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Two of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers had a support network in the United States that included agents of the Saudi government, and the Bush administration and FBI blocked a congressional investigation into that relationship, Sen. Bob Graham wrote in a book to be released Tuesday.
The discovery of the financial backing of the two hijackers ''would draw a direct line between the terrorists and the government of Saudi Arabia, and trigger an attempted coverup by the Bush administration,'' the Florida Democrat wrote.
And in Graham's book, Intelligence Matters, obtained by The Herald Saturday, he makes clear that some details of that financial support from Saudi Arabia were in the 27 pages of the congressional inquiry's final report that were blocked from release by the administration, despite the pleas of leaders of both parties on the House and Senate intelligence committees.
Graham also revealed that Gen. Tommy Franks told him on Feb. 19, 2002, just four months after the invasion of Afghanistan, that many important resources -- including the Predator drone aircraft crucial to the search for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda leaders -- were being shifted to prepare for a war against Iraq.
Graham recalled this conversation at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa with Franks, then head of Central Command, who was ``looking troubled'':
``Senator, we are not engaged in a war in Afghanistan.''
''Excuse me?'' I asked.
''Military and intelligence personnel are being redeployed to prepare for an action in Iraq,'' he continued.
Graham concluded: 'Gen. Franks' mission -- which, as a good soldier, he was loyally carrying out -- was being downgraded from a war to a manhunt.''
Graham, who was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee from June 2001 through the buildup to the Iraq war, voted against the war resolution in October 2002 because he saw Iraq as a diversion that would hinder the fight against al Qaeda terrorism.
He oversaw the Sept. 11 investigation on Capitol Hill with Rep. Porter Goss, nominated last month to be the next CIA director. According to Graham, the FBI and the White House blocked efforts to investigate the extent of official Saudi connections to two hijackers.
Graham wrote that the staff of the congressional inquiry concluded that two Saudis in the San Diego area, Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Bassan, who gave significant financial support to two hijackers, were working for the Saudi government.
Al-Bayoumi received a monthly allowance from a contractor for Saudi Civil Aviation that jumped from $465 to $3,700 in March 2000, after he helped Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhdar -- two of the Sept. 11 hijackers -- find apartments and make contacts in San Diego, just before they began pilot training.
When the staff tried to conduct interviews in that investigation, and with an FBI informant, Abdussattar Shaikh, who also helped the eventual hijackers, they were blocked by the FBI and the administration, Graham wrote.
The administration and CIA also insisted that the details about the Saudi support network that benefited two hijackers be left out of the final congressional report, Graham complained.
Bush had concluded that ''a nation-state that had aided the terrorists should not be held publicly to account,'' Graham wrote. ``It was as if the president's loyalty lay more with Saudi Arabia than with America's safety.''
Saudi officials have vociferously denied any ties to the hijackers or al Qaeda plots to attack the United States.
Graham ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination and then decided not to seek reelection to the Senate this year. He has said he hopes his book will illuminate FBI and CIA failures in the war on terrorism and he also offers recommendations on ways to reform the intelligence community.
On Iraq, Graham said the administration and CIA consistently overplayed its estimates of Saddam Hussein's threat in its public statements and declassified reports, while its secret reports contained warnings that the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction was not conclusive.
In October 2002, Tenet told Graham that ''there were 550 sites where weapons of mass destruction were either produced or stored'' in Iraq.
''It was, in short, a vivid and terrifying case for war. The problem was it did not accurately represent the classified estimate we had received just days earlier,'' Graham wrote. ``It was two different messages, directed at two different audiences. I was outraged.''
In his book, Graham is especially critical of the FBI for its inability to track al Qaeda operatives in the United States and blasts the CIA for ``politicizing intelligence.''
He reserves his harshest criticism for Bush.
Graham found the president had ''an unforgivable level of intellectual -- and even common sense -- indifference'' toward analyzing the comparative threats posed by Iraq and al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
When the weapons were not found, one year after the invasion of Iraq, Bush attended a black-tie dinner in Washington, Graham recalled. Bush gave a humorous speech with slides, showing him looking under White House furniture and joking, ``Nope, no WMDs there.''
Graham wrote: ``It was one of the most offensive things I have witnessed. Having recently attended the funeral of an American soldier killed in Iraq, who left behind a young wife and two preschool-age children, I found nothing funny about a deceitful justification for war.'' http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/9584265.htm
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