September 05, 2003

White House Approved Departure of Saudis After Sept. 11, Ex-Aide Says

I send you the NYTwits version of this news story
simply to illustrate that it *should* now be
inescapable. Of course, the LNS and Internet rebellion
sites reported this soon after 9/11), but if the
"newspaper of revision" prints it, it is *not* going
away. The men who pretend to read the news to America
over the air waves in the evening: How can they sleep
at night? Clearly, they either live in Stepford or the
Valley of the Dolls.

[NOTE: The site that hosts the LNS is having some
difficulty, so I am going to be posting to you from my
e-mail account for a few days.]

White House Approved Departure of Saudis After Sept. 11, Ex-Aide Says
By Eric Lichtblau
New york Times

Thursday 04 September 2003

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3 Top White House officials
personally approved the evacuation of dozens of
influential Saudis, including relatives of Osama bin
Laden, from the United States in the days after the
Sept. 11, 2001, attacks when most flights were still
grounded, a former White House adviser said today.

The adviser, Richard Clarke, who ran the White
House crisis team after the attacks but has since left
the Bush administration, said he agreed to the
extraordinary plan because the Federal Bureau of
Investigation assured him that the departing Saudis
were not linked to terrorism. The White House feared
that the Saudis could face "retribution" for the
hijackings if they remained in the United States, Mr.
Clarke said.

The fact that relatives of Mr. bin Laden and other
Saudis had been rushed out of the country became
public soon after the Sept. 11 attacks. But questions
have lingered about the circumstances of their
departure, and Mr. Clarke's statements provided the
first acknowledgment that the White House had any
direct involvement in the plan and that senior
administration officials personally signed off on it.

Mr. Clarke first made his remarks about the plan
in an article in Vanity Fair due out Thursday, and he
expanded on those remarks today in an interview and in
Congressional testimony. The White House said today
that it had no comment on Mr. Clarke's statements.

The disclosure came just weeks after the
classified part of a Congressional report on the Sept.
11 attacks suggested that Saudi Arabia had financial
links to the hijackers, and Mr. Clarke's comments are
likely to fuel accusations that the United States has
gone soft on the Saudis because of diplomatic

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York,
seized on Mr. Clarke's comments to call on the White
House to conduct an investigation into the hasty
departures of about 140 Saudis from the United States
in the days after the attacks.

Mr. Schumer said in an interview that he suspected
that some of the Saudis who were allowed to leave,
particularly two relatives of Mr. bin Laden who he
said had links to terrorist groups themselves, could
have shed light on the events of Sept. 11.

"This is just another example of our country
coddling the Saudis and giving them special privileges
that others would never get," Mr. Schumer said. "It's
almost as if we didn't want to find out what links

Saudi officials could not be reached for comment
today, but in the past they have denied accusations
linking them to the 19 hijackers, 15 of them from
Saudi Arabia.

While F.B.I. officials would not discuss details
of the case, they said that in the days immediately
after Sept. 11 bureau agents interviewed the adult
relatives of Mr. bin Laden, members of one of Saudi
Arabia's richest families, before the White House
cleared them to leave the country. Mr. bin Laden is
said to be estranged from his family, and many of his
relatives have renounced his campaign against the
United States.

"We did everything that needed to be done," said
John Iannarelli, a bureau spokesman. "There's nothing
to indicate that any of these people had any
information that could have assisted us, and no one
was accorded any additional courtesies that wouldn't
have been accorded anyone else."

But the Vanity Fair investigation quotes Dale
Watson, the former head of counterterrorism at the
F.B.I., as saying that the departing Saudis "were not
subject to serious interviews or interrogations."

Mr. Watson could not be reached for comment today.

The article depicts an elaborate but hurried
evacuation carried out within a week of the hijackings
in which private planes picked up Saudis from 10
cities. Some aviation and bureau officials said they
were upset by the operation because the government had
not lifted flight restrictions for the general public,
but those officials said they lacked the power to stop
the evacuation, the article says.

Mr. Clarke, who left the White House in February,
said in an interview that he was driven by concern
that the Saudis "would be targeted for retribution" by
Americans after the hijackings.

Mr. Clarke said he told the bureau to hold anyone
it had suspicions about, and the F.B.I. said it did
not hold anyone.

Mr. Schumer said he doubted the thoroughness of a
rushed review by the bureau, and in a letter to the
White House today he said the Saudis appeared to have
gotten "a free pass" despite their possible knowledge
about the attacks.

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Posted by richard at September 5, 2003 09:33 AM