In this podcast with radio host Peter Boyles, WhoWhatWhy founder and editor-in-chief Russ Baker assesses the congressional 9/11 inquiry’s suppressed 28 pages dealing with indications of Saudi ties to the alleged hijackers.
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Related frontpage panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Dick Cheney and George Bush on September 11, 2001 (The U.S. National Archives / Flickr)
Podcast Russ Baker on Peter Boyles Radio Show
Peter Boyles: Russ Baker is with us. His book is Family of Secrets. Russ, it’s a real honor always when you do the radio shows. I want to say that first, and thanks for doing it. Welcome back to Denver.
Russ Baker: Thank you very much. It’s great to be back.
Peter: I’d like you to just do a bio. I’m sure there are some people that don’t know who you are, the work you’ve done. And then we’re going to talk about 60 Minutes. So, if you would…
Russ: Sure. I’m an investigative journalist. Worked on staff and independently on a large number of American and international news organizations around the world and have focused in part on things related to national security. I founded an organization called whowhatwhy. We are a non-profit, non-partisan, non-commercial investigative and analytical news site, whowhatwhy.org, and I run that, and I also wrote the book, as you mentioned, Family of Secrets, which is nominally about the Bush family but it really is about years of hidden American history and the influences and forces that have shaped our country’s trajectory in ways that have not been formally or officially acknowledged.
Peter: Most recently Neil Bush has turned up on the Ted Cruz staff. What do you do with that?
Russ: (Laughs) It’s so interesting because a number of members of the Bush family were involved in the collapse of various savings and loans, during that particular crisis, Neil Bush key among them. These are people who used their links to their father, or their brother, when they were presidents, and who got most of their opportunities to make money through that. There are other interesting interactions. Neil Bush is friendly with the family of John Hinckley. Hinckley famously shot Ronald Reagan. And, had Ronald Reagan died, the new president would have been Neil Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush. Just…
Peter: They were having dinner together that night. Neil…
Russ: The brother of Hinckley and Neil Bush. These are the fascinating odd coincidences one runs into.
Peter: Let me jump to 60 Minutes. We’ve talked before, and it’s been really limited. Not you, but the amount of people who are taking interest in the suppressed 28 pages, and on Sunday night I started getting email from people that are friends across the country who have been involved in the struggle — “Peter, get up, get ready, somebody is finally starting to take a hard look at it.” Steve Kroft and that team, they did The 28 Pages. Sunday night on 60 Minutes. I don’t know if you saw that piece…
Russ: I did and I’m going back to watch it again. I’m looking for very, very small things, statements being made in there. I tend to screen things like that about ten times before I begin to move on my end.
Peter: Megyn Kelly had Bob Graham last night talking about it as well so that’s all encouraging. I’ve watched it three times. George Bush’s name came up once and that was in the beginning. And they never came back to it. Who suppressed the 28 pages?
Russ: That’s an interesting question. Of course, when you watch this, and I’ve talked about Graham. And on whowhatwhy.org we actually ran an article on Graham, maybe we can talk about it and how the FBI personally sort of threatened him over this. And I’d like to tie it in, by the way, to the Boston Marathon. Because I think all of these things are connected. In any case, there was the …
According to these people, according to Porter Goss who was with the CIA himself, and was on the[congressional] 9/11 [Inquiry], was a co-chair, he said the same thing: The FBI told them the thing had to be suppressed. And when they asked why, they said “because we said so.”
That’s a very, very interesting statement, because it begins to raise questions: what is the FBI? Who dictates to the FBI what it does, or does the FBI dictate to the US government? What is that?
Peter: I saw that as well, but Graham has said it was George Bush, Dick Cheney, and the administration that ordered the suppression, and I was surprised to see the answer of the FBI. That was surprising.
Russ: The missing link there is: Who does the FBI answer to? Presumably, unless it’s shown to be otherwise, they’re being told what to do by the White House.
Peter: Precisely, and for all the money and what’s behind the curtain, is there any doubt in your mind that Bush, Cheney or Bush ordered the suppression?
Russ: Oh absolutely not. You have to remember that the … when they were interviewed themselves, Bush would not even answer any questions unless Cheney was present with him. That in itself… why is it that these things are not made into bigger deals?
