Recorded May 10, 2004
NB: This stream contains both FTR #s 459 and 460 in sequence. Each is a 30 minute broadcast.
A brutal irony about the name of a prize racehorse gives this program its title. Owned by Prince Ahmed—one of the members of the Saudi royal family allowed to leave the U.S. right after the 9/11 attacks without being adequately interrogated—War Emblem won two thirds of horse racing’s famed Triple Crown. In the spring of 2002, War Emblem won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, and Mr. Emory noted at the time that the horse’s name was ironic in light of documented support by wealthy Saudis for Al Qaeda. This program highlights allegations that Prince Ahmed was one of three members of the Saudi royal family who functioned as liaison personnel to Al Qaeda. This information was allegedly disclosed during the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah—a key Bin Laden aide.
Program Highlights Include: The precipitous deaths of all three members of the Saudi Royal family (named by Zubaydah) over the space of eight days in 2002; the suspicious air crash that took the life of the head of the Pakistani air force—also alleged by Abu Zubaydah to be in the pay of Bin Laden; the unusual interrogation methods allegedly employed by the CIA to obtain the information provided by Abu Zubaydah.
1. Beginning with discussion of the evacuation of key Saudis in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the program notes that one of the evacuees had the same last name as one of the hijackers, who had received financial support from the wife of Prince Bandar, the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. (For more about the evacuation flights, see—among other programs—FTR#’s 334, 337, 423, 425, 454.) “Right after 9/11, four private Saudi jets were given special dispensation to fly out of the US, beginning on September 15, 2001. The flight manifests showing passenger lists are now viewable on line at the website of Craig Unger, the author of House of Bush, House of Saud. As noted by Tom Flocco, the first flight corroborates earlier stories of a fifth ‘phantom’ flight from Tampa to Lexington on September 13, when all regular flights were still grounded. All four flights carried members of the Saudi royal family. The first, from Lexington, Kentucky to London, 9/15/01, also carried a young man, Ahmad A.M. Alhazmi, with the same family name as Nawaf Alhazmi, one of the hijackers.”
(“More on the Saudi Private Jet Flights right after 9/11” by Peter Dale Scott; p. 1.)
2. Among the other evacuees was Prince Ahmad bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz—the owner of War Emblem, the horse that won two thirds of horseracing’s triple crown in 2002. (Obviously, that horse is the subject of the program’s title.) “There is nothing to connect the two Alhazmis directly. But the hijacker Nawaf had already been connected in press stories to the Saudi royal family, as the recipient of funds coming indirectly from the wife of Prince Bandar, the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. ‘Scandal struck again in November 2002 and touched Princess Haifa al-Faisal, wife of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the longtime Saudi ambassador to Washington (and nephew of Prince Nayef). It was learned that money had gone from her purse to the pockets of two 9/11 hijackers, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, by way of two Saudi intermediaries, Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Bassnan (Stephen Schwartz, Weekly Standard, 8/12/03). On the flight was the noted horse breeder Prince Ahmad bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, the owner of the Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem. After returning to Saudi Arabia, he died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 43, his cousin, Prince Sultan bin Faisal bin Turki bin Abdullah, aged 41, was killed in a car accident the next day, on his way to Prince Ahmad’s funeral. . . .” (Idem.)
3. The program highlights information that came to light after the capture of Aby Zubaydah, a key aide to Osama bin Laden. Zubaydah disclosed that War Emblem’s owner was among the contact points between Al Qaeda and the Saudi royal family. “Just how wrong this decision was [to allow the Saudis to leave] became apparent several months later, when the war in Afghanistan was in full swing. On Thursday, March 28, 2002, acting on electronic intercepts of telephone calls, heavily armed Pakistani commando units accompanied by American Special Forces and FBI SWAT teams, raided a two-story home in the suburbs of Faisalabad, in western Pakistan. They had received tips that one of the people in the house was Abu Zubaydah, the thirty-year-old chief of operations for Al Qaeda who had been head of field operations for the USS Cole bombing and who was a close confidant of Osama bin Laden’s.”
(House of Bush, House of Saud; by Craig Unger; Scribner [HC]; Copyright 2004 by Craig Unger; ISBN 0–7432-5337-X; pp. 263–264.)
