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Profile: Bin Laden Family
Bin Laden Family was a participant or observer in the following events:
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin forms Hamas as the military arm of his Islamic Association, which had been licensed by Israel ten years earlier (see 1973-1978). According to Charles Freeman, a former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, “Israel started Hamas. It was a project of Shin Bet, which had a feeling that they could use it to hem in the PLO.” [CounterPunch, 1/18/2003; Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 191, 208] Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies, states that Israel “aided Hamas directly—the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO.” A former senior CIA official speaking to UPI describes Israel’s support for Hamas as “a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative.” Further, according to an unnamed US government official, “the thinking on the part of some of the right-wing Israeli establishment was that Hamas and the other groups, if they gained control, would refuse to have anything to do with the peace process and would torpedo any agreements put in place.” Larry Johnson, a counterterrorism official at the State Department, states: “The Israelis are their own worst enemies when it comes to fighting terrorism. They are like a guy who sets fire to his hair and then tries to put it out by hitting it with a hammer. They do more to incite and sustain terrorism than curb it.” [United Press International, 2/24/2001 Sources: Larry C. Johnson, Unnamed former CIA official]
King Fahd (left) with Bakh bin Laden (right), a brother of Osama bin Laden, in the mid-1990s. [Source: Agence France-Presse] (click image to enlarge)Beginning in the 1920s, Mohammed Awad bin Laden rose from relative obscurity by creating a construction company favored by the Saudi royal family. He had 54 children before he was killed in a plane crash in 1968. His son Osama bin Laden was born in 1957. The bin Laden family’s companies continued to grow until they became the second wealthiest family in Saudi Arabia, behind only the Saudi royal family. In May 1990, the bin Laden family registers a new parent company for its business activities called the Saudi Binladin Group. Bakr bin Laden, one of Mohammed’s sons, is running the company by this time. By 9/11, the company will employ 36,000 people in 30 countries. The company has been branching out from construction to many other endeavors. However, it will keep a low profile internationally, as most of its business is still in Saudi Arabia. It has business ties with major international corporations such as General Electric, Unilever, Motorola, Schweppes, Citigroup, and HSBC Bank. [Ha'aretz, 12/18/2002]
Salem bin Laden, left, and Bakr bin Laden, right. Salem is killed in a plane crash in 1988. [Source: Public domain via Steve Coll]Shortly after the Saudi government publicly disowns bin Laden (while privately continuing to support him) (see April 9, 1994), the bin Laden family follows suits and publicly disowns him as well. Bakr bin Laden, the chairman of the Saudi Binladin Group, the main bin Laden family company, signs a two-sentence statement. Osama bin Laden has 25 brothers, 29 sisters, and more in-laws, aunts, uncles, and so forth. Der Spiegel will later report that in the years bin Laden lives in Sudan, Saudi intelligence minister “Prince Turki [al-Faisal] sent Osama’s mother, Hamida, and his brother Bakr to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, several times to convince Osama to abandon his terrorist activities. The visits were so frequent that Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, believed at the time that Osama was a Saudi spy.” Vincent Cannistraro, former head of the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center, will say, “I tracked the bin Ladens for years. Many family members claimed that Osama was no longer one of them. It’s an easy thing to say, but blood is usually thicker than water.” Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA unit specializing in hunting bin Laden, doubts that the entire bin Laden family has severed ties with Osama. In a 2005 interview he will say, “I haven’t seen anything in the last 10 years that’s convinced me that would be the case.” [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 6/6/2005; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 6/6/2005]
Yeslam bin Laden, Osama’s half brother, and a Westernized leader of the Binladin Group.
