(WASHINGTON) — Two former senators who led inquiries into the 9/11 attacks have issued sworn statements that they believe the government of Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally in the fight on terrorism, may have played a role in the terror attacks ten years ago.
“I am convinced that there was a direct line between at least some of the terrorists who carried out the September 11th attacks and the government of Saudi Arabia,” said former Senator Bob Graham, a Florida Democrat, in an affidavit filed as part of a lawsuit brought against the Saudi government by families of Sept. 11 victims and others. Graham led a 2002 congressional probe of the attacks.
Bob Kerrey, a Nebraska Democrat who served on the 9/11 Commission, said in a separate affidavit that “significant questions remain unanswered” about the role of Saudi institutions. “Evidence relating to the plausible involvement of possible Saudi government agents in the September 11th attacks has never been fully pursued.”
Families of the 9/11 victims released a statement praising Kerrey and Graham for their affidavits, which were filed in a New York federal court Friday to rebut claims by the Saudi government in recent court papers that the 9/11 Commission had “exonerated” it of any connection to 9/11.
“The families and survivors of the atrocities of 9/11 have not given up hope for justice. We are determined to expose the truth,” said Beverly Burnett of Minnesota, mother of Thomas E. Burnett, Jr., who died on United flight 93 when it crashed into a Pennsylvania field after passengers fought hijackers for control of the plane. “The financiers and enablers of those who murdered our loved ones are still alive, well and capable of supporting terrorism. The trail back to them still points to Saudi Arabia.”
Sen. Kerrey’s affidavit said it was “incorrect” for the Saudis to claim that the 9/11 Commission had “exonerated” them. “Stated simply, the 9/11 Commission did not have the time, opportunity or resources to pursue all potentially relevant evidence on that important question, and the American public deserves a more comprehensive inquiry into the issue,” wrote Kerrey.
The affidavits are part of a multibillion-dollar lawsuit that has been working its way through the federal courts since 2002. Though the U.S. Justice Department has joined the Saudis in trying to have lawsuits against the Saudis thrown out of court, an appellate court said late last year that foreign nations were not immune to lawsuits under some terrorism claims, meaning parts of the Saudi case may be reheard.
Lawyers for the Saudis have moved to have the affidavits disallowed. They did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News. The Saudi embassy also did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Saudis have always denied any connection to the 9/11 attacks. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers who crashed planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa., were Saudi.
According to Sen. Graham, open questions include possible financial support of al Qaeda by Saudi charities, and the role of a Saudi resident of California who was in contact with both the hijackers and Saudi officials. “There was a direct line,” wrote Graham, “between at least some of the terrorists who carried out the September 11th attacks and the government of Saudi Arabia, and [a] Saudi government agent living in the United States, Omar al Bayoumi, provided direct assistance to September 11th hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar.”
“Finally someone who knows some of the truth about 9/11 is standing up and saying, ‘Wait a minute, we didn’t give those guys the all clear’ as Saudi Arabia has been saying for several years,” said Sharon Premoli of Vermont, who was in the World Trade Center when it was struck. “Exonerated, I don’t think so!”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Oren Liebermann, CNN
Michael Pearson and Steve Almasy, CNN
Steve Almasy, CNN
Ivana Kottasova and Armelle De Oliveira, CNN