Thursday, February 5, 2015
A still-classified section of the investigation by congressional intelligence committees into the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has taken on an almost mythic quality over the past 13 years — 28 pages that examine crucial support given the hijackers and that by all accounts implicate prominent Saudis in financing terrorism.
Now new claims by Zacarias Moussaoui, a convicted former member of Al Qaeda, that he had high-level contact with officials of the Saudi government in the prelude to Sept. 11 have brought renewed attention to the inquiry’s withheld findings, which lawmakers and relatives of those killed in the attacks have tried unsuccessfully to declassify.
“I think it is the right thing to do,” said Representative Stephen F. Lynch, Democrat of Massachusetts and an author of a bipartisan resolution encouraging President Obama to declassify the section. “Let’s put it out there.”
White House officials say the administration has undertaken a review on whether to release the pages but has no timetable for when they might be made public.
Mr. Lynch and his allies have been joined by former Senator Bob Graham of Florida, who as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee was a leader of the inquiry. He has called for the release of the report’s Part 4, which dealt with Saudi Arabia, since President George W. Bush ordered it classified when the rest of the report was released in December 2002.
Mr. Graham has repeatedly said it shows that Saudi Arabia was complicit in the Sept. 11 attacks. “The 28 pages primarily relate to who financed 9/11, and they point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as being the principal financier,” Mr. Graham said last month as he pressed for the pages to be made public.
Relatives of those killed on Sept. 11 as well as plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against Saudi Arabia have also demanded that the pages be made public, seeing them as the vital link that they believe connects an important ally of the United States to the deadly attacks. They say the pages, Part 4 of the report, could also help in determining the source of current funding for terrorist activities.
“If we stop funding of terrorism and hold those people accountable, wouldn’t it make a dent in the financing of terrorism today?” asked William Doyle, whose son, Joseph, was killed in the World Trade Center. Mr. Doyle said that President Obama personally assured him after the death of Osama bin Laden that he would declassify that section of the report.
Proponents of releasing Part 4, titled “Finding, Discussion and Narrative Regarding Certain National Security Matters,” have suggested that the Bush and Obama administrations have held it back for fear of alienating an influential military and economic partner rather than for any national security consideration.
Others familiar with that section of the report say that while it might implicate Saudi Arabia, the suspicions, investigatory leads and other findings it contains did not withstand deeper scrutiny. Philip D. Zelikow, the executive director of the national commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks after the congressional panels, said the commission followed up on the allegations, using some of the same personnel who wrote them initially, but reached a different conclusion.
“Saudi Arabia has long been considered the primary source of Al Qaeda funding, but we have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization,” the commission said in its July 2004 report. It did note, however, the “likelihood that charities with significant Saudi government sponsorship diverted funds to Al Qaeda.”
Mr. Zelikow pointed to the more thorough investigation undertaken by the commission.
Demands for the release of the 28 pages began soon after the intelligence committees finished their work. In 2003, more than 40 senators called on Mr. Bush to order the material’s disclosure. He refused, saying “we won’t reveal sources and methods that will compromise our efforts to succeed” in fighting terrorism.
The Saudi government has also said it favored making the 28 pages public because that would make it easier to refute what it said were unfounded allegations. The embassy said Wednesday that it stood by that position.Representative Walter B. Jones, a North Carolina Republican pushing for the release of Part 4, said the Moussaoui claims might give momentum to the declassification effort. He said he was approached Wednesday on the House floor by lawmakers inquiring how to view the 28 pages.
But there seemed to be little appetite for declassification among the Republican leaders of the intelligence panels. Senator Richard M. Burr, the North Carolina Republican who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he was skeptical of the value of releasing the pages, calling them more of a historical document in a fight against terrorism that has shifted substantially since 2002.
“There may have been a level of participation by some Muslim country that is not commensurate with today,” he said.
Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said “the authority to declassify this document lies with President Obama.”
Advocates of releasing the document have been frustrated by Mr. Obama, noting that Democrats were much more aggressive in pushing for its disclosure when Mr. Bush was president.
