- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 24, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Lawmakers investigating the September 11 attacks believe the FBI has not been sufficiently aggressive in pursuing whether Saudi Arabia provided money that helped support two of the hijackers, aides said yesterday.
The White House denied the assertion as well as claims that the FBI has not done enough to examine the financing of the 19 hijackers, 15 of whom came from Saudi Arabia.
Questions about the investigation could become troublesome for the Bush administration, which is seeking the Saudis' help in any military campaign against their neighbor, Iraq.
Members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, which are conducting a joint inquiry into the September 11 attacks, expressed misgivings about the FBI investigation. Lawmakers believe the bureau has not examined vigorously the possibility that the Saudi government might have given money to two men who provided financial help to hijackers Khalif al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi.
A congressional aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the issue is part of a broader concern that the FBI has done too little to determine how last year's attacks were paid for and by whom.
Dan Bartlett, an administration spokesman who accompanied President Bush to a NATO summit in Europe, said the FBI has been investigating the Saudi link, "and I'm not going to prejudge the conclusion of that investigation."
"As anyone who knows this issue will tell you, it's very difficult to track financing of terrorist networks, because most of it is done in cash," he said. "I don't agree with the assessment it's not been aggressively pursued."
Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat and a member of the intelligence committee, would not discuss details of the financing investigation but said: "So much of the focus on Iraq has clearly taken a toll with respect to some of the vigilance and oversight that needs to apply to others in the region."
He also said he has been dissatisfied with Saudi cooperation in the congressional investigation.
Both al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi were aboard the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. They lived briefly in San Diego and are believed to have received help there from Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Basnan.
Newsweek reported on its Web site that the FBI uncovered financial records that show payments to an al-Bayoumi bank account from a Washington account in the name of Princess Haifa al-Faisal, wife of the Saudi ambassador and a daughter of the late King Faisal.
Sources cited by the magazine said the payments were about $3,500 a month. The money filtered into the family bank account of Mr. al-Bayoumi in early 2000, just a few months after al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi arrived in Los Angeles from an al Qaeda planning conference in Malaysia, Newsweek said.
Payments for roughly the same amount began flowing every month to Mr. Basnan.
A spokesman for the Saudi embassy said the accusations that the wife of the Saudi ambassador supported terrorists are "untrue and irresponsible."
Nail al-Jubeir, the spokesman, said the princess is fully cooperating with the FBI. He added that the princess hasn't given any money to Mr. al-Bayoumi.
She did help the Basnan family with a check for $15,000 in April 1998 and regular payments from Dec. 4, 1999, through May of this year, and Saudi officials are trying to find out why they needed assistance, Mr. al-Jubeir said.
They do know the wife is sick and received medical treatment in San Diego, he said.
In a statement, the FBI refused to give details of its investigation but said: "Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, the FBI has aggressively pursued investigative leads regarding terrorist support and activity."
It said Mr. al-Bayoumi and Mr. Basnan face visa-fraud charges. Mr. al-Bayoumi was detained on that charge in Britain, but it was not an extraditable offense and he was released. It is not known whether Mr. Basnan is in custody.
Preliminary reports from the congressional inquiry have criticized the FBI and CIA's efforts to fight terrorism before the September 11 attacks.
Mr. Wyden said he expects the questions about Saudi financing will be included in the joint inquiry's final report.


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