[Source: Publicity photo]In 2004, Osama bin Laden’s half brother Yeslam Binladin admits that he and other bin Laden family members share a Swiss bank account with Osama bin Laden from 1990 until 1997. The account was opened by brothers Omar and Heidar bin Laden in 1990 with an initial deposit of $450,000. By 1997, only two people are authorized to conduct transactions on the account: brothers Osama and Yeslam bin Laden. The bin Laden family claims to have disowned Osama bin Laden in 1994 (see Shortly After April 9, 1994), and the US government officially designated him as a financier of terrorism in 1996. Yeslam had previously denied any financial dealings with Osama at this late date until evidence of this bank account was uncovered by French private investigator Jean-Charles Brisard. In December 2001, French authorities will open an investigation into the financial dealings of the Saudi Investment Company (SICO) run by Yeslam Binladin. [Agence France-Presse, 7/26/2004; Scotsman, 9/28/2004; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 6/6/2005] In 2002, his house will be raided by French police. [Associated Press, 3/20/2002] No charges have been made as of yet, but the investigation will continue and in fact widen its scope in late 2004. A French magistrate will claim he is looking into “other instances of money laundering” apparently involving financial entities connected to Yeslam and other bin Laden family members. [Reuters, 12/26/2004] Yeslam claims he’s had no contact with Osama in 20 years. Yet, in 2004, when asked if he would turn in Osama if given the chance, he replies, “What do you think? Would you turn in your brother?”
[MSNBC, 7/10/2004] His ex-wife Carmen Binladin will also comment around the same time, “From what I have seen and what I have read, I cannot believe that [the rest of the bin Laden family] have cut off Osama completely.… And I cannot believe that some of the sisters [don’t support him.] They are very close to Osama.”
Michael Scheuer, the head of the CIA Counter Terrorism Center’s special unit focusing on bin Laden from 1996 to 1999 (see February 1996), later will claim that before 9/11 members of the bin Laden family in the US are nearly completely off limits to US law enforcement. Author Douglas Farah, a former longtime Washington Post reporter, later will write that “All the bin Ladens living in the United States were granted Saudi diplomatic passports in 1996.… In 1998, when the FBI’s New York office actually sought to investigate some of the bin Laden family’s activities in this country because of suspicions of ties to terrorism, the State Department forced them to shut down the entire operation. Because the bin Laden’s were ‘diplomats’ and as such enjoyed diplomatic immunity, making such investigations illegal.” Scheuer will comment about the 1998 investigation, “My counterparts at the FBI questioned one of the bin Ladens. But then the State Department received a complaint from a law firm, and there was a huge uproar. We were shocked to find out that the bin Ladens in the United States had diplomatic passports, and that we weren’t allowed to talk to them.” Scheuer believes that these unusual diplomatic privileges may help explain how the bin Ladens will be able to depart so quickly just after 9/11 (see September 13, 2001; September 14-19, 2001). Farah later says he interviewed Scheuer about this and claims to have found a second source to verify the information. [Farah, 12/5/2004; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 6/6/2005] The issue of diplomatic passports for the bin Laden family has generally not been reported in the US media, although a 2005 New Yorker article will mention in passing that in 1996, “the State Department stymied a joint effort by the CIA and the FBI to question one of bin Laden’s cousins in America, because he had a diplomatic passport, which protects the holder from US law enforcement.” [New Yorker, 2/8/2005] This is a probable reference to the 1996 investigation of Abdullah Awad bin Laden (although he is bin Laden’s nephew, not cousin (see February-September 11, 1996)). It is unclear what connection there may be, if any, between that investigation and this 1998 investigation.
Former President George H. W. Bush meets with the bin Laden family on behalf of the Carlyle Group. The meeting takes place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 10/7/2001]
Bin Laden says in an interview, “I thank God that he has allowed my family to understand my path. They are praying for me.”
[Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 6/6/2005] The Bin Laden family formally disowned Osama in 1994 (see Shortly After April 9, 1994), but some suggest that some of his relatives continue to support him.
A transfer of 241 million euros (over $250 million) is made to Pakistan in this year from a Swiss bank account belonging jointly to Osama bin Laden and a Pakistani. The Pakistani is Akberali Moawalla, a former business partner and an acquaintance of Osama’s brother Yeslam bin Laden. This Deutsche Bank joint account belongs to a company called Cambridge, which is a subsidiary of the Saudi Binladin Group, the bin Laden family company. After French investigators will discover records of this money transfer in late 2004, a French judge will authorize widening a probe into the financial network surrounding the bin Laden family. [Reuters, 12/26/2004; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 6/6/2005] The discovery of this sizable joint bank account will contradict the conclusions of the 9/11 Commission, which will claim that bin Laden inherited far less than is commonly reported and never had a fortune in the hundreds of millions of dollars (see August 21, 2004). [Agence France-Presse, 7/26/2004]
Ex-President Bush Sr. meeting with Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd on behalf of the Carlyle Group in 2000.