Mr. Doyle and Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband, Ronald, was killed on Sept. 11 in the World Trade Center, say the president assured them during separate meetings with families of the victims of the attack that he saw no reason the document should be withheld.Mr. Doyle said he encouraged Mr. Obama at a meeting in May 2011 with surviving family members to follow through on a pledge he made two years earlier to Ms. Breitweiser. “He said: ‘Bill, I know about the pages. I promise I am going to get them released,’ ” Mr. Doyle recounted.
The White House said it was responding to the calls to consider releasing the material.
“This administration, in response to a congressional request, last year asked the intelligence community to conduct a classification review of this material,” said Edward C. Price, a spokesman for the National Security Council. “We did so in keeping with the standard procedure for determining whether classified information can be publicly released without jeopardizing national security. That process is ongoing.”
By ROBERT FISK
With Riyadh increasingly suspected of funding the terrorist group, the West may have to rethink its relationships.
The image of a Muslim burned alive is more terrible for millions of Muslims than that of an “unbeliever” burned alive. So just who are the Muslims who support the immolation of a young Jordanian? And, more to the point, who are their masters? Jordanians, more than half of whom are Palestinians, must now debate the dichotomy of tribal loyalty and religion, and ask a simple question: who are their real allies – and their real national enemies – in the Middle East? The searchlight beam of their attention, and of Washington’s, will now again pass over the Gulf and that most Wahhabi of nations, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Put bluntly, should the world blame the Saudis for the inflammable monster that is Isis?
The US, where the State Department and the Pentagon have themselves been divided over Saudi Arabia’s foundational role in Salafist violence – the former happy to stroke the monarchy as a pro-Western “moderate force for good”, the latter suspecting that all Islamist roads lead to Riyadh – may now have to recalculate its relationship with the Kingdom. While President Obama predictably talked of Isis “barbarism” this week, The New York Times was revealing that the so-called “20th 9/11 bomber”, Zacarias Moussaoui, wishes to testify that he once delivered letters from Osama bin Laden to Crown Prince Salman – now the Saudi King – and that prominent Saudi royals were helping to fund al-Qaeda. The report was compiled by Scott Shane, who specialises in “security” reporting, and Moussaoui’s allegations refer to events that happened well over 13 years ago. Moussaoui himself was arrested before the 9/11 attacks. It also seems unlikely that a comparatively lowly al-Qaeda functionary would have personal contacts with a Saudi crown prince, or handle a database of al-Qaeda donors which allegedly included Prince Turki al-Faisal, then the intelligence majordomo in the Kingdom, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then the Saudi ambassador to the US but now out of favour.
But Saudi Arabia is a Wahhabist state whose 18th-century puritan morality defined the Taliban – which received moral and financial support from Saudis – and whose misogyny and grotesque public beheadings after unfair trials parallel the cruelty of Isis punishments. The Saudis always declare their innocence – sometimes through their lawyers – of any involvement in “terrorism”. But bin Laden was himself a Saudi, who in the 1990s did have a personal meeting with Prince Turki in Pakistan. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers of 9/11 were Saudi citizens. And within months of the US attacks, a classified Pentagon briefing was told by an analyst for the Rand Corporation – set up in 1945 with the help of the US military – that Saudi Arabia was the “kernel of evil” in the Middle East and was “active at every level of the terrorist chain”.
Deciding who is funding Isis – and who should take the heat for its survival – depends upon the degree to which the world believes that the “Islamic State” is self-financing. Western governments have detailed the production of oil wells in Isis territory and the vast amounts of cash supposedly stolen from Mosul banks after Isis took over, but smuggling fuel and ransacking vaults can hardly sustain an Islamist “nation” which controls an area larger than the UK.
Millions of dollars must be arriving in Isis hands from outside Iraq and Syria, and the question must be asked: if it doesn’t come from within Saudi Arabia – or Qatar – who on earth is providing the wherewithal? Iceland? Peru?
Isis militants are 'using mentally challenged children as suicide bombers and crucifying others', says UN body
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande did not consult Washington before deciding to visit Moscow to hold talks on the Ukrainian crisis, a source in the French government told AP.
The two leaders, who are part of the so-called ‘Normandy Four’ group along with Moscow and Kiev, decided on a trip on Wednesday night, an unnamed French government official said. Merkel and Hollande are due to arrive to the Russian capital on Friday, the next day after visiting Kiev.