All of the concentrated might of the media, 60 Minutes, Fox News, Megyn Kelly, those kinds of people, they could have all focused on how does the President manage to not talk about one of the biggest events in the history of the country and what he knows about it without having essentially a babysitter. That is astonishing,
Peter: But that’s what they always do. That’s the point of believing that George Bush was the true leader of the country during the eight years and during that time. And he was’t. It was Rumsfeld and it was… this is from my reading of the list. It was Rumsfeld, it was Cheney, it was Wolfowitz, it was Card. Those were the guys that were precisely telling him what to do. Do you doubt that, Russ?
Russ: I don’t doubt that. These things are even more complicated, some of the work that was done years ago by Fletcher Prouty …
Peter: I know Fletcher Prouty, yeah.
Russ: And Fletcher Prouty, who was a member of the military, served in a key position as a liaison with the Central Intelligence Agency for years. He used to talk about what he called “the secret team”, the notion of people throughout the national security apparatus who had a shared mindset and who were able to sort of affect policy. And this is where you get into what Peter Dale Scott calls the “deep state.” How these sentiments are arrived at. More and more I’ve been taking a hard look at Dick Cheney, and realizing the extent that he was never really the kind of mastermind of things that people would think he is.
My sense is the way that a lot of these things happen, a consensus is arrived at. I think the Saudi story is very, very complicated. One of the key pieces of this, I believe, is a story that we did, whowhatwhy.org, if you go to the site, we have links to that story we ran a number of years ago. This is a related piece. I don’t know how much time we have here but we should probably – and I know you are so very well-versed, more than practically any radio host, in this stuff, is to talk about the piece that they discuss on 60 Minutes. They focus on the San Diego connection…
Peter: The San Diego L.A. connection, yes.
Russ: Yes, which is very important. And in our piece we focus on the Sarasota connection, from one coast to the other.
Peter: If we can pause for one second. You’re listening to the one and only Russ Baker. We’re talking about 60 Minutes. Two things, the family that escapes and they find food on the table, it’s right by the airport, they knew Mohamed Atta. That was never brought up on 60 Minutes. The other one that wasn’t brought up, was the flights. We know that Prince Bandar goes to and is recorded, sits on what’s called — and I brought this up yesterday — “the Truman Balcony”. And he sits there with George W. Bush and they concoct this plan to get God only knows who, and God knows how many, flights and they got him up and out of the country. And that was not in the 60 Minutes piece as well, moving toward a connection. So I turn it over to you. Talk about the Florida connection.
Russ: The Florida connection was an important piece of that as brought out by other journalists for whom I have good regard. One of them was working on a book about 9/11. The book did not go that far in terms of what it established or speculated on, or anything else, but the author is a solid guy: Tony Summers.
Peter: Another guy I know and respect, Anthony Summers.
Russ: That’s right. And so he had developed some information. He hadn’t developed it far enough to put in his book. So when the book was done, he contacted another fellow in Florida, a former newspaper journalist whom I know, also a solid guy, and he said, “hey, maybe we ought to run this thing down.”
They had heard that something had happened around 9/11 in Sarasota, Florida, on the West coast of Florida, and they decided they would see what they’d find about this. Basically, people living in a gated community in Sarasota had noticed shortly after 9/11 that the majority of the hijackers were Saudis and it became known that some of the Saudis had trained in Florida in that area.
They noticed that their neighbors were devout Saudis. They hadn’t seen them for a while. Of course you have to be careful about that, not to scapegoat people, but they just noticed that right around the same time these people had sort of vanished. They brought that to the attention of the authorities, who brought it to the attention of the FBI. The FBI had apparently swarmed that facility and been in the house and had taken out things and so forth. So they [the journalists] looked into this thing, and basically what they discovered was that the FBI’s internal document had concluded that this family had links to several of the alleged hijackers, including the alleged ringleader, Mohamed Atta.
Atta had actually been going to their house and visiting the house, going through the gate. At the gate you have to show identification, license plates, and they knew who they were. They did some triangulation with phone records and they found links between this house and a number of the hijackers.