[Source: Saudi Embassy]Former President George H. W. Bush meets with the bin Laden family on behalf of the Carlyle Group. He had also met with them in November 1998 (see November 1998), but it is not known if he meets with them again after this. Bush denies this meeting took place until a thank you note is found confirming that it took place. [Wall Street Journal, 9/27/2001; Guardian, 10/31/2001]
Four members of the American delegation to the “First Conference on Jerusalem” (from right to left): Ahmed Yusef, Abdurrahman Alamoudi, Yaser Bushnaq, and Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad. [Source: Minaret of Freedom Institute] (click image to enlarge)Hundreds of the world’s most extreme Islamic militants attend an unprecedented conference in Beirut, Lebanon called “The First Conference on Jerusalem.” Participants include leaders of al-Qaeda, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and militants from Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Algeria, Sudan, Qatar, and Yemen. The conference is held with the purpose of uniting militant groups for holy war against Israel and the US. The participants create a new organization called “the Jerusalem Project,” with the goal of winning total Muslim control over Jerusalem. The participants produce a document which calls for a boycott on US and Israeli products and states, “The only decisive option to achieve this strategy [to regain Jerusalem] is the option of jihad [holy war] in all its forms and resistance… America today is a second Israel.” [Jerusalem Post, 6/22/2001; Fox News, 5/17/2002] At least four of the attendees come from the US. One of them, Abdurahman Alamoudi, is a prominent lobbyist in the US for Muslim causes. Yet there is no indication Alamoudi faces any investigation in the US after attending this conference. In fact, in June 2001, Alamoudi will apparently take part in a meeting with Vice President Cheney at the White House for a briefing on the Bush administration’s domestic and foreign policies of interest to the American Muslim community. [Jerusalem Post, 6/22/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 3/11/2003; Minaret of Freedom Institute, 2/8/2005] Another participant in the conference is Ahmad Huber, a director of the Al Taqwa Bank, which will be shut down in the months after 9/11 for suspected terrorism ties. Huber is known for his connections to both neo-Nazi and radical Muslim groups (see 1988). After 9/11, Huber will claim that he met some al-Qaeda leaders in this conference and will praise them for being “very discreet, well-educated, and very intelligent people.” [Financial Times, 11/8/2001; Playboy, 2/1/2002] Huber says that in the five years before 9/11, the bin Laden family sponsors Al Taqwa’s attendance at several international Muslim conferences, possibily including this one. He nonetheless claims the family is estranged from Osama bin Laden. [Le Monde (Paris), 5/3/2002] It has not been reported if Alamoudi met with Huber or any al-Qaeda leaders while at the conference. Alamoudi will later be sentenced to 23 years in prison in the US for illegal dealings with Libya (see October 15, 2004).
Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Jerusalem Project, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Air Cess, Ahmad Huber, Al Taqwa Bank, Ariana Airlines, Abdurahman Alamoudi, Hamas, Bin Laden Family
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
A. Q. Khan receiving a medal. [Source: Associated Press]The BBC later reports, “After the elections, [US intelligence] agencies [are] told to ‘back off’ investigating the bin Ladens and Saudi royals, and that anger[s] agents.” This follows previous orders to abandon an investigation of bin Laden relatives in 1996 (see February-September 11, 1996), and difficulties in investigating Saudi royalty. [BBC, 11/6/2001] An unnamed “top-level CIA operative” says there is a “major policy shift” at the National Security Agency at this time. Bin Laden could still be investigated, but agents could not look too closely at how he got his money. One specific CIA investigation hampered by this new policy is an investigation in Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan and his Khan Laboratories. Khan is considered the “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons capability. But since the funding for this nuclear program gets traced back to Saudi Arabia, restrictions are placed on the inquiry. [Palast, 2002, pp. 99-100] Also in early 2001, FBI agent Robert Wright, attempting to pursue an investigation into Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi, is told by FBI superiors, “it’s just better to let sleeping dogs lie”(see January-March 2001). Reporter Greg Palast notes that President Clinton was already hindering investigations by protecting Saudi interests. However, as he puts it, “Where Clinton said, ‘Go slow,’ Bush policymakers said, ‘No go.’ The difference is between closing one eye and closing them both.” [Palast, 2002, pp. 102]
