Two of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers had a support network in the United States that included agents of the Saudi government, and the Bush administration and the FBI blocked a congressional investigation into that relationship, Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) says in a book to be released Tuesday.
The discovery of the financial backing of the two hijackers "would draw a direct line between the terrorists and the government of Saudi Arabia, and trigger an attempted coverup by the Bush administration," Graham says. Saudi officials have denied any ties to the hijackers or to al Qaeda plots to attack the United States.
In "Intelligence Matters," obtained by the Miami Herald on Saturday, Graham makes clear that some details of that financial support from Saudi Arabia were in the 27 pages of the congressional inquiry's final report that were blocked from release by the administration, despite bipartisan pleas from leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees.
President Bush had concluded that "a nation-state that had aided the terrorists should not be held publicly to account," Graham says. "It was as if the president's loyalty lay more with Saudi Arabia than with America's safety."
Graham also criticizes Bush for "an unforgivable level of intellectual -- and even common sense -- indifference" toward analyzing the comparative threats posed by Iraq and al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
Graham reveals that Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks told him on Feb. 19, 2002, four months after the invasion of Afghanistan, that important resources -- including the Predator drone aircraft crucial to the search for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda leaders -- were being shifted to prepare for a war against Iraq.
Graham recalls this conversation at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa with Franks, then head of Central Command, who was "looking troubled":
"Senator, we are not engaged in a war in Afghanistan."
"Excuse me?" I asked.
"Military and intelligence personnel are being redeployed to prepare for an action in Iraq," he continued.
Graham, who was chairman of the Senate intelligence committee from June 2001 through the buildup for the Iraq war, voted against the war resolution in October 2002 because he saw Iraq as a diversion that would hinder the fight against terrorism.