“Together with Angela Merkel we have decided to take a new initiative,” Hollande told a news conference on Thursday.
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “the leaders of the three states will discuss what specifically the countries can do to contribute to speedy end of the civil war in the southeast of Ukraine, which has escalated in recent days and resulted in many casualties.”
After the Thursday meeting with the German and French leaders, Ukrainian President Poroshenko said that the talks indicated that a ceasefire was possible in eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, a senior French official told local weekly Le Nouvel Observateur on Thursday that the decision to meet tet-a-tet with President Vladimir Putin was taken on Tuesday after the Russian leader called on both sides in the Ukrainian conflict to stop military actions and hostilities.
The French weekly also said that this “historic initiative” on the part of the two European leaders was preceded by “secret” talks between Paris, Berlin and Moscow.
As Hollande and Merkel are set to discuss a peaceful resolution to the conflict, the US Secretary of State John Kerry is in Ukraine to answer Kiev’s plea for weapons. Kerry told reporters that US President Barack Obama will make his decision on the possibility of sending lethal aid to Ukraine next week.
The White House however admitted on Thursday that military assistance from the US could increase bloodshed in the region.
Le Nouvel Observateur journalist Vincent Jauvert believes that Hollande and Merkel’s prompt decision to talk with Putin in Moscow comes as an attempt “to get ahead of the Americans who are trying to impose their solution to the problem on Westerners: a transfer of weapons to Ukraine.”
The journalist elaborates that the two leaders went to Kiev straight after Kerry as they “distrust the American administration” and want to “present their diplomatic solutions just before US Vice President Joe Biden” presents the US plan of sending lethal weapons to Kiev at the Munich security conference on Saturday.
US President Barack Obama on Thursday said the "acts of intolerance" experienced by religious faiths of all types in India in the past few years would have shocked Mahatma Gandhi.
The comments by Obama came a day after the White House refuted suggestions that the US President's
DW: How would you describe the current state of Afghan courts and its legal system?Frustrated with a corrupt judicial system and an incredibly slow dispensation of justice, some Afghans are turning to "Taliban courts." DW talks to analyst Belquis Ahmadi about why Afghans lack faith in their judiciary.Some Afghans seem to be turning their backs on the Afghan judicial system and opting instead for Taliban justice. According to a New York Times report, many Afghans think that the militants' quick and tradition-rooted rulings are their best hope for justice. In the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Chaman, which are believed to be havens for exiled Taliban leaders, local residents describe long lines of Afghans waiting to see judges, said the report.Despite progress in strengthening formal justice institutions since 2002, as much as 80 percent of disputes in the South Asian nation are still resolved outside the formal justice system, typically by shuras, jirgas, mullahs, and other community-based actors, says the United States Institute of Peace (USIP).Disputes over land and land grabbing have risen in the last decade, with increasingly few options to sustainably resolve them. If left unresolved, disagreements over land ownership can quickly escalate from a civil dispute to acute acts of violence and can feed inter-generational conflict, said USIP. Another way is to look for the Taliban to settle the issue.In a DW interview, Belquis Ahmadi, an expert on rule of law in Afghanistan at USIP, explains that while corruption and bureaucratic red tape play a role in the Afghans' limited trust in the judiciary, this is not the main reason why some are opting for Taliban justice. The real problem, she says, is that the Taliban already control a larger part of the country than the government does today.
Belquis Ahmadi: In any society, security is a fundamental, foundational requirement needed to ensure citizens' rights and enable the government to protect those rights and guarantee public order. Today, Afghanistan remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
There are many reasons for this; the most significant ones being state fragility, the withdrawal of international troops, political interference by neighboring countries, waging of jihad and enticing violence in Afghanistan by other countries' state and non-state actors, and lack of a long term sustainable foreign policy by allies.
Insecurity affects every aspect of Afghans' lives including access to justice and the proper and fair implementation and administration of the rule of law. Limited reach of the formal justice system to many parts of the country, lack of familiarity with formal justice system as a result of close to half a century of conflict, instability and lack of infrastructure, and the ongoing distrust of state institutions have forced many Afghans to seek alternative ways to go about their daily lives.
Where there is no formal justice system reach, Afghans try to solve disputes through the traditional (or customary) mechanism of resolving disputes that include mediation and arbitration by trusted members of a community.
