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Chairman Kean's Link To bin Laden's Brother-in-law

Tom Flocco | April 1st 2004

WASHINGTON -- April 1, 2004 -- (TomFlocco.com) -- Like an efficient maitre ‘d at an upscale Capitol Hill eatery, Chairman Tom Kean was graciously shepherding witnesses and fellow commissioners from one table of question topics to another. The affable ex-New Jersey governor--now college president and multiple corporate board member--punctuated time gaps between last week’s September 11 hearing deponents with inventive soft-ball queries such as “Can you tell us what we could have done to prevent 9-11 and how can we make sure it never happens again?”

Kean may yet have to explain why his oil company board of directors continued to maintain a corporate relationship with an oil company backed by Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law, who was reported to be a past financial benefactor of George W. Bush. According to the FBI, the terror-linked Saudi had been funding terrorism well before September 11, 2001. Moreover, he has been linked to a U.S. law firm with a partner who was a Bush 2000 fundraiser.

Kean’s oil group did not extricate itself from its ties to the publicly known financier of terrorism until 15 months after the attacks--but just 21 days before President Bush appointed him chairman of the Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States. This, as a fired whistleblower and FBI translator said her letter and follow-up calls to Kean, charging terrorism-related internal security and espionage breaches at the FBI, had gone unanswered by the chairman for a year.

As Condoleezza Rice prepares to testify in public under oath next week, more questions remain as to whether the chairman of the panel that interrogates her was indirectly in violation of United States anti-terrorism laws. Kean has not been asked about his conversations with President Bush in the days prior to his appointment and whether their joint connections to the Saudi were discussed.

That said, some will also wonder why Kean’s corporate board remained linked to a known financial sponsor of terrorism--reported in major news outlets--long after the attacks, whether corporate profits found their way into terrorist bank accounts in violation of U.S. anti-terrorism laws, and whether his company finally chose to sever the link to avoid media scrutiny just before Bush appointed Kean to investigate terrorism and how it is financed in America.

Rice’s public testimony under oath was negotiated yesterday by White House attorneys as a successful bargaining chip which resulted in a sweetheart deal with what many of the 9-11 victim families call a conflicted commission: President Bush gets to have a private conversation, not under oath, with Vice-President Dick Cheney--who a cable news analyst referred to as his master puppeteer--at his side to get their stories straight.

If Americans become aware that Mr. Bush and Mr. Kean both have had connections to an FBI-validated Saudi financier of terrorism, questions will likely arise why Congress did not fight the White House’s redaction of 28 pages of the joint congressional report (reportedly implicating Saudi officials in the financing of al-Qaeda terrorism and the 9-11 plot) and why bin Laden family members were allowed to fly out of the United States without being questioned by the FBI. This, while all American planes were grounded--the ultimate sweetheart deal.

No one has yet questioned whether controversial Saudi business and financial links played a part in Kean’s allowing the Bush-Cheney joint private conversation with the commission about the attacks. But the biggest question is why Congress permits conflicts of interest involving terrorism finance, and why individuals and corporations are not held accountable after a 3000-death mass murder.

U.S. government and corporate ties to terrorism finance

Three weeks before President Bush selected Kean on December 16, 2002 to head the terrorist probe (15 months after September 11, 2001), Amerada-Hess--an oil company where Kean is still a director and shareholder--severed its joint venture deal with Saudi Arabia’s Delta Oil, involving one of the largest undeveloped oil fields in the world in the Caspian Sea basin. (Fortune, 1-22-2003)

According to Fortune, one of Delta Oil’s backers is Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law Khalid bin Mahfouz, founder and chairman of the Saudi National Commercial Bank (NCB). Mahfouz transferred personal funds and $3 million diverted from a Saudi pension fund to New York and London bank accounts linked to terrorism. In turn, NCB deposited the money into Islamic charities Islamic Relief and Blessed Relief--where Mahfouz’s son Abdul Rahman serves on the board in Sudan. Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Mahfouz and others transferred “tens of millions of dollars to bank accounts linked to indicted terrorist Osama bin Laden.” (USA Today, 10-28-99)

Two of George W. Bush’s closest Texas friends, James C. Langdon, and George R. Salem--chairman and fundraiser of Arab-Outreach for Bush 2000, are partners in Washington, DC-based law firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, LLP. Akin-Gump has earned hefty fees representing Mahfouz and other billionaire Saudi businessmen, but also Texas-based Islamic charity, The Holy Land Foundation--largest in America--which FBI officials fingered as a United States terrorist front organization. (Boston Herald, 12-11-2001)

Charles Lewis, executive director of Washington’s non-partisan political watchdog organization, Center for Public Integrity, said Akin-Gump’s representation of wealthy Saudis who are linked to terrorism presents “a unique ethical concern since partners at the firm are so close to President Bush,” adding, “the concern is more acute now because Bush had faced stiff resistance from the Saudi government regarding his requests to freeze suspected terrorist bank accounts.”