4. “Two days later, on March 30, news of Zubaydah’s capture was spreading all over the world. At first, the administration refused to corroborate the reports; then it celebrated the capture of the highest-ranking Al Qaeda operative every to be taken into custody. ‘This represents a very significant blow to Al Qaeda,’ said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. He called Zubaydah ‘a key terrorist recruiter, an operational planner and a member of Osama bin Laden’s inner circle.’” (Ibid.; p. 264.)
5. “Donald Rumsfeld told a news conference that Zubaydah was ‘being given exactly the excellent medical care one would want if they wanted to make sure he was around a good long time to visit with us.’ The international media speculated as to what Zubaydah might know, what he might say. On Sunday, March 31, three days after the raid, the interrogation began. . . .” (Idem.)
6. “ . . . First, they [CIA] administered thiopental sodium, better known under its trademarked name, Sodium Pentothal, through an IV drip, to make Zubaydah more talkative. Since the prisoner had been shot three times during the capture, he was already hooked up to a drip to treat his wounds and it was possible to administer the drug without his knowledge. Second, as a variation on the good cop-bad cop routine, the CIA used two teams of debriefers. One consisted of undisguised Americans who were at least willing to treat Zubaydah’s injuries while they interrogated him. The other team consisted of Arab Americans posing as Saudi security agents, who were known for their brutal interrogation techniques. The thinking was that Zubaydah would be so scared of being turned over to the Saudis, ever infamous for their public executions in Riyadh’s Chop-Chop Square, that he would try to win over the American interrogators by talking to them.” (Ibid.; pp. 264–265.)
7. “In fact, exactly the opposite happened. When Zubaydah was confronted with men passing themselves off as Saudi security officers, his reaction was not fear, but instead relief . . . . ‘The prisoner, who had been reluctant even to confirm his identity to his American captors, suddenly started talking animatedly. He was happy to see them, he said, because he feared the Americans would torture and then kill him. Zubaydah asked his interrogators to call a senior member of the ruling Saudi family. He then provided a private home number and cell phone number from m
emory. ‘He will tell you what to do,’ Zubaydah promised them.’” (Ibid.; p. 265.)
8. More about Zubaydah’s fingering of Prince Ahmed (War Emblem’s owner) and his role as contact person for Al Qaeda on behalf of the royal family: “The name Zubaydah gave came as a complete surprise to the CIA. It was Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, the owner of many legendary racehorses and one of the most westernized members of the royal family. On September 16, 2001, Prince Ahmed, of course, had boarded the flight in Lexington as part of the evacuation plan approved by the Bush White House.” (Idem.)
9. “Prince Ahmed was well known not just in Saudi Arabia, but also in publishing circles in London and horse-racing circles in Kentucky. He was such an unlikely name that the interrogators immediately assumed Zubaydah was lying to buy time. . . .The interrogators then keep their prisoner on a ‘bare minimum’ of pain medication and interrupted his sleep with bright lights for hour after hour before restarting the Sodium Pentothal drip.” (Ibid.; pp. 265–266.)
10. In addition, Zubaydah named two other members of the Saudi royal family as Al Qaeda liaison personnel. “When they returned, Zubaydah spoke to his faux Saudi interrogators as if they, not he, were the ones in trouble. He said that several years earlier the royal family had made a deal with Al Qaeda in which the House of Saud would aid the Taliban so long as Al Qaeda kept terrorism out of Saudi Arabia. Zubaydah added that as part of this arrangement, he dealt with Prince Ahmed and two other members of the House of Saud as intermediaries, Prince Sultan bin Faisal bin Turki al-Saud, a nephew of King Fahd’s, and Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabir, a twenty-five-year-old distant relative of the king’s. Again, he furnished phone numbers from memory.” (Ibid.; p. 266.)
11. Zubaydah alleged that Prince Ahmed had foreknowledge of an impending terrorist attack in the U.S. on 9/11. “ . . . The interrogators responded by telling Zubaydah that 9/11 had changed everything. The House of Saud certainly would not stand behind him after that. It was then that Zubaydah dropped his real bombshell. ‘Zubaydah said that 9/11 changed nothing because Ahmed . . . knew beforehand that an attack was scheduled for American soil that day . . . ‘They just didn’t know what it would be, nor did they want to know more than that. The information had been passed to them, said Zubaydah, because bin laden knew they could not stop it without knowing the specifics, but later they would be hard-pressed to turn on him if he could disclose their foreknowledge.’” (Idem.)
