WASHINGTON -- 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, Senator 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 Miami Herald yesterday, 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 disclosed that General Tommy Franks told him on Feb. 19, 2002, 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, 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 Representative Porter Goss. 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.
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, before they began pilot training.
Saudi officials have denied ties to the hijackers or Al Qaeda plots to attack the United States.