According to wide reports, U.S. authorities have tracked Mahfouz’s worldwide assets of dozens of banks, businesses and ventures in his secretive financial empire. Mahfouz has much of his assets interlocked with another Saudi billionaire, Mohammed Hussein al- Amoudi, who runs the bank that Mahfouz founded, servicing much of the Saudi royal family.

Curiously, the Mahfouz and al-Amoudi joint ventures include ownership control of the Yemen port facilities where the USS Cole was bombed by Islamic militants while it was refueling; and Mahfouz is a former director of the infamous Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which triggered a $12 billion U.S. bankruptcy scandal during George H. W. Bush’s administration.

Early on at the second commission hearing, this writer asked Kean about reported and perceived conflicts of interest regarding the Hess-Delta relationship and Saudi-sponsored terrorism: “That’s not a problem,” he said, adding, “I’ve already taken care of that,” whereupon he walked away quietly.

At the time, Americans took Kean at his word; but softball questions and weak follow-up, secret interviews, sweetheart testimony deals, failure to publicize the list of all witnesses interviewed, devastating commission and staff conflicts of interest, and failure to require public testimony under oath by Presidents Bush and Clinton, Vice-Presidents Cheney and Gore among others, has changed the picture for many citizens.

Anti-Terrorism Laws?

Thus far, media outlets have not asked Chairman Kean the obvious questions--particularly whether seeming conflicts of interest linked to terrorist finance before, during and after the attacks has prevented Mr. Kean from strongly advocating public testimony and careful interrogation under oath of President Bush, specifically regarding his actions during the actual two-hour period of the attacks. Fellow commission members should ask Kean:

1) As a Hess Oil board member, during the Hess-Delta joint venture, what relationship did you have with Delta Oil’s Khalid bin Mahfouz and/or his representatives?

2) Did you ever meet personally with Khalid bin Mahfouz at a shareholder or board meeting during your years with Hess--and what about any and all other occasions? And if so, how many times? And what did you discuss?

3) Since you were a Hess director and shareholder long before the September 11 attacks, did you ever meet with Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi, who has numerous business relationships with Khalid bin Mahfouz? If so, how many times? What other Saudi business persons have you met with? Is the FBI investigating any of them for terrorism finance complicity?

4) Will you and other Hess board members vote to authorize Amerada-Hess to open up its books for federal and public scrutiny regarding financial relationships with Khalid bin Mahfouz and Delta Oil, particularly via various bank accounts connected to terrorist-linked charities such as Islamic Relief, Blessed Relief and the Holy Land Foundation?

5) Since multiple U.S. media outlets--including business news reports--asserted after 9-11 that Mahfouz and his son were closely linked to terrorism in America, why did you and Hess board members and officers remain for more than one year in a business relationship with Mahfouz and Al Amoudi via Delta Oil (individuals known publicly to be linked to terrorism) from September 11, 2001 until November 23, 2002?

6) Why did Hess wait until just before your appointment as chairman of the commission by President Bush to sever the Hess Oil joint business venture with Delta Oil?

7) Were you and your Hess board members aware that Mahfouz and his son were linked to terrorism during the year after 9-11? Describe the discussions which led you and other Hess board members and officers to sever your business relationship with Mahfouz and Delta Oil?

8) Why didn’t you wait until after you assumed the role of Chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States to break with Delta and Mahfouz?

9) When were you first approached by President Bush or his representatives about becoming a member of the 9-11 commission? Were you approached first about being a member and then later as the Chairman--since you were selected almost immediately after Henry Kissinger resigned as Chairman?

10) Did the FBI ever question you and your board members about whether Amerada-Hess was in direct violation of United States terrorism laws? Did the FBI and/or President Bush advise Hess to sever its relationship with Mahfouz and Delta Oil?

11) Do you know whether funds from the Hess-Delta venture were deposited in any of the FBI’s terrorist-linked bank accounts in Texas or other states?)

12) Are you aware that President Bush also had past business ties to Khalid bin Mahfouz and that Mahfouz had multiple business investments in Houston, Texas involving Mr. Bush’s former National Guard pilot friend James Bath, but also Talet Othman and Saudi billionaire financier Sheikh Abdullah Bakhsh?