A former CIA counterterrorism expert later claims that an allied intelligence agency sees “two of Osama’s sisters apparently taking cash to an airport in Abu Dhabi [United Arab Emirates], where they are suspected of handing it to a member of bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization.” This is cited as one of many incidents showing an “interconnectedness” between bin Laden and the rest of his family. [New Yorker, 11/5/2001]
The Carlyle Group is a large private-equity investment firm, closely associated with officials of the Bush and Reagan administrations, and has considerable ties to Saudi oil money, including ties to the bin Laden family. This morning it is holding its annual investor conference at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Washington, DC. Among the guests of honor is investor Shafig bin Laden, brother of Osama bin Laden. [Observer, 6/16/2002; London Times, 5/8/2003] Former President George H. W. Bush, who makes speeches on behalf of the Carlyle Group and is also senior adviser to its Asian Partners fund [Wall Street Journal, 9/27/2001] , attended the conference the previous day, but is not there today (see (8:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 3/16/2003]
After a complete air flight ban in the US began during the 9/11 attacks, some commercial flights begin resuming this day. However, all private flights are still banned from flying. Nonetheless, at least one private flight carrying Saudi royalty takes place on this day. And in subsequent days, other flights carry royalty and bin Laden family members. These flights take place even as fighters escort down three other private planes attempting to fly. Most of the Saudi royals and bin Ladens in the US at the time are high school or college students and young professionals. [New York Times, 9/30/2001; Vanity Fair, 10/2003] The first flight is a Lear Jet that leaves from a private Raytheon hangar in Tampa, Florida, and takes three Saudis to Lexington, Kentucky. [Tampa Tribune, 10/5/2001] This flight apparently takes place several hours after a private meeting between President Bush and Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the US. Some think the idea of the flights were approved at that meeting (see September 13, 2001). For two years, this violation of the air ban is denied by the FAA, FBI, and White House, and decried as an urban legend except for one article detailing them in a Tampa newspaper. [Tampa Tribune, 10/5/2001] Finally, in 2003, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke confirms the existence of these flights, and Secretary of State Powell confirms them as well. [MSNBC, 9/7/2003; Vanity Fair, 10/2003] However, the White House remains silent on the matter. [New York Times, 9/4/2003] Officials at the Tampa International Airport finally confirm this first flight in 2004. But whether the flight violated the air ban or not rests on some technicalities that remain unresolved. [Lexington Herald-Leader, 6/10/2004] The Saudis are evacuated to Saudi Arabia over the next several days (see September 14-19, 2001).
From left to right: Dick Cheney, Prince Bandar, Condoleezza Rice, and George W. Bush, on the Truman Balcony of the White House on September 13, 2001. [Source: White House]President Bush and Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the US, hold a private meeting at the White House. Vice President Cheney, National Security Adviser Rice, and Bandar’s aide Rihab Massoud also attend. [Woodward, 2006, pp. 80] Bandar is so close to the Bush family that he is nicknamed “Bandar Bush.” Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) later will note that while little is known about what is discussed in the meeting, mere hours later, the first flights transporting Saudi royals and members of the bin Laden family are in the air (see September 13, 2001). Over the next week, they will be taken to several gathering points, and then flown back to Saudi Arabia, apparently without first being properly interviewed by the FBI (see September 14-19, 2001). Graham will say, “Richard Clarke, then the White House’s counterterrorism tsar, told me that he was approached by someone in the White House seeking approval for the departures. He did not remember who made the request… The remaining question is where in the White House the request originated, and how.” Graham will imply that, ultimately, the request originated from this meeting between Bush and Bandar. [Graham and Nussbaum, 2004, pp. 105-107] Others also will later suggest that it was Bandar who pushed for and helped arrange the flights. [Vanity Fair, 10/2003; Fifth Estate, 10/29/2003 ] Bob Woodward will mention in a 2006 book that during the meeting, Bush tells Bandar, “If we [capture] somebody and we can’t get them to cooperate, we’ll hand them over to you.” Woodward will later comment, “With these words, the president casually expressed what became the US government’s rendition policy-the shifting of terrorist suspects from country to country for interrogation.… Though the Saudis denied it, the CIA believe the Saudis tortured terrorist suspects to make them talk.” [Woodward, 2006, pp. 80]
