November 24, 2002
FOLLOW THE MONEY:The Saudi Money Trail: Rent payments for 9-11 hijackers and mysterious checks from a princess?s account. Is there a Saudi tie to terror? Inside the probe the Bush administration doesn?t want you to know about (Michael Isikoff And Evan Thomas, 12/02/02, NEWSWEEK)
When the two Qaeda operatives arrived at Los Angeles International Airport around New Year?s 2000, they were warmly welcomed. Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar would help hijack American Airlines Flight 77 and crash it into the Pentagon a year and a half later, but that January in Los Angeles, they were just a couple of young Saudi men who barely spoke English and needed a place to stay.
AT THE AIRPORT, THEY were swept up by a gregarious fellow Saudi, Omar al-Bayoumi, who had been living in the United States for several years. Al-Bayoumi drove the two men to San Diego, threw a welcoming party and arranged for the visitors to get an apartment next to his. He guaranteed the lease, and plunked down $1,550 in cash to cover the first two months? rent. His hospitality did not end there.
Al-Bayoumi also aided Alhazmi and Almihdhar as they opened a bank account, and recruited a friend to help them obtain Social Security cards and call flight schools in Florida to arrange flying lessons, according to law-enforcement officials. Two months before 9-11, al-Bayoumi moved to England; several months later, he disappeared. He is believed to be somewhere in Saudi Arabia. [...]
About two months after al-Bayoumi began aiding Alhazmi and Almihdhar, NEWSWEEK has learned, al-Bayoumi?s wife began receiving regular stipends, often monthly and usually around $2,000, totaling tens of thousands of dollars. The money came in the form of cashier?s checks, purchased from Washington?s Riggs Bank by Princess Haifa bint Faisal, the daughter of the late King Faisal and wife of Prince Bandar, the Saudi envoy who is a prominent Washington figure and personal friend of the Bush family. The checks were sent to a woman named Majeda Ibrahin Dweikat, who in turn signed over many of them to al-Bayoumi?s wife (and her friend), Manal Ahmed Bagader. The Feds want to know: Was this well-meaning charity gone awry? Or some elaborate money-laundering scheme? A scam? Or just a coincidence?
It's been widely reported that there are factions within the Saud family who support al Qaeda, so it wouldn't be terribly surprising to find out that there's some fire beneath the smoke here. But folks who can't understand why the administration remains protective of Saudi Arabia are ignoring the rather obvious way in which the Sauds are behaving like an ally, and maybe our most important one, in the run-up to war with Iraq. Sure, for domestic reasons they may refuse to let us use some airbases, but they are simultaneously cranking out oil to buffer any shortages and shocks to Western economies that might otherwise be caused by the war. Realistically--with the exception, as always, of the British and the Israelis--no Western ally will make as great a contribution as that, no matter what forces they lend to the operation. Posted by Orrin Judd at November 24, 2002 8:38 AM