Saturday, May 22, 2004

Bush Stonewalls on Bin Laden Flights

The Democrats have GOT to make a stink about this. A LOUD one. It REEKS.

The Bush administration has refused to answer repeated requests from the Sept. 11 commission about who authorized flights of Saudi Arabian citizens, including members of Osama bin Laden’s family, from the United States immediately after the attacks of 2001.

Former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), vice chairman of the independent, bipartisan commission, disclosed the administration’s refusal to answer questions on the sensitive subject during a recent closed-door meeting with a group of Democratic senators, according to several Democratic sources.

However, former Navy Secretary John Lehman, a Republican appointee who also attended the meeting, said in an e-mail to The Hill that he told the senators the White House has been fully cooperative.

“Who did this? Why would the Saudis want to get out of the country? They said [those questions have] been part of their inquiry and they haven’t received satisfactory answers yet and they were pushing,” [Barbara] Boxer said.

Another Democrat in the meeting who confirmed Boxer’s account reported that Hamilton said, “We don’t know who authorized it. We’ve asked that question 50 times.”

“I stopped being surprised about this a long time ago,” said Harvey, whose wife died in the attack on the World Trade Center. “They’ve not been cooperative. There’s cooperation and then there’s cooperation. Are they doing things under possible threat of subpoena? Yes. Are they actively fulfilling the spirit of the commission’s requests? No.”

“The White House was opposed to the formation of this commission in the first place,”
said Harvey. “They did everything to neuter it. Earlier this spring when we tried to get more time for [the commission to complete its report], the White House was an obstacle.”

On the afternoon of Sept. 13, 2001, three Saudi men in their early 20s flew in a Lear jet from Tampa, Fla., to Lexington, Ky., where they boarded a Boeing 747 with Arabic writing on it waiting to take them out of the country.

The flight from Tampa to Lexington was one of several flights that Saudi Arabian citizens took in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, when the rest of the country was prohibited from flying. Many of the Saudis were members of the Saudi royal family or the bin Laden family.

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