US government hid evidence that Saudi officials supported Al-Qaeda in WTC attacks and didn't investigate them fully, 9/11 Commission member says
- John Lehman, former Navy secretary made the claims Thursday
- He said redacted 9/11 report pages have evidence on Saudi officials
- They include people at the Saudi embassy and a Saudi-funded US mosque
- However, there was no 'smoking gun' connecting them for sure, he said
- He also said the US did not properly investigate Saudi links to 9/11
- However, Lehman appeared to recant some statements later Thursday
The US failed to properly investigate Saudi Arabian involvement in the 9/11 attacks and removed evidence that Saudi officials aided the terrorists from the public version of the 9/11 Commission Report, a commission member has said.
John Lehman, who was secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration, said the 28 classified pages contain evidence that as many as six officials aided the Al-Qaida terrorists that attacked the US on September 11, 2001.
Those officials worked for the Saudi Embassy, Saudi charities and California's King Fahd Mosque, which is funded by the Saudi government, he told CNN Thursday.
The people in question had 'hard ties' to the Saudi government, he said, and even harder ties to the terrorists: one drove the hijackers from San Diego to Phoenix after they failed their first flight school.
Lehman told CNN there was no 'smoking gun' in the classified pages and that the Saudi government itself could not be connected to the attacks, nor were any senior Saudi officials proven to be funding Al-Qaida.
But he said that there were clear connections between the attackers and Saudi Arabia.
'It was no accident that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis,' he told 60 Minutes in April.
'They all went to Saudi schools. They learned from the time they were first able to go to school of this intolerant brand of Islam.
And he also said huge gaps in the Commission's knowledge affected its ability to make conclusions, as the US government never properly investigated Saudi leads.
He said a new investigation was needed.
The Commission that Lehman served on was intended to examine the intelligence failures that allowed the 9/11 attacks to occur, and to finish the work of an earlier panel.
But according to Lehman it was shut down before the roles of the Saudis in question could be confirmed - and now nobody knows where they are.
However, on the same day that he made his remarks to CNN, Lehman also appeared to contradict himself in a written statement.
According to CNN, he said that he agreed with an April statement made by the 9/11 Commission's chair and vice chairs, former Republican New Jersey Governor Tom Kean and former Democratic Representative Lee Hamilton of Indiana.
They said that 'only one employee of the Saudi government was implicated in the plot investigation.'
That man was Saudi diplomat Fahad al Thumairy, who was based out of Los Angeles, and who was acquitted in the commission's final report.
Lehman finished by saying he did not believe that the Saudi government or any of its senior officials supported the 9/11 attacks.
Interest in Saudi Arabia's possible role in the 9/11 attacks has grown in recent months as consideration has been given to declassifying the previously redacted 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission Report.
Lehman is urging for the declassification of the 28 pages, which are being reviewed and may be released to the public in the summer.
And so is Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir. He told reporters last week in Geneva, 'Our position, since 2002 when the report first came out, was "release the pages."'
He added, 'We know from other senior U.S. officials that the charges made in the 28 pages do not stand up to scrutiny. And so yes, release the 28 pages.'
It was also reported Thursday that the FBI had 80,000 pages of unreleased information on the 9/11 attacks, some of which might prove links between the family of an adviser to Saudi Arabian royalty and the terrorists.