THE BLOG

The 28 Pages: There Was No 'There' There. Now Let's Get On With Fighting Terrorism

The now-famous 28 pages redacted from the report of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, have been released, and their contents should put an end to suspicions that officials of the government of Saudi Arabia were involved or complicit in any way with the attack.

My government had called for the release of these pages from the moment that they were redacted, back in August 2002. We were convinced at the time that the suspicions were unjustified, but our hands were tied as long as they remained classified. We could neither lay the suspicions to rest in the public arena nor pursue any leads those pages might have contained and prosecute anyone who might have been involved.

It is important to remember that the questions raised in those pages were posed by the joint Congressional committee 14 years ago, but not investigated. They were questions. In the intervening years, those questions were investigated exhaustively by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies, including the CIA and the FBI, by the independent 9/11 Commission, and the Senate Intelligence Committee. All of these investigations have led to the same conclusion: That neither the Saudi government nor its officials were involved.

Had Saudi Arabia been presented with any evidence of al Qaeda connections to the Saudi Government in the 28 pages, we would have moved swiftly to pursue every lead, investigate and arrest them. However, as the FBI and the CIA found, there was no actionable evidence in the 28 pages. Yet the suspicions, innuendo and half-truths continued for 13 years.

Now, however, the matter is finished, and we should be able to focus more fully on the work at hand: strengthening our cooperation to hunt down the men, cut off the money and destroy the mindset that threaten the people of the United States and Saudi Arabia--and the entire civilized world.

There is no doubt that my country was shattered by the knowledge that 15 of our countrymen had fallen under the spell of Al Qaeda and participated directly in that heinous crime against the United States, a country that has been a most consistent and valuable friend and ally practically since the day of our founding more than eight decades ago.

We were also challenged when we discovered that terrorist groups were taking advantage of the generosity of our people and of the Islamic principle of charity to fund terror groups behind the façade of phony charitable organizations. And we determined then and there to understand why this was the case and to begin the difficult and long-term work of rooting out this activity and the beliefs, attitudes and myths that support it.

Since the tragic events of 9/11, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has taken major steps to confront terrorism and extremism. We have reviewed our textbooks, we monitor preaching in our mosques and teaching in our schools to prevent any attempt by extremists to influence our youth. We have an effective program to identify and engage people who might be susceptible to extremist messages. We have criminalized terror financing and adopted the world's most comprehensive financial-control mechanisms--including systems to control cash couriers.

We have shut down supposed charitable institutions that were raising funds to support extremist causes and terrorism. My government has convicted more than 226 persons in terrorism financing activities, prosecuted more than 240 suspects, froze and investigated more than 117 suspected bank accounts and closed all unlicensed charity collection locations. We now require all international charitable contributions to be channeled through one government-run charitable foundation. We have prosecuted and convicted a large number of people for supporting terrorist organizations or advocating terrorism.

And we have strengthened our counterterrorism capabilities so that today the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is in the forefront of countries that are fighting terrorism.

One of the facts that has gotten lost in all this suspicion over the content of the 28 pages is the fact that Saudi Arabia is a victim of terrorism and remains in the crosshairs of terrorist organizations. We were attacked by Al Qaeda before and after 9/11. In fact, one of Osama bin Laden's objectives was to destroy the US-Saudi relationship. He believed that weakening this relationship would weaken the Saudi state and make it more vulnerable to a takeover by extremists. So we fight Al Qaeda. We have fought them in Saudi Arabia, we fight them today in Yemen, and we will continue to fight them wherever they appear.

Today we are also battling Daesh, which is better known as ISIL or ISIS in the U.S. Their objectives are to destabilize the Kingdom, to set faith upon faith and sect upon sect, and to seize the holy cities of Islam, but we will not let that happen. They are neither a state nor Islamic. Their latest attacks in Saudi Arabia, just two weeks ago, targeted Saudi security forces stationed at the Prophet's mosque in Medina, one of the most revered places in Islam. They are psychopaths, perverts, and criminals who have no humanity and no genuine faith. So the objective of the world must be to destroy them, and we will.

In all, we have faced more than 63 terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda and ISIL, 26 in the last two years. Hundreds of citizens and policemen have been killed in terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia most recently also formed an Islamic Alliance that comprises 40 countries to fight terrorism and the ideology that is behind it. We are determined to continue to work together to go after terrorism--and those who finance it and those who condone it.

At the end of the day, the killing of innocents is terrorism. It is murder, which no faith accepts. It is revealed in the Qur'an, "He who kills an innocent soul is as if he killed all of humanity." Terrorism has no religion. It has no nationality. It has no ethnicity. It has no humanity. It is up to us to do everything in our power to crush it and the ideology behind it. That is the work before us, and we cannot allow ourselves to be distracted from it.

Abdullah Al-Saud, Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the U.S.