Zacarias Moussaoui has just upped the ante on the White House to release 28 top-secret pages from a congressional report pertinent to a possible Saudi role in the events of 9/11.
Moussaoui is serving a life sentence for his involvement in the planning of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He has recently inserted himself into litigation in which 9/11 victims allege the Saudi government funded Islamist charities that provided financial and logistical support to al-Qaeda.
Moussaoui's account of being a liaison between Osama bin Laden and members of the Saudi royal family was told to Philadelphia lawyer Sean Carter over the course of two days of questioning in October at the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colo., and has only now been cleared for public release by the U.S. government.
Carter has been defending against a Saudi motion to dismiss his case, facing the unenviable burden of producing evidence of a Saudi link to al-Qaeda without the benefit of taking discovery. Moussaoui's testimony was unforeseen. The man who once took flight lessons in Oklahoma and Minnesota in preparation for a terror strike contacted the federal judge presiding over the case and offered to provide information.
According to Carter, much of what Moussaoui told him was new information about his role with al-Qaeda, not even revealed during his own trial.
"He testified that he had this role in creating a digital database of al-Qaeda's donors and he says that he personally entered the names of a number of senior Saudi officials and members of the royal family," Carter said.
"He explained to us that it was his understanding that they were making donations to bin Laden in order to maintain their legitimacy in the eyes of the Saudi ulema, who are the Wahhabi religious clerics," Carter said. "The Saudi state itself is the product of a pact between the House of Saud and the Wahhabi ulema, and the continuing legitimacy of that government resides very much on maintaining that bargain."
Inside the walls of the supermax, Moussaoui first took an oath to Allah -- "May Allah curse the liar" -- before providing Carter with sworn testimony. He claimed that Sheikh Sa'id, chief financial officer of al-Qaeda, asked him to undertake a project of tracking Saudi contributions to the jihad effort, a request that came from bin Laden.
"Sheikh Osama wanted to keep a record who give money... who is to be listened to or who continue to -- to the jihad," Moussaoui told Carter.
Moussaoui named many members of the Saudi royal family as having been supportive, a funding source he described as "crucial." He also claimed to have served as a courier for written communications between bin Laden and the House of Saud.
The Saudis vehemently deny Moussaoui's assertions, claiming that he is mentally imbalanced and that the 9/11 Commission was dismissive of such claims. That report "found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded al-Qaeda."
Not so fast, say two 9/11 Commission members -- former Navy Secretary John Lehman and former Sen. Bob Kerrey. Both say the commission did not exonerate Saudi Arabia.
And former Sen. Bob Graham, past chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told me he is convinced there was a connection between some of the 9/11 terrorists and Saudi Arabia.
Graham cochaired the congressional inquiry into intelligence activities before and after the attacks. That report included the classified 28 pages. He believes a Saudi government agent named Omar al-Bayoumi provided assistance to 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar.
"I can't give details because they are classified, Michael, but you correctly state they primarily deal with who financed 9/11, and they point a strong finger at Saudi Arabia," Graham said. He