Khalil bin Laden at the Orlando, Florida, airport, about to be flown out of the country in the days after 9/11. [Source: Lions Gate Films]Following a secret flight inside the US that is in violation of a national private airplane flight ban, members of the bin Laden family and Saudi royalty quietly depart the US. The flights are only publicly acknowledged after all the Saudis have left. [Boston Globe, 9/21/2001; New York Times, 9/30/2001] About 140 Saudis, including around 24 members of the bin Laden family, are passengers in these flights. The identities of most of these passengers are not known. However, some of the passengers include:
The son of the Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan. Sultan is sued in August 2002 for alleged complicity in the 9/11 plot. [Tampa Tribune, 10/5/2001] He is alleged to have contributed at least $6 million since 1994 to four charities that finance al-Qaeda. [Vanity Fair, 10/2003]
Khalil bin Laden. He has been investigated by the Brazilian government for possible terrorist connections. [Vanity Fair, 10/2003]
Abdullah bin Laden and Omar bin Laden, cousins of bin Laden. Abdullah was the US director of the Muslim charity World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY). The governments of India, Pakistan, Philippines, and Bosnia have all accused WAMY of funding terrorism. These two relatives were investigated by the FBI in 1996 (see February-September 11, 1996) in a case involving espionage, murder, and national security. Their case is reopened on September 19, right after they leave the country. [Vanity Fair, 10/2003] Remarkably, four of the 9/11 hijackers briefly lived in the town of Falls Church, Virginia, three blocks from the WAMY office headed by Abdullah bin Laden. [BBC, 11/6/2001]
Saleh Ibn Abdul Rahman Hussayen. He is a prominent Saudi official who was in the same hotel as three of the hijackers the night before 9/11. He leaves on one of the first flights to Saudi Arabia before the FBI can properly interview him about this. [Washington Post, 10/2/2003]
Akberali Moawalla. A Pakistani and business partner of Osama’s brother Yeslam bin Laden. In 2000, a transfer of over $250 million was made from a bank account belonging jointly to Moawalla and Osama bin Laden (see 2000). [Washington Post, 7/22/2004]
There is a later dispute regarding how thoroughly the Saudis are interviewed before they leave and who approves the flights. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke says he agrees to the flights after the FBI assures him none of those on board has connections to terrorism and that it is “a conscious decision with complete review at the highest levels of the State Department and the FBI and the White House.” [US Congress, 9/3/2003] Clarke says the decision to approve the flights “didn’t get any higher than me.” [Hill, 5/18/2004] According to Vanity Fair, both the FBI and the State Department “deny playing any role whatsoever in the episode.” However, Dale Watson, the head of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, says the Saudis on the planes “[are] identified, but they [are] not subject to serious interviews or interrogations” before they leave. [Vanity Fair, 10/2003] An FBI spokesperson says the bin Laden relatives are only interviewed by the FBI “at the airport, as they [are] about to leave.” [National Review, 9/11/2002] There are claims that some passengers are not interviewed by the FBI at all. [Vanity Fair, 10/2003] Abdullah bin Laden, who stays in the US, says that even a month after 9/11, his only contact with the FBI is a brief phone call. [Boston Globe, 9/21/2001; New Yorker, 11/5/2001] The FBI official responsible for coordinating with Clarke is Assistant Director Michael Rolince, who is in charge of the Bureau’s International Terrorism Operations Section and assumes responsibility for the Saudi flights. Rolince decides that the Saudis can leave after their faces are matched to their passport photos and their names are run through various databases, including some watch lists, to check the FBI has no derogatory information about them.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 196-197, 209 ] Numerous experts are surprised that the bin Ladens are not interviewed more extensively before leaving, pointing out that interviewing the relatives of suspects is standard investigative procedure. [National Review, 9/11/2002; Vanity Fair, 10/2003] MSNBC claims that “members of the Saudi royal family met frequently with bin Laden—both before and after 9/11” [MSNBC, 9/5/2003] , and many Saudi royals and bin Laden relatives are being sued for their alleged role in 9/11. The Boston Globe opines that the flights occur “too soon after 9/11 for the FBI even to know what questions to ask, much less to decide conclusively that each Saudi [royal] and bin Laden relative [deserve] an ‘all clear,’ never to be available for questions again.” [Boston Globe, 9/30/2003] Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) says of the secret flights: “This is just another example of our country coddling the Saudis and giving them special privileges that others would never get. It’s almost as if we didn’t want to find out what links existed.” [New York Times, 9/4/2003] Judicial Watch will disclose FBI documents that say, “Osama bin Laden may have chartered one of the Saudi flights.” [Judicial Watch, 6/20/2007]
