Terror Two Years After
By Jamie Reno
(page 3 of 3)San Diego–based attorney Jeremy Warren says Basnan “loved this country” and calls Basnan’s persecution a witch hunt. Interestingly, Warren, who rejects Newsweek’s report that Basnan was celebrating the acts of 9/11, also happened to be on the Saudi government’s payroll. Saudi officials paid Warren to defend two Saudi students in a test-taking scam involving 130 Saudi and other Middle Eastern men who wanted to attend school in the United States. Warren declined to discuss the payment from Saudi officials, but a court document reveals a $50,000 cash payment from the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles to Warren for an attorney-client trust account.
Warren says Basnan and Al-Bayoumi were not close. But that, too, was clearly not the case. They were neighbors at the Parkwood Apartments in Clairemont—where the hijackers also lived. Prior to that, Basnan and his wife and Al-Bayoumi and his wife were neighbors in another apartment complex nearby. Also, Basnan’s wife and Al-Bayoumi’s wife were arrested together for shoplifting at J.C. Penney’s in Fashion Valley in April 2001.
Getting to the Bottom of 9/11
The San Diego FBI office’s apparently lukewarm pursuit of the local Saudi connections to 9/11 seemed evident late last year. That’s when former San Diego FBI chief Bill Gore retired to join the staff of newly elected San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. At that time, Gore didn’t even know where Al-Bayoumi was.
In an interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune, conducted before Gore retired from the bureau, he said he believed Al-Bayoumi was still in England. At that time, several independent sources were already saying that Al-Bayoumi had been back in Saudi Arabia for several months. When Gore’s error was pointed out to another FBI agent here, the agent conceded Gore had erred, adding, “He can’t be expected to know every detail of every investigation.” (Gore refused to comment to San Diego Magazine.)
Some critics say the United States’ lack of aggressiveness in following the terrorists’ money trail back to Saudi Arabia has to do with American interests in that country and with the Bush administration’s longstanding relationship with the Saudi royal family. Others suggest the soft-glove treatment is because of our need for Saudi support in the war against Iraq, which some say was in the planning stages virtually as soon as President Bush was elected.
Others suspect that Vice President Dick Cheney’s interest in the Halliburton company, which also has a high stake in the Middle East, has something to do with the way we are treating the Saudis. Halliburton is, in fact, profiting from wartime contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Cheney, who was Halliburton’s CEO until he stepped down to become Bush’s running mate in the 2000 presidential race, still draws compensation of up to a million dollars a year from the company. Cheney’s spokesperson has denied the White House helped the company win the lucrative contract in Iraq.
Whatever the case, government spokesmen in Saudi Arabia emphatically deny that al Qaeda is supported in any way by officials there. U.S officials, too, have repeatedly dismissed any Saudi government role in the 9/11 attack, calling the country a “good partner in the war on terrorism.”
Meanwhile, a $1 trillion federal lawsuit filed by relatives of the September 11 victims accuses members of the Saudi royal family, the Saudi government and Saudi banks and businesses of financing the plot. Those American families are unlikely to ever see a dime from Saudi defendants, however. If there is any official Saudi connection to the greatest tragedy in American history—and the best clues might be found right here in San Diego—it may never come to light.