CIA Director John Brennan said there is no evidence that the Saudi government or senior Saudi officials supported the Sept. 11 attacks. On the contrary, he said, Riyadh had been a strong US partner in fighting terrorism.
Brennan said what concerns him more is “Iran’s support for terrorist activities and terrorist groups, especially the Quds force and their activities inside Iraq, Syria, and other countries throughout the region.
In a weekend interview with Al-Arabiya news channel, Brennan addressed the still-secret 28 pages of a congressional inquiry into the 2001 attacks, in which 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens.
President Barack Obama has promised to publicly release all or part of the 28 pages of the report, which could happen as early as this month. The rest of the report was released in December 2002.
Bob Graham, who was co-chairman of that bipartisan congressional panel, and others say the 28 pages point suspicion at the Saudis.
Graham said it’s important for the public to know that all of the still-classified allegations were thoroughly investigated.
Brennan had said earlier that the 28 pages contained preliminary information about possible Saudi links to the attackers that had not been corroborated or vetted at the time. He said that the 9/11 Commission, which did a follow-on investigation into the attacks, ultimately found nothing that pointed to Saudi complicity.
“Subsequently the Sept. 11 commission looked very thoroughly at these allegations of Saudi involvement, Saudi government involvement and their finding, their conclusion was that there was no evidence to indicate that the Saudi government as an institution or Saudi senior officials individually had supported the Sep. 11 attacks,” Brennan told Al-Arabiya.
He said “it is good” that this 28-page report will “come out.”
“Indeed, subsequently the assessments that have been done have shown it was very unfortunate that these attacks took place but this was the work of Al-Qaeda, (Al-Qaeda leader Ayman) Al-Zawahri, and others of that ilk,” said Brennan.
Brennan said he supports the release of the still classified part of the congressional inquiry.
The Saudi government says it has been “wrongfully and morbidly accused of complicity” in the attacks, is fighting extremists and working to clamp down on their funding channels. Still, Saudi officials have long said that they would welcome declassification of the 28 pages because it would “allow us to respond to any allegations in a clear and credible manner.”
The pages were withheld from the 838-page report on the orders of President George W. Bush, who said the release could divulge intelligence sources and methods. Still, protecting US-Saudi diplomatic relations also was believed to have been a factor.
Iran’s terror role
In the same interview, Brennan said that “over the last 15 years, the Saudis have become among our best counterterrorism partners.”
He described both Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, second deputy premier and minister of defense, as “strong partners in this fight against terrorism.”
On the other hand, Brennan said the CIA has “zero” contacts with Tehran.
“I continue to be very concerned about Iran’s support for terrorist activities and terrorist groups, especially the Quds force and their activities inside Iraq, Syria, and other countries throughout the region,” he said.
“Iran still has a long way to go before I’m going to be convinced that they are interested in countering and destroying terrorism,” Brennan added.
Saudi Arabia has long expressed its concern over Iran’s involvement in both Syria and Iraq. Iran has been a key supporter of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, whose refusal to quit has led to a disastrous civil war in his country.
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