Entity Tags: Abdullah bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, Bush administration (43), Omar bin Laden, Bin Laden Family, Dale Watson, Charles Schumer, Michael Rolince, Richard A. Clarke, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Counterterrorism Division (FBI), Osama bin Laden, World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, US Department of State, Khalil bin Laden, Saleh Ibn Abdul Rahman Hussayen
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
A private plane picks up Saudis who have gathered in Boston and flies them to Paris, then ultimately to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Because most of the passengers on board are relatives of Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 Commission calls this the “so-called bin Laden flight.” The commission claims there are 26 passengers on board, three of them security personnel. They further report that “22 of the 26… were interviewed by the FBI. Many were asked detailed questions.” However, the commission does not answer how many were not asked detailed questions, or were not questioned at all. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 557] However, Craig Unger, author of the book House of Bush, House of Saud, publishes the flight manifest during the same week as the 9/11 Commission’s final report is released, and this list contains 29 names (including the three security personnel), not 26. [Craig Unger website, 7/22/2004] The 2005 book Al-Qaeda Will Conquer by Guillaume Dasquié also makes note of this three-person discrepancy. [Financial Times, 4/27/2005]
Carlyle Group logo.
[Source: Carlyle Group]The Carlyle Group, based in Washington, DC, is one of the world’s largest private-equity investment firms. One of its brochures described it as investing “in niche opportunities created in industries heavily affected by changes in governmental policies.” [Fortune, 3/18/2002] It is also the 11th-largest defense contractor in the US. [Red Herring, 12/11/2001] Since being established in 1987, it has signed up many former politicians and used their contacts and influence to promote itself. [Guardian, 10/31/2001] Those on its payroll include former Secretary of State James Baker, former White House budget director Dick Darman, former British Prime Minister John Major, and former US President George H. W. Bush. Its chairman is former CIA Director Frank Carlucci. [Fortune, 3/18/2002] Following 9/11, news reports revealed that Carlyle had a business relationship with Osama bin Laden’s family. According to a Carlyle executive, in 1995 the bin Ladens invested $2 million in the Carlyle Partners II fund, which includes various defense holdings. This was a fairly small amount considering the entire fund is worth $1.3 billion. However, a foreign financier with ties to the bin Ladens claimed their overall investment with Carlyle was much larger. [Wall Street Journal, 9/27/2001; London Times, 5/8/2003] Shafig bin Laden, one of Osama’s brothers, had actually been in Washington, DC, on the morning of 9/11, attending the Carlyle Group’s annual investor conference there (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Former President George H. W. Bush, who is senior adviser to Carlyle Group’s Asian Partners fund, has twice met with the bin Laden family on behalf of the company (see November 1998; January 2000). On this day though, the Carlyle Group ends its relationship with the bin Ladens, and gives them back their investment. [Red Herring, 12/11/2001; Fortune, 3/18/2002] But the family is very well-connected, and their investment in Carlyle is hardly unusual for them. The New Yorker will note, “Much of the family’s private banking is handled by Citigroup, which is chaired by former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. The family has equity investments with Merrill Lynch and Goldman, Sachs. Among the family’s business partners is General Electric. A spokesman for Jack Welch, the chairman of G.E., says that the family threw a party for him in the nineteen-nineties in Saudi Arabia, and that Welch ‘considers them good business partners.’ One American diplomat says, ‘You talk about your global investors, it’s them. They own part of Microsoft, Boeing, and who knows what else.’” [New Yorker, 11/5/2001]
