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News ::
Saudis in the USA
16 May 2002
In America, allegations have surfaced that intelligence agencies are turning a blind eye to terrorist funding on US soil.
Saudis in the USA Wednesday 15/5/2002


Stephen Crittenden: You may remember a book published a few years back called Ratlines, about the role played by the Catholic Church in spiriting Nazi war criminals out of Europe after the Second World War. It was co-authored by former ABC journalist Mark Aarons and John Loftus.

As well as being the author of several books, John Loftus is a former Federal prosecutor, and a longtime lawyer for whistleblowers in the American intelligence community.

Heís just filed an extremely unusual lawsuit in Florida, in an effort to prove that the Saudi government was laundering money through a group of charities in the United States, which was then used to fund the terrorist activities of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Al-Quaeda.

He says a Federal investigation was closed down in 1995 in order not to embarrass the Saudi government.

John Loftus is speaking from his home in St Petersburg, Florida.

John Loftus: The money originated in Saudi Arabia with wealthy businessmen close to the Saudi royal family. It went through Switzerland and was deposited in a series of four charities in Herndon, Virginia. Those charities in turn then distributed to a Florida charity, a Texas charity and a Chicago charity. The Florida charity was the most significant, because it funnelled money to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. This organisation not only kills Jews, they kill Palestinians who dare to collaborate with Jews. This is a secret part of Saudi foreign policy, because they really wanted to block the creation of the first Arab democratic state. Every time they saw the Israelis and the Palestinians getting close in peace talks, the Saudis would pour more money through their murder-for-hire network, and more hitmen would go out to take out the Palestinians that wanted to work for peace.

Stephen Crittenden: John, what is the evidence precisely?

John Loftus: Well, some staggering evidence. The chief money launderer is a professor named Sami al-Arian, He was actually cheeky enough to take home movies of all his terrorist conventions, and the FBI seized Samiís home movies and I have copies. Iím going to be putting them up on my website so people can see for themselves exactly what the evidence is.

Stephen Crittenden: I donít quite understand what the connection is with a group of charities in the United States, given that the key organisations that you say were being funded were organisations active in the Middle East.

John Loftus: Well the United States was actually worthwhile for two purposes: first, because the US is ridiculously easy to get a visa to enter this country; and second, we actually gave the Saudis tax deductions for terrorism.

Stephen Crittenden: What kind of tax deductions?

John Loftus: The United States income tax deductions. The Saudi charities in Virginia were filing Form 990s with our Internal Revenue Service, and they were actually claiming this was charitable work, so it was all tax deductible.

Stephen Crittenden: Have you uncovered any evidence of funds going to Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden Ė and in particular, funds to that organisation for its work in the United States?

John Loftus: Certainly funds to Al-Qaeda. In fact the Virginia charities, the Saudi charities, paid for Osama bin Ladenís satellite telephone equipment, and it was a member of the Florida charity who hand-carried to Afghanistan. So thereís a direct link there. As to distribution to other ones, it seems the Saudis have been funding a series of radical right-wing groups in this country for years as well as subsidising Islamic education that have gradually radicalised the mosques in this country.

Stephen Crittenden: Indeed, this is where the religious element in this story comes in. Thereís a lot of evidence, itís well known, that Saudi money has been used to fund radical Wahabbi-style Islam all over the world to build mosques and schools and so forth in America.

John Loftus: Not just in America. We found thereís some evidence of it in Asia, Canada and in Europe. The idea was the Saudis would underwrite the costs of the mosques and over a period of time they would get to have a say in who was the Imam, who was the clerical leader. Now most people donít realise, but only the Saudis and the Taliban practiced this weird cult known as the Wahabbis. It dates back to the 1730s, and it was really a heresy. So between 1730 and 1900 most of the Muslim clerics had issued over 60 fatwas, condemning the Wahabbi cult as heresy.

Stephen Crittenden: And gradually through the 20th century it gained a new kind of foothold.

John Loftus: Well see, some of our American bankers wanted to get a foothold in Arabian oil and the British were keeping us out, so they hired a group of private thugs. They hired the Saudi tribe which were Wahibbi extremists, and we gave them guns and put them in power, and the first thing they did was to sign an oil contract with Aramco, the Arab American Oil Company. So we actually back in the 1920s, funded this extremist group and brought them to power, and the leader of the Wahabbi sect, Ibn Saud, named the kingdom after himself. Thatís how Saudi Arabia was born.

Stephen Crittenden: Tell us more about the Saudi charitable network in the United States.

John Loftus: The International Institute for Islamic Thought seems to be a research study that will fund other research. For example, Professor Al-Arian was employed as a computing professor at the University of South Florida and he had this local group called WISE, the World Islamic Studies Enterprise. Now WISE was set up because Sami was inviting terrorists from all over the world to attend an academic conference. And if you come in for an academic conference, we donít check the visas too closely. So he was bringing in people from every stripe of terrorist organisation. And then filming them, with his own video camera, discussing their plans for the evolution of terrorism. The stuff is absolutely shocking. So all this time the University of South Florida is lending its good name to a terrorist group.