12. “Two weeks later, Zubaydah was moved to an undisclosed location. When he figured out that the interrogators were really Americans, not Saudis, . . . he tried to strangle himself, and later recanted his entire tale. As this book went to press, no one had convincingly refuted [this] account.” (Idem.)
13. After discussing Prince Ahmed’s purchase of War Emblem, the horse’s success in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, and the awkward presence at the Derby of New York firefighters who had lost many of their co-workers on 9/11, the program highlights Prince Ahmed’s curious absence from the U.S. when War Emblem was running in the Belmont Stakes. Prince Ahmed then died on 7/22/2002, allegedly of a heart attack. “ . . . But on June 8, Prince Ahmed did not even show up at the Belmont Stakes, the third part of the Triple Crown. ‘I’m disappointed the prince wasn’t here,’ said trainer Bob Baffeert. Ahmed was said to be tending to family obligations in Riyadh. An associate said that he did not know the nature of the obligations. In any case, War Emblem stumbled as he came out of the starting gate and came in eighth. About six weeks later, on July 22, Prince Ahmed was dead. News reports said the forty-three-year-old nephew of King Fahd had died in his sleep due to a heart attack.” (Ibid.; p. 268.)
14. Within eight days of Ahmed’s death, the two other members of the royal family alleged by Zubaydah to have served as liaison agents between Al Qaeda and the house of Saud had died under odd circumstances. “ . . . Ahmed was not the only person named by Zubaydah to suffer ill. The next day, July 23, Ahmed’s cousin, Prince Sultan bin Faisal bin Turki al-Saud, was killed in a one-car crash while en route to Ahmed’s funeral. A week later, on July 30, Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabir, a third member of the royal family who had been named by Zubaydah, was found in the desert having apparently died of thirst.” (Ibid.; pp. 268–269.)
15. In addition, the head of the Pakistani air force (also alleged by Zubaydah to be in the pay of Al Qaeda) died under strange circumstances, rounding out the pattern of timely deaths around those revealed by Zubaydah to have been associated with the terrorist group. The alleged relationship between Bin Laden and Air Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir is interesting to contemplate in connection with some of the anomalies about the performance of air units on 9/11. Certainly, the head of the Pakistani air force would have been an excellent consultant to provide the attackers with inside information about air defense technology. “In and of themselves, the three mysterious deaths do not conclusively confirm [the] assertion that Zubaydah was telling the truth about Osama bin Laden and his high-level links to the House of Saud. Nor was that the end of it. During his interrogation, Zubaydah had also said that Osama bin Laden had struck a deal with Pakistani air force chief Air Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir, and had told him that there would be unspecified attacks on American soil on 9/11. Seven months after the Saudi deaths, on February 20, 2003, Mir and sixteen others were killed when their plane crashed in a northwest province of Pakistan. Sabotage was widely speculated to be behind the crash but could not be proved.” (Ibid.; p. 269.)
16. “Now, of course, the three men cannot be interviewed—not that the FBI didn’t have its chance at one of them. On September 16, 2001, after Ahmed boarded the 727 in Lexington, Kentucky. He had been identified by FBI officials, but not seriously interrogated. It was an inauspicious start to the just-declared war on terror. ‘What happened on September 11 was a horrific crime,’ says John Martin, a former Justice Department official. ‘It was an act of war. And the answer is no, this is not any way to go about investigating it.’” (Idem.)
17. “As for the Saudis, they were not offering any answers. On September 4, 2003, roughly two years after 9/11, Saudi embassy spokesman Nail al-Jubeir appeared on CNN and was asked by newscaster Paula Zahn, ‘Can you tell us unequivocally tonight that no one on board [these planes] had anything to do with either the planning or the execution of the September 11 plot?’ ‘There are only two things that I’m sure about,’ al-Jubeir replied ‘That there is the existence of God and then we will die at the end of the world. Everything else, we don’t know.’” (Idem.)