Traditional dispute resolution bodies vary significantly in the degree they provide just, fair and humane resolutions to disputes. The traditional or informal justice system is often as corrupt, if not more so, as the formal justice system; again due to the lack of rule of law and accountability.
In the formal justice system, there are national laws, enacted by legislative body, and codes of conducts, and though in some cases they only remain on paper, they do provide guidance to judges and staff and more often include consideration of human rights; this can have a positive effect on the way decisions are rendered and on the conduct of those who are the administrators of justice. There are also procedures to appeal a decision.
In the informal justice system there are no written laws that are followed. There are few procedures to appeal a decision. One can choose to go to the formal sector, but if you disagree or disobey the order or decision made by the informal justice actors you could end up paying a huge price. That price may include being outcast from the community, monetary penalties, and houses or harvests burned. Most don't want to pay that price, so they acquiesce.
How much trust do Afghans have in the current court system and why?
Trust in the courts is limited. Some of the reasons for this are corruption - in most cases perceived corruption - and the lengthy process of trials and lack of familiarity with how things work within the formal justice system.
Rural citizens have reduced access to the courts and there remains a lack of knowledge about how a case is filed, responsibilities of the parties, what laws govern the dispute or issue presented, how to appeal, access to legal counsel, and the cost of litigation. Security and control of courts creates an atmosphere that resists more open and accessible courts, courtrooms and information.
Too often cases are heard in judges' offices and not in open court – this may even be viewed preferably by litigants as they may have family or financial issues being discussed; however, transparency could help increase trust and reduce the opportunity (real or perceived) for corruptive practices. Transparency also creates a demand for competent judges who cannot hide behind a closed door.
It's been reported that more Afghans are turning to the Taliban seeking justice. What are the main reasons for this?
I think the issue is not that more and more Afghans are turning to the Taliban to seek justice – the one or two cases referred to in the media do not represent the wishes of millions of Afghans – rather the problem is that the Taliban control a larger part of the country than the government does today.
Afghans know very well what Taliban justice means. It means beheading a seven-year-old boy accused of being a spy, the stoning of women accused of adultery or running away from abusive relationship, the burning down of houses whose owners were perceived as government supporters, the killing and beheading of men and women for exercising their right to work and feed their families.
This is what Taliban justice means, and ordinary citizens who live under the rule of the Taliban have no say in decisions made by the extremists.
In light of this development, are the gains made by the Afghan legal system over the past decade at risk?
The good news is that the support provided by international community has helped Afghanistan's justice system to be in better shape, in terms of capacity, than it has been over the past twenty years. But certainly, those gains will be at serious risk if the international community turns their back to Afghanistan.
We don't have to look that far back. We know too well that after the end of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and in spite of the sacrifices that Afghans made, the West left them on their own to revive the economy, infrastructure, education and cultural heritage.
The void quickly turned to war that not only brought massive loss of life and the catastrophic destruction of property, but also destroyed the fabric of society, peoples' values and hope for future generations.
While some view Afghanistan as a post-conflict country, the reality is Afghanistan is a war zone, and it needs assistance to find long term solutions to move past the decades of mistrust, despair and destruction. Rule of law, trust in the judicial system, good governance and investment in education are the keys to a prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan.
What can the Afghan government do to re-establish the people's trust in the country's legal system?
First, the government must work to restore security, protect citizens' rights, tackle the problem of corruption, and bring those found guilty of corruption and violation of citizens' rights to justice. They also must work to help create jobs and educate the public about laws and the functions of government institutions. A fragile state such as Afghanistan's will not be able to do all this without international support.
The international community, governments, politicians and media must stop treating Afghans as second class citizens of this world. Stop propagating that Afghans are better off with traditional and informal justice – instead support the formal justice system within Afghanistan legal framework and judicial system. The failure of justice and legal system in Afghanistan will be the failure of international community too.
Ironically, Afghans have had codified laws for hundreds of years– the NYT article, "Laws suited to Western-style democracies have populated the books" has it wrong. This is yet another view that looks at Afghans as if they live in the Stone Age. Afghans have had laws and have been teachers of law for centuries. The key is to support an open, fair, timely and cost-effective justice system that is free of corruption and committed to serving the citizens of Afghanistan.