By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Witnesses with “personal and relevant” knowledge about 9/11 have told lawyers and investigators representing thousands of victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington that they are afraid to testify against Saudi Arabia.
The witnesses cited active intimidation by Saudi “agents,” and anxiety about the brutal October 2018 murder of Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey – a slaying the CIA concluded was ordered by the country’s de facto ruler, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, often known by his initials, MBS.
While defense attorneys for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia denounced the “extraordinarily serious allegations” as “baseless and inflammatory,” plaintiff’s attorney Andrew J. Maloney III described them to U.S. Magistrate Sarah Netburn as “credible threats” at a hearing last week in the civil lawsuit against Saudi Arabia and other defendants in federal court in Manhattan.
“Within the last year, I was personally advised by a third party witness that his/her family in the Middle East had been approached in person and directly threatened by Saudi government officials and/or their employees/agents within the past several months,” Maloney said in a sworn declaration.
“More specifically, they were advised that if (the witness) were to testify against the Saudi government, that there would be ‘serious consequences’” for (the witness and the witness’s) family, including being “murdered,” Maloney wrote.
Fears of 9/11 witnesses
Another witness said recently that they were “stalked” by Saudi agents after the witness’s “name surfaced during the litigation discovery” and that the stalkers were “sending a message” that they could make the witness “disappear” at any time, according to Maloney. A third witness was reportedly “so afraid of the Saudis’ reach” that they were thinking about buying “a bulletproof vest,” Maloney wrote.
A fourth witness said family members in Saudi Arabia had “urged” the witness “not to cooperate with the 9/11 investigation against the Saudi government and that they feared for their lives living inside the Kingdom. No specific person or threat was identified,” Maloney said.
“Several additional witnesses agreed to speak to our investigators only if their identities were kept secret for fear of Saudi retribution,” Maloney said.
In November, Florida Bulldog reported that plaintiffs’ attorneys believe Washington Post columnist Khashoggi was suffocated and dismembered at the consulate because he’d agreed to speak with them after being contacted by an investigator Oct. 26, 2017.
“Khashoggi was part of the intelligence community and we knew he knew a lot about the Saudi government’s involvement in 9/11. He was connected to the Muslim Brotherhood and to [former Crown Prince] Muhammad bin Nayef, and that’s the reason our investigator went to speak with him,” said New York attorney James Kreindler. “She said would you come to New York and talk to my boss? He said yes.”
(The New York Times reported that bin Nayef was one of four Saudi royals who were arrested Saturday “amid a fresh episode of palace intrigue.”)
Kreindler said the meeting with Khashogg was “preliminary” and no information was obtained.
Khashoggi and the ambassador
That same day Khashoggi spoke with Khalid bin Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed’s younger brother who was then serving as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S.
“I’m sure that as soon as she left, he called KBS [Khalid bin Salman] and said, ‘Look, the 9/11 lawyers are on to me,’ said Kreindler. ‘They know that I know what you guys did and I didn’t give ‘em anything, but you’re holding my kid in Saudi Arabia and if you harm him I will.’ So my belief is that Khashoggi was killed not because he was a dissident, there are lots of dissidents, but because he was holding this ax over the Saudis’ heads.”
Khalid bin Salman confirmed his contact with Khashoggi that day in a Nov. 16, 2018 tweet that followed a Washington Post report disclosing the CIA’s conclusion that MBS had ordered Khashoggi’s death. The story also said unnamed intelligence sources had said Khalid told Khashoggi “he should go to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to pick up the documents he needed” for his planned marriage to a Turkish woman he’d met in May 2018, and that Khashoggi had been given “assurances that it would be safe to go.”
Khalid’s tweet said, “As we told the Washington Post the last contact I had with Mr. Khashoggi was via text on Oct 26 2017. I never talked to him by phone and I certainly never suggested he go to Turkey for any reason.”
Michael Kellogg, a Washington, D.C. attorney who represents the kingdom, responded to the accusations of witness intimidation by calling them false and asking the plaintiffs’ lawyers to turn over their names so they can be deposed and their information turned over to the Department of Justice. The plaintiffs’ lawyers declined.
Kellogg told the court in a Feb. 27 letter that he brought the allegations “to the highest levels of the Saudi government and can categorially represent that no Saudi Arabian official, employee, agent or anyone acting on Saudi Arabia’s behalf has attempted to threaten any potential witness in this proceeding.” In support, he attached a declaration by Saudi Minister of State Mohammed Al Sheikh denying the accusations and stating that “the only outreach that Saudi Arabia has made to potential non-party witnesses pertaining to this action has been through outside counsel.”
At last week’s hearing, Judge Netburn said she was “troubled” by the accusations of witness tampering and asked Maloney to provide her with additional information about the threats by March 18, according to New Jersey’s Bergen Record.