09/17/2012 11:01 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2012

11 Years and Counting, Part 2

Part 2: Prince Salman - The Man Who Would Be King

In the last segment, we followed the trail of 9/11 back to Saudi Arabia. We also focused on the elevation of Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud to the throne of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia -- where he may remain permanently. We followed Prince Salman's tenure as the head of the "Saudi High Commission" to a trip to Bosnia in September 2000 and the joining by invitation of that delegation by one supposed charity official Wa'el Jelaidan. But, as I wrote at the end of Part I, "Wa'el Jelaidan is anything but a legitimate humanitarian."

To the contrary, the U.S. government has variously described Jelaidan as a founding member of al Qaeda, a close associate of Osama bin Laden, and as al Qaeda's global logistics chief. On September 6, 2002, the United States formally listed Jelaidan as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.10

Nor were Jelaidan's ties a secret. Just four months before Prince Salman's September 2000 trip to Bosnia, the BBC published an article discussing a raid carried out by U.N. forces of a Saudi government charity for which Jelaidan served as Director. Citing an alert that U.S. intelligence officials had sent to U.N. forces ahead of the raid, the article stated that Jelaidan is an "associate of Osama bin Laden" and that Jelaidan was assisting bin Laden "move money and men to and from the Balkans."11

Let us pause to think about what this means. Just four months after Jelaidan was publicly identified as a close bin Laden associate who was using ostensible charities under his control to advance al Qaeda's cause, Prince Salman still thought it prudent to include Jelaidan in the delegation of Saudi luminaries invited to Bosnia to survey the future of Saudi "charity" efforts in that region. Even worse, we now know that in the period between the BBC article and Saudi state visit to Bosnia, Jelaidan travelled to Afghanistan and met with Osama bin Laden and other senior al Qaeda lieutenants, according to the U.S. government.12 To say the least, his engagements with the al Qaeda leadership and Saudi royal family certainly kept Jelaidan busy that summer.

In 2009, one of the counter-terrorism consultants assisting us in the ongoing litigation visited one of the two mosques Prince Salman opened during his state visit to Bosnia in 2000. At a merchandise stand near the front door of the mosque, he purchased a "crudely made DVD labeled on one side, 'Microsoft Flight Simulator: World Trade Center Edition' -- and on the other, emblazoned with images of [O]sama Bin Laden and the World Trade Center... the title (in Bosnian), 'The Truth About September 11.'" The headquarters of Prince Salman's SHC were located just inside the Islamic Center attached to the mosque. 13

The depth of Prince Salman's ties to organizations linked to al Qaeda left little doubt in our minds about his dedication to the jihadist cause, but Prince Salman's extremist connections are not merely a matter of historical record and curiosity. They are a matter of central importance in assessing the continuing validity of our "partnership" with Saudi Arabia.

In all likelihood, Prince Salman will soon assume the throne of Saudi Arabia on a long-term basis. To accept the notion that we can embrace as a true partner someone who knowingly chose to invite a close bin Laden associate to participate in official government functions as a respected luminary, several years after bin Laden publicly declared war on the United States and two years after al Qaeda attacked our Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, strains credulity.

For too long our own government has worked tirelessly to sweep the evidence of Saudi culpability for the events of 9/11 under the rug. This program of secrecy is incompatible with the most fundamental foundational principle of our democracy -- that our policies should be driven by solutions emanating from the active exchange of ideas among an informed public. Where the policies at issue run to our very safety as citizens, that exchange of ideas is all the more critical.

In keeping with our democratic ideals, it is time for our government to be honest with us about Saudi Arabia's role in the emergence of al Qaeda and the tragic events of 9/11. Given the long cover-up from the government itself, our litigation presents the best opportunity to expose that history. As noted earlier, the U.S. government has opposed our litigation in the past, but today it has the chance to atone for its past error. The September 11 families are currently seeking assistance in Congress through a bill with broad, bipartisan support, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. That bill would ensure that foreign states that support terrorist attacks on U.S. soil can be held accountable for their actions in U.S. courts. This legislation is necessary both because of judicial errors and because the U.S. government has fought our lawsuit. This time, with this legislation moving in Congress, we hope our government will stand with us and not allow temporary diplomatic handwringing to thwart justice.

Sharon Premoli, a survivor of the attack on the North Tower of the World Trade Center, now runs the website for the families, survivors and all who support the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act S.1894 (JASTA)


10 Treasury Department Statement on the Designation of Wa'el Hamza Julidan, September 6, 2002; U.S. Government's Evidentiary Proffer Supporting The Admissibility of Coconspirator Statements, U.S. v. Enaam M. Arnaout, No. 02 CR 892, U.S. Dist. Ct., Northern Dist. of Ill., Eastern Div., January 6, 2003; Treasury Department Case Summary for Wa'el Hamza Julaidan.

11 Nick Wood, "US Fears Terrorist Attack in Kosovo," BBC News, April 3, 2000.

12 Treasury Department Statement on the Designation of Wa'el Hamza Julidan, September 6, 2002.

13 Testimony of Evan F. Kohlmann before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, July 14, 2010, at page 4.