Stephen Crittenden: Your lawsuit as I understand it is intended to illustrate that the US authorities, I mean the intelligence community, the FBI, the CIA, have investigated all of this, but the investigation has been closed down in order not to embarrass the Saudi government.

John Loftus: That was the bottom line. In 1995 the FBI raided the University of South Florida, they seized Samiís videotape collection, his letter saying ĎWeíre almost complete in our merger with Hamasí, on and on and on. A ton of evidence. And the decision was made in Washington Ė under pressure from our State Department Ė to drop the case because we didnít want to embarrass the Saudis. People were utterly astounded when I filed this lawsuit, but just last Friday we had an FBI agent himself file a lawsuit in Chicago, saying that he had tried to investigate terrorist groups in the US and was told to stop it because it would embarrass the Saudis. So now we have two lawsuits going, alleging a major cover-up by the US government.

Stephen Crittenden: Your argument also seems to hinge on the idea that the Saudis were effectively stabbing the Palestinians in the back, that they didnít want peace with Israel under any circumstances.

John Loftus: Thatís very true.

Stephen Crittenden: What evidence do you have for that?

John Loftus: Well apart from King Saud saying things like, ĎNext to the Jews we hate the Palestinians the mostí, the historical evidence is very clear. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad was funded from this Florida charity, the Florida charity concedes it got most of its money from the Saudis, and the Islamic Jihad is on record as being the group that goes around killing Palestinians, and they want to overthrow Arafat.

Stephen Crittenden: Well where in this picture that youíre constructing does Yasser Arafat sit?

John Loftus: Oh heís a target on both sides. In one sense, Arafat works for the Saudis, they pay him off as well, I mean heís corrupt, heís stealing 20% of the Palestinian authority budget, so the poor Palestinian people are being oppressed from above by Arafat. And then from below they have an Islamic Jihad terrorist kill anyone that wants to work with Israel for peace. See, whatever harm the Israelis may have done, they did one great thing: they put all the Arab kids in school. The literacy rate among Arab kids in Israel is 97%, itís the highest in the Arab world, and for the first time in 300 years we have an entire Arab class thatís been exposed to literacy, democracy, Western values, Western business practices Ė and this is a cancer in Arab society. Whenever the first Arab nation becomes a democracy, thereíll be a domino effect, all the other Arab nations will start clamouring for democracy as well.

Stephen Crittenden: One of the questions thatís raised in my mind by the kind of allegations youíre making, is the extent to which George W. Bushís talk about the ďaxis of evilĒ and the attention thatís being paid to Iraq and Iran, how much of that is also designed not to embarrass the Saudis Ė if you like, to deflect attention away from them?

John Loftus: Well the idea is that the Saudis got caught with their fingers in the cookie jar, thereís absolutely dramatic evidence of them laundering money to terrorist groups through charities in the US. So now weíre using that information to twist the Saudisí arm, to put pressure on the other Arab States, hopefully to move the peace process along to really get a sincere reform movement. The problem is Crown Prince Abdullah, the heir to the throne. Most of his political base comes from the southern half of Saudi Arabia, where the Wahabbi clans are at their strongest. Thatís where 15 of the 19 skyjackers came from. And Abdullah is the moving force, we believe, behind this funding of the terrorist networks worldwide.

Stephen Crittenden: Well how do you explain then the kind of pacifist language from Crown Prince Abdullah in the post-September 11 period, the kind of thing thatís been quoted so extensively by Thomas Friedman in his editorials in The New York Times?

John Loftus: Well I think the Saudis have always been two-faced about this. They have some of the best public relations facilities in the world, they have major investments in a large number of television networks.

Stephen Crittenden: So Thomas Friedmanís just a fall guy?

John Loftus: Heís a fall guy for the Saudis. I mean that plan, the identical plan that was floated by Friedman was one that had been rejected by the Arab conferences back in í81. Thereís nothing new about it.

Stephen Crittenden: But isnít it back on the table again?

John Loftus: Yes Ė with significant changes. The Saudis have dropped their demand for a complete right of return, theyíve offered to negotiate the boundaries in Jerusalem so at least the Jews will be able to go to the Wailing Wall and pray. But one has to be a little bit leery of Prince Abdullahís promises. The Saudi newspapers once again are reporting that the mosque sermons are calling for the destruction of Israel and the killing of all Jews. So much for his promise not to incite anti-Semitic broadcasts, I mean that didnít last very long.

Stephen Crittenden: Can we just come back to the court case finally? Do you expect to succeed in any way?

John Loftus: Yes. In about 30 days we should have Professor Sami Al-Arian and the defendant in my lawsuit before a court deposition under oath. He will have to testify about his connections with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, with Saudi funding of terrorism, where the money was going.
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