Now with the California connection, you have a similar thing where you’ve got a Saudi diplomat and a person, a ghost employee of a major Saudi aviation company, both interacting with these people who would then end up being hijackers.
In Sarasota you have a similar thing but this time you have an actual house that they’re visiting. And the man who owned this house – and here’s where my group whowhatwhy.org comes in. We then do the next piece of reporting which was who were the people who owned the house. What we discovered through extensive investigation was that the man who owned the house was the president, CEO, of a major Saudi company. That company was involved in major transportation services. Their activities that gave it a reason to get around the world – those are the things that are typically used as intelligence cover. And what is very significant is that that man, his boss, the chairman of his company, was a very powerful Saudi man who was essentially the head of aviation in Saudi Arabia.
And so what you have, you have aviation in the San Diego and L.A. story and you have aviation in the East Coast story, and you have all these guys trained in aviation and they’re the ones who supposedly run the planes into all those buildings. Now, as you point out, that program did not go the whole way. But to be fair in our piece, we focus on our angle, meaning what we developed.
It’s important to put these pieces together. What I’ve seen happening, Peter, in the greater stratosphere is that, because there is so much theorizing about what 9/11 was, because we know that people justifiably look at the way those buildings came down, look at other pieces of what they’ve heard, what they’ve seen, people have different speculations. They want to say it was this country, was this group or this person and not this other one.
And we’ve noticed that this Saudi material that we have developed and that others have developed, gets ignored, gets pooh-poohed. We always have people coming on our site posting comments, people saying “this is a distraction, the real story is something else…” Well, it may be that this is part of something else, but it is not a distraction. I do not believe for a second that Bob Graham is anything but an honorable person …
Russ: All these people, you see Tim Roemer, a former Congressman, Democrats and Republicans alike, liberals, conservatives, whatever you want to call them, they all are doing the best that they can, which is, by the way, generally true for people in government. There’s constant effort to vilify government. I don’t share that. I think people are people, the same person you like, who is a football coach, then runs for office, is still the same person facing certain kinds of constraints, but I think they often do the best that they can. The problem here is the system and…
Peter: This is Russ Baker. He did Family of Secrets, an investigative reporter. I’m a huge fan. We’re short of time this morning. If you missed 60 Minutes, for the first time it breaks surface on the 28 pages that were suppressed by George Bush and Dick Cheney. I’m told that Megyn Kelly did a report, I’ll get to it before the end of the day.
….I saw some polling data that was done on young men and women in the military, right after the invasion of Iraq. And by the way, they withheld the 9/11 Commission Report till after Bush launches his invasion. Over 95% adult men and women, when asked why they’re there [in Iraq], they answered “it was to get even for what Saddam did on 9/11.” It’s a lie. True or False.
Russ: I’m sorry. You lost me on that last…
Peter: I’ve seen polling that was done on young men and women in the military on the invasion of Iraq, when asked why. They said they were getting even for what Saddam Hussein did to the United States on 9/11.
Russ: I see. Yes, when you think what a tragedy it is when people devote their entire lives – I mean their lives, they can lose their limbs, they can lose their lives, they’re killing other people – they don’t even understand what they do or why. And when you think about what a tragedy that is, we can do a whole separate program on that. Think about that. If those people don’t know what’s been going on, and I’m sure you’ve seen when they ask Americans – and polls still show, at least among Republicans, a very large segment, maybe the majority…
Peter: Yes, they say horrible things about me for doing shows like this. And it’s gone, it started up this morning as well. I got big shoulders. The truth will win out. There’s a great line that says “time is a great enemy of a lie.” And the lie was told. The bucks now are dropping left and right. There’s a new book right after 9/11. They talk about Rumsfeld, five or six hours after the attacks, saying “my interest is to hit Saddam.” He’s telling people this at meetings, recorded meetings. Bush was told there was no evidence of WMDs. There were no terrorist camps. It did not matter to those people.
Russ: A very important piece on this, Peter, at whowhatwhy.org, a video with General Wesley Clark, the former commander of NATO says that right after 9/11, he was at the Pentagon, and he was shown a top secret memo that said there was a plan to attack or invade seven Middle Eastern countries and he was stunned by that. And in another video we have up there he says “It’s all about oil.”
