received millions for their activities, lobbied on Saudi Arabia’s behalf with US Congressional staffers 62 times in the first half of 2004. Saudi Arabia also arranged series of meetings with the editorial boards of major US newspapers, including The New York Times and USA Today, and secured appearances on numerous cable news programs.
A feature film “Unknown” prominently features a character of a benevolent and magnanimous Saudi prince who bankrolled an expensive research project to create a genetically modified strain of corn that could eliminate world hunger. The film “Unknown” is based on the novel “Out of My Head” by Didier van Cauwelaert. There is no such a character in the original version of the story. One has to wonder if this feature film is just another extension of Saudi Arabia’s multimillion dollar PR campaign.
Anything that challenges the dominance of Saudi Arabia, as it holds the rest of the world over an oil barrel, or exposes the complicity of First World country governments is assaulted with all the might of the brute force that deems itself too powerful to be held accountable. It’s quite a spectacular feat for a primitive oligarchy of Saudi Arabia to achieve such a level of control over the world’s supposed super-powers through oil and money, usurping ownership of Western arms, politics and mainstream media. Money does make the world go ‘round – and with this much money being thrown around, our world seems to be spinning out of control.