The LA Times confirms the Newsweek report. (So does the New York Times, but, having been beaten on the story, the NYT chooses to bury it inside and downplay it.) The Saudis are admitting the money flow, but denying any intent to pay for terror. The princess was very generous to those in need. Islamic tradition, you know. Noblesse oblige, or however you say that in Arabic.

Based on the LA Times story, I take back my earlier remark: the Ashcroft Justice Department has rushed to judgement, as usual, but in this case it’s a judgement of innocence, based, as far as I can tell, on mere prejudice and wishful thinking.

On Saturday, one high-placed Justice Department official noted that while the two hijackers received money to pay their rent from the Saudis who had received money from the princess, the hijackers repaid them in cash the same day.

From a strategic standpoint, the official said, the FBI concluded that it just seemed illogical that a Saudi agent — or the government of Saudi Arabia itself — would assist the plans of the Sept. 11 hijackers.

“Why would the Saudi government knowingly support a terrorist organization that would attack the U.S.?” the official said. “It would just destabilize their own government even more. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Why would the Saudis have helped al-Qaeda? Duhhhhhhhhhh…lemme see.

Because the bin Ladens are an astonishingly rich and influential family, and maybe not so estranged from their most famous son as they pretend to be? Because the predictable result of 9-11 was to make Saudi Arabia more important to the US than it would otherwise have been?

Because the royal family preferred being on the list of al-Qaeda sponsors rather than the list of al-Qaeda targets?

Out of simple Wahhabbi hatred of the kaffirs?

Yes, the princess wrote lots of checks. There’s no way to know how many of them were legitimate charity cases and how many were payments to intelligence agents. In any case, what better way to handle that sort of payment than concealing it in routine transactions? Nothing would be easier than for the Saudi intelligence chief attached to the Washington embassy to slip a few extra names onto the charity list.

As to the fact that the hijackers exchanged checks for cash with the two intermediaries, who seem to have been Saudi intelligence agents, the technical term for that is “money laundering.” Depositing large amounts of cash to your bank account, or paying your rent in cash, leads to inconvenient questions. Now try to come up with a legitimate reason for the transaction as described.

It’s possible that the intermediaries were combining their work for the Saudi intelligence service with a little free-lancing for al-Qaeda, or that Saudi intelligence (or a faction within Saudi intelligence) is playing its own games, unknown to the royal family. But it’s more than possible that the Administration has made up its mind that Iraq is the enemy, and anything that gets in the way of that becomes an unfact.

Our demand to the Saudi government should be simple: produce al-Bayoumi and Bassnan, alive, and produce them right now. Or else what? Well, for starters, Prince Bandar will be made persona non grata.

Notice that, while taking out Iraq might be somewhat costly, taking out the Saudis would be a cakewalk. And we certainly don’t need UN support to retaliate against 9-11; that’s simple self-defense. The opportunity to put a government in Riyadh that would be dovish on oil prices ought to be something that we, and all the oil consuming nations of the world, ought to be panting for. (Note that we just promised Russia “oil price stability” — read “high prices forever” — in return for its support for the Iraqi venture.)

But put that aside for the moment. It now appears that the Saudi government was significantly complicit in bombing our capital and our biggest city, killing 3000 Americans in the process. Are we going to take it lying down?

(Don’t answer that question. I’m depressed enough as it is.)

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

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