13) Why did the commission decide not to require President Bush and Vice-President Cheney to testify in public under oath? Did it have anything to do with the joint congressional intelligence committee report’s 28 redacted pages about Saudi financial support of terrorism? Did it have anything to do with Khalid bin Mahfouz and terrorism finance?

14) Are you aware that Commissioner Jamie Gorelick and Commission General Counsel Daniel Marcus are current and former partners of Washington, DC’s Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, a law firm representing Prince Mohammed al Faisal against the 9-11 victim families in their August, 2002 suit against three Saudi princes, several Saudi banks and Islamic institutions, the Sudanese government and the Saudi Bin Laden Construction Group, regarding terrorism finance?

15) Are you aware that the Bush 2000 fundraisers and partners from the Akin-Gump firm represent Khalid bin Mahfouz’s joint business partner Mohammed Hussein Al-Almoudi in the 9-11 family suit?

Kean left FBI translator’s letter and follow-up calls unanswered

After Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet’s morning testimony at the 9-11 Commission hearings last week, FBI linguist Sibel Edmonds held an impromptu press conference with cameras rolling and a few dozen reports hollering questions for nearly 25 minutes. Part-time translator Edmonds charged the FBI and Justice Department with offering her a full time job and a raise in pay to keep her from going public about her “translations of pre 9-11 intercepts which included information about [terrorist] money laundering and detailed and date specific information enough to alert the American people, and other issues dating back to 1999 which I won't go into right now.”

After the press conference, the former FBI translator personally told tomflocco.com that "translators before me had ongoing personal relationships with the subjects or targets of the FBI and DOJ pre 9-11 investigations--linked to intercepts and other intelligence--in June - July - August, just prior to the attacks."

According to Vanity Fair, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) said “I think the FBI is ignoring a very major internal security breach, and a potential espionage breach.” This, as Edmonds had previously indicated that “she had found them [pre-9/11 translations] to reveal that the officer [FBI investigation target] had spies working for him inside the U.S. State Department and at the Pentagon.”

That said, questions remain regarding whether al Qaeda has successfully penetrated internal security at both the State Department and the Defense Department, and whether the penetration had contributed to information and other contacts which helped to carry out the attacks on September 11.

The FBI whistleblower said she had attempted to contact 9-11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean via a letter and follow-up phone calls for one year without an answer regarding her findings related to the September 11 attacks.

After the rebuff by the Commission, Edmonds told Vanity Fair writer Gail Sheehy that she told her story to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Her original contact, Senator Grassley, told Sheehy that his hands were tied [regarding investigative hearings] because “Senator [Orrin] Hatch [R-UT] is now chairman of the Oversight Committee.” But Senate staffers also said they had written to FBI Director Robert Mueller and Attorney General John Ashcroft several times to discuss Sibel Edmonds’ allegations, but added that “Senator Hatch has been an obstacle on everything we’ve tried to do.”

What about Mueller and Ashcroft’s concerns regarding United States national security breaches and espionage in the State Department and Pentagon--and indications of another 9-11 cover-up? On October 18, 2002, Department of Justice Public Affairs Director Barbara Comstock wrote a memo:

“To prevent disclosure of certain classified and sensitive national security information, Attorney General Ashcroft today asserted the state secrets privilege in Sibel Edmonds v. Department of Justice. This assertion was made at the request of FBI Director Robert Mueller in papers filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The Department of Justice also filed a motion to dismiss the case, because the litigation creates substantial risks of disclosing classified and sensitive national security information that could cause serious damage to our country’s security.”

While Chairman Tom Kean has questions to answer regarding Khalid bin Mahfouz, some may also question why the Chairman would not discuss Sibel Edmonds’ FBI translation issues for one year, potentially harming United States internal security--if one believes Senator Charles Grassley.

On the morning she was terminated by the FBI “for the convenience of the government,” for taking her concerns to upper management, she was escorted from the building by an agent who said “We will be watching you and listening to you. If you dare to consult an attorney who is not approved by the FBI, or if you take this issue outside the FBI to the Senate, the next time I see you, it will be in jail.” Edmonds said two other agents were present during the warning.

The media seems to be tracking the cover-up being perpetrated by the Kean Commission. If the American people begin to understand that within the context of the pre-attack presidential daily briefs and numerous other prior warnings, the actions of President Bush, Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during the actual two hour period of the attacks--are indefensible.

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