Now here’s the man who was representing the United States in one of the most important international military positions, this would have been on Fox News, on all these programs [when he was] in his official capacity, [but] when he was no longer in power and he says this stunning thing to really explain all of this. Nobody covers it.
Peter: Can you stay through a break?
Russ: Yes, sure.
Peter: Thanks, Russ Baker, that’s good stuff.
… Russ Baker is with us, is kind enough to stay. We were talking about Sunday Night, 60 Minutes does a report on these top secret documents that no one is allowed to see. And about 28 pages, the entire 9/11 Commission Report was about 838 pages and the joint inquiry is about the 9/11 attacks. And then they step in and suppress 28 pages. You know, and I’ve talked to Bob Graham, privately three or four times, on air half a dozen times. Other people who have read the papers say to me, and they’ve all been men of their word, who did not say at all what they saw, but they would say “every page totally changes your opinion of what happened on 9/11.” I realize this is a weird question, but Russ, if we were able to read those pages, what do you think we would see?
Russ: Well, the best sense that I can get as somebody who has not read them, is pretty much what 60 Minutes conveyed, although they did it in that very narrow way, and for a news organization, I think it’s gutsy what they did. And they had to be incredibly laser-like. But I think what we see is this notion that many people in the Saudi apparatus, not just the ones mentioned in the report, but others that I talked about earlier with regard to Sarasota. And I believe there were more seeded throughout the Saudi government who, for whatever reason, were enthusiasts and supporters of terrorism.
Now that, of course, raises the question I mean, are these people traitors to their own country, their own government? And if so why are they not cracked down on? And that’s what I don’t hear discussed. Not on 60 Minutes, not anywhere. What are we really looking at here? And of course, the larger question, if Saudi Arabia is tolerating this kind of thing, why? And why is the US government tolerating Saudi Arabia’s tolerating it? As you know, one of the themes in our report whowhatwhy.org, is that terrorism itself is almost a necessity for the continuation of this vast money-making machine called the military industrial complex.
Peter: I come to some conclusions that you do. Dick Cheney and George Bush told… They had two mantras: WMDs and terrorist camps were Saddam Hussein’s regime for training jihadis for Osama bin Laden. Nothing could be further from the truth. They hated each other. Many books that I’ve read suggest that Saddam Hussein was probably good for how many thousands jihadis or religious fanatics he ordered killed, whether they were Shia or Sunni. He was locked in a death struggle with what was going on with the mullahs in Iran … But there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the attack of 9/11. No evidence.
Russ: That’s right. There was a concerted effort to vilify all of these people with this Baathist whatever you want to call them, secular quasi-socialist types of regimes, whether it was Saddam or the Assads. I know you’re an expert on that…
Peter: No, just a reader.
Russ: Or Qaddafi… that there was a long-standing plan to knock out these sorts of independent actors in the MIddle East. There were many different reasons. Some of it had to do with, in the case of Assad, who unlike Saddam, was in part because he was an ally of Iran. There were natural gas pipeline issues, there were a whole host of different things. What I was talking about earlier, how the consensus is arrived at, people may arrive at a consensus but they may not have the same motivations. And I think that’s key. And certain causes we’ve seen — the destabilization, the removal of Saddam, or Qaddafi, and the attempted removal of Assad — has plunged the region into chaos, resulted in the rise of the Islamic State.
And now we’ve got Hillary Clinton running for president, claiming that she is much better qualified than Bernie Sanders. Sanders says we shouldn’t be in any of those places. He even in one debate started going into the kind of territory that you and I are going into, and I’m sure his advisors would like him to stop. Because people don’t understand. But he started — a bit.
She’s being routinely described by the media as well-qualified because she was secretary of state. But in spite of the fact that she has been so avid in support of more of these same kinds of things — that’s why you see a continuum, I think. One of the themes in my book Family of Secrets is that the Bush family disaster can be seen in a larger context that they — and to some extent the Clintons, and others who will not buck the system — are very much a continuity and it involves both parties.
