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Former Sen. Bob Graham Says U.S. Should Not 'Ignore' Saudi Role In Khashoggi's Death

FILE - In this Oct. 12, 2012, file photo Bob Graham speaks in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 12, 2012, file photo Bob Graham speaks in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin, File)
This article is more than 4 years old.

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Former Sen. Bob Graham can’t forget what he learned about Saudi Arabia when he co-chaired the 9/11 Commission. And with the killing of the Saudi journalist, he says it’s high time to stop coddling the kingdom.


Sen. Bob Graham, Democratic U.S. senator from Florida from 1987 to 2005. Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from 2001 to 2003. Co-chair of the joint congressional investigation into the 9/11 attacks. Governor of Florida from 1979 to 1987.

Interview Highlights

On patterns in Saudi behavior and how the U.S. has handled it

Bob Graham: "In the hours after 9/11, President Bush stated that the United States would go to the ends of the world to find who had committed this heinous act and bring them to justice. He also said that it appeared as if from the scale of the operation and its sophistication that a nation state was involved, and that that nation-state Iraq. We then proceeded to go to war with Iraq with very dire circumstances. I think that was the beginning scene of the cover-up of Saudi Arabia's involvement in 9/11, that it, not Iraq, provided 15 of the 19 hijackers. It was it, which had placed people in the United States months — or in some cases years — ahead of 9/11, who played a critical role in organizing and facilitating 9/11. They seem to have had some of the same shifting responsibility in this latest case."

On access, or lack thereof, to information in the 9/11 investigation

BG: "The facts are the facts. What I've been urging is that the United Sates government, particularly the FBI and the CIA, make public the information which they have, and then let the people evaluate what's known, and come to a judgement as to responsibility. You may remember it was almost exactly a year ago that the so-called 28 pages, which were 28 pages of the 9/11 Report itself, which had been withheld for more than a year, and it was finally leaked out — although with significant redaction that covered up much of the most salient information. So I think, my mantra is let the people know the truth, and let the people make their judgement as to responsibility for 9/11."

On the FBI's role in investigating 9/11

BG: "I would say the FBI was being quite uncooperative. In fact, at one point, shortly after the situation in Sarasota was discovered, my wife and I were in the Washington area to have Thanksgiving with our third daughter, and we were intercepted at [Dulles Airport] and taken to the FBI office which is located there, and essentially told by the No. 2 person, the deputy director of the FBI, that we were wasting our time, and that I should shut up and go home.

Meghna Chakrabarti: "You were the co-chair of 9/11 Commission, and the No. 2 person at the FBI was telling you that you were wasting you time trying to follow a lead about what the FBI investigated regarding possible connections between a Saudi family and the hijackers? I mean, it almost defies belief, Senator."

BG: "Well, and it gets worse. So I told the deputy director the information that I wanted, and he said, 'Well, come to our office, and we will talk about this.' So I did, and when I got there the deputy director told me that the meeting that we were going to have had been canceled and that it would not be rescheduled, and that, again, I was wasting my time. That's the last quasi-official contact that I have had with the FBI on the Sarasota situation."

"My mantra is let the people know the truth, and let the people make their judgement as to responsibility for 9/11."

Former Sen. Bob Graham

On how administration after administration has handled Saudi Arabia's alleged role in 9/11

BG: "The mystery is, over three administrations, why has there been this reticence to release information? I think for the Bush administration, the reason was that they wanted to put the blame for 9/11 on Iraq, and anything that raised the possibility that another nation-state was responsible ran counter to that narrative. The enigma to me is the Obama administration. President Obama had run in 2008 in large part on his opposition to the war in Iraq and had raised questions about Saudi Arabia and why it wasn't more a focus of attention. But in spite of that, nothing was done in his administration to expedite the release of information on 9/11. And now President Trump has made Saudi Arabia one of the darlings of U.S. foreign policy. It was one of the first countries that he visited as president, has been very fulsome in his statements of approval of Saudi Arabia. So we've gone for three presidencies, and no assertive effort from the White House to let the American people share the information that the government has and form opinions as to who has responsibility for 9/11."

On a more critical look at the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia

BG: "I do know that when the country of Saudi Arabia was formed, there were several key players, one of which was the royal family, another were the clerics of this extreme version of Islam called Wahhabism. And the United States has taken a position of essentially placating both the monarchy and the clerics, and there has been a major rush in recent years since the end of World War II to expand the reach of Wahhabism in places where it had not been known before, such as the Balkans and Indonesia, and that has moved Islam into an increasingly more strident form of religion. I think that the United States needs to have a pause and look at all of the implication of Saudi Arabia in terms of U.S. interest. I think we've put too much importance on their large reservoir of oil, which was the original reason for this close relationship. And in fact, with what has happened in the last decade, the United States is probably more oil independent than it has been in any time in the modern era, is less reliant on Saudi Arabia and is in a stronger position to demand actions which represent what a modern state that respects human rights and would not do things like cut up a journalist in a heinous murder or kill 3,000 Americans by hijacked airplanes."

From The Reading List

Sarasota Magzine: "Does a Classified Sarasota Investigation Hold Shocking Truths About 9/11?" — "In September 2011, Bob Graham, a former Florida governor who served as United States senator from 1987 to 2005, got a call from an Irish journalist, Anthony Summers, who told Graham he was working with his wife Robbyn Swan on a book about the 9/11 attacks. (Their book, The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11, was published later that year.) Sarasota figured into that story. Three of the hijackers who had flown planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had trained at aviation schools in nearby Venice, and President George W. Bush was reading to children at Sarasota’s Emma E. Booker Elementary School when he learned about the attacks. Graham well knew those Sarasota connections, but Summers said he had discovered a new link between Sarasota and 9/11."

Florida Bulldog: "9/11 Articles"

CNN: "Fmr Senator: Saudi relations at 'turning point'" — "Former Senate Intelligence chair Bob Graham says that the US should not 'ignore' or 'cover up' the role of the Saudis in Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance."

Washington Post: "Saudi crown prince calls Khashoggi murder ‘heinous crime,’ vows perpetrators will be brought to justice" — "In his first public comments since the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi security agents in Istanbul three weeks ago, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Wednesday that his country is doing all it can to complete an investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice.

"Addressing a gathering of more than 3,000 business leaders from around the world at the Future Investment Initiative, Saudi Arabia’s signature economic forum, often called 'Davos in the Desert,' Mohammed acknowledged no responsibility in the case. He called the killing 'a heinous crime' that was 'really painful to all Saudis' and to all other people."

New York Times: "Prince and President Escalate Battle Over Khashoggi Killing" — "President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey swept into Ankara’s wood-paneled Parliament on Tuesday to level his most direct attack yet against Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, accusing his government of planning the 'savage murder' and mutilation of the dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi.

"Hours later, Prince Mohammed bounded into the gilded conference hall of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh to a standing ovation from scores of oil executives, bankers and other businessmen who had risked association with scandal over the killing of Mr. Khashoggi for a chance to profit from the kingdom’s vast wealth.

"'More people, more money,' the crown prince told reporters, pronouncing the event a success despite the withdrawal of dozens of speakers and the pleas of many businessmen for him to spare them embarrassment by calling it off.

"Their competing stage shows on Tuesday were the latest salvos in an increasingly high-stakes battle that no longer appears to leave either one room for retreat, pitting against each other two American allies who have each aspired to be the leader of their region."

This article was originally published on October 25, 2018.

This program aired on October 25, 2018.


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