The Binladin Group logo. [Source: Bin Ladin Group]The New Yorker points to evidence that the bin Laden family has generally not ostracized itself from bin Laden as is popularly believed, but retains close ties in some cases. The large bin Laden family owns and runs a $5 billion a year global corporation that includes the largest construction firm in the Islamic world. One counterterrorism expert says, “There’s obviously a lot of spin by the Saudi Binladin Group [the family corporation] to distinguish itself from Osama. I’ve been following the bin Ladens for years, and it’s easy to say, ‘We disown him.’ Many in the family have. But blood is usually thicker than water.” The article notes that neither the bin Laden family nor the Saudi royal family have publicly denounced bin Laden since 9/11. [New Yorker, 11/5/2001]
Osama bin Laden’s father, Mohammed bin Laden, with Faisal al-Saud, the Saudi king in the middle of the 20th century. [Source: CNN]The Financial Times estimates that the bin Laden family’s business, the Saudi Binladin Group, is worth about $36 billion. Osama bin Laden inherited about $300 million at the age of ten on the death of his father, but he may be worth much more today. While he spends large amounts each month supporting terror, he reportedly gets large amounts from rich Saudis every month to make up for the losses. [Financial Times, 11/28/2001] The 9/11 Commission later disputes these figures and claims that bin Laden only gets about $1 million a year for about two decades until around 1994 (see August 21, 2004). [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004]
Abdullah bin Laden, bin Laden family spokesman (not the Abdullah connected to WAMY). [Source: Agence France-Presse.]Abdullah bin Laden, spokesman for the bin Laden family and one of Osama’s many brothers, speaks directly to the press for the first time since 9/11. He says that the family cut all personal and financial ties to Osama in 1993 and that no family member has contact with him or provides any kind of support for him. “We went through a tough time. It was difficult. We felt we are a victim as well.” [ABC News, 3/29/2002]
CBS reports that in the days after the arrest of Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see September 11, 2002) and four other al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan on September 11, 2002 (see September 10-11, 2002), “a search of the home of the five al-Qaeda suspects turned up passports belonging to members of the family of Osama bin Laden.” No more details, such as which family members, or why bin al-Shibh’s group had these passports, is given. [CBS News, 9/17/2002]
Fahrenheit 9/11 movie poster.
[Source: Lions Gate Films]Fahrenheit 9/11, a film by well-known documentarian and author Michael Moore, is released in the US. Amongst other things, this film reveals connections between the Bush family and prominent Saudis including the bin Laden family. [New York Times, 5/6/2004; New York Times, 5/17/2004; Toronto Star, 6/13/2004] It reviews evidence the White House helped members of Osama bin Laden’s family and other Saudis fly out of the US in the days soon after 9/11. [New York Times, 5/17/2004; Toronto Star, 6/13/2004; New York Times, 6/18/2004; Los Angeles Times, 6/23/2004; Newsweek, 6/30/2004] It introduces to the mainstream damning footage of President Bush continuing with a photo-op for seven minutes (see (9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001) after being told of the second plane hitting the WTC on 9/11. [New York Times, 6/18/2004; Washington Post, 6/19/2004; Los Angeles Times, 6/23/2004; Newsweek, 6/27/2004] Disney refused to let its Miramax division distribute the movie in the United States, supposedly because the film was thought too partisan. [New York Times, 5/6/2004; Guardian, 6/2/2004; Los Angeles Times, 6/11/2004; Agence France-Presse, 6/23/2004] The film won the top award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival—the first documentary to do so in nearly 50 years. [BBC, 5/24/2004; Guardian, 5/24/2004; Agence France-Presse, 6/23/2004] It is generally very well received, with most US newspapers rating it favorably. [Agence France-Presse, 6/23/2004; Editor & Publisher, 6/27/2004] The film is an instant hit and is seen by tens of millions. [Associated Press, 6/27/2004; BBC, 6/28/2004; Associated Press, 6/28/2004; CBS News, 6/28/2004] There are some criticisms that it distorts certain facts, such as exaggerating the possible significance of Bush and bin Laden family connections, and gripes about a $1.4 billion number representing the money flowing from Saudi companies to the Bush family. However, the New York Times claims that the public record corroborates the film’s main assertions. [New York Times, 5/17/2004; New York Times, 6/18/2004; Newsweek, 6/30/2004] Shortly before the film’s release, the conservative organization Citizens United tried to block the film’s distribution (see June 27, 2004). The effort failed (see August 6, 2004).
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