Peter: Your new books that we’re talking about – the waterboarding has come back up again and people have come forward, high-ranking officials that say Rumsfeld and Cheney demanded that interrogators find evidence of … al-Qaeda-Iraqi collaboration. So in 2002, Cheney and Rumsfeld were demanding proof of the links between al-Qaeda and Iraq, and also in the middle of this is Chalabi, Ahmed Chalabi. And Chalabi tells these guys “Oh, they’re there.” So they take Abu Zainab and they take Khalid Sheikh Mohammed whom I’m not defending, but they waterboard them. I think Khalid was waterboarded 180 times.
They came up empty. Eventually people were told by Cheney and Rumsfeld: push harder. And eventually as we know – from torture — people will tell you what you want to hear to have it stopped. And people in books like The 500 Days who said they beat them in these black prisons. They beat them into telling them what they wanted to hear, and George Bush and Dick Cheney used those things. There’s a reason why the French stayed out of that war, why lots of people stayed out of that war. The French tell them, “this whole yellow-cake story is a lie.”
Russ: And of course this goes back to the still very secret energy task force that Cheney convened right away when they came into power. This, we have to remember, was before 9/11. We don’t know too much about what they did, but we do know they had maps and they went and looked at the maps, talked to the oil companies and said where do you want to be? Of course we know where those places were.
This goes back to The Project for a New American Century. I mean, the big unspoken thing here is the United States, the machine that we’re all part of, our addiction to driving gas-guzzlers and needing all kinds of motorized vehicles that of course we don’t really need, to me, denial of climate change, and denial of the need to change our lifestyles, and to minimize waste. Americans waste much more than anybody else in the world, and we don’t want to stop. There is a cost for this addiction. And that cost is — all this fuel has to come from somewhere. And so because that’s how our economy runs there is a mandate that finding and grabbing this stuff anywhere in the world is the essence of national security, and that is the story here. The story of the tolerance of the Saudis, the black prisons, all the things that you’re just talking about …
Peter: The more I see into it, the more frightened I get. This Libyan guy, remember, al-Shaykh al-Libi, he claimed that there was a link between Saddam and al-Qaeda and WMDs. There was no way the guy could have had any knowledge of any of these things. And I listen to radio shows and they bring up al-Libi. There were people that knew al-Libi was lying. They were marginalized claims and the Bush administration… by the way, there was the one guy from 9/11… he was tortured until he signed a confession and he was never even allowed to read the confession that he signed. And they go on to Cheney, they go on to Rumsfeld, they go on to Card. And even George Tenet who I had lost all my respect for, and Tenet’s come out and said Cheney and company, they wanted to invade Iraq long before 9/11. They said they were looking for all that crap that Cheney and Rumsfeld came up with for justification for Iraq. George Tenet called it “crap.”
Russ: And as you may remember, in my book Family of Secrets I broke the story from George Bush’s own advisor that, or rather his co-author of a book, in a section of a book that never came out, where this co-author asked Bush as a candidate for president in 1999, “What do you want to do if you’re elected president?” Bush had almost no ideas at all. And the one thing he finally came up with was he was going to invade Iraq. And the co-author said “Why do you want to do that?” And he said: “I became convinced as an advisor to my father, and I saw Margaret Thatcher and Britain when they invaded these tiny undefended Falklands off of Argentina…”, he said, “Oh, the tremendous response in Britain and the pride, parades, and people throwing flowers at her, there’s no question. As a commander in chief, you’ve got to have a war. It’s the key to your ratings.”
Peter: My last question, I know you stayed way beyond the time you had allotted. How long before this thing really breaks surface, people really truly look at what happened?
Russ: It’s hard to say, Peter. When I started whowhatwhy.org, some years ago, people were dismissing these types of things. I sense a sea change going on. I see that the same people who wanted to label us “kooks” aren’t doing that anymore. We’re getting more invitations [onto shows]. It’s a slow process. I’m not saying it’s happening overnight. Since we began, you had Edward Snowden, the Panama Papers, Wikileaks, all of these things show there’s a movement afoot in the land, the people are arising. I’m very excited for the near-term much more for all this. Much less for other things like climate change but I’m hopeful that there is an exciting moment at hand.
Peter: Thank you for everything. Thank you for the books, your appearances. Russ, we’ll talk as soon as possible again. And it really was an honor. Thank you for doing the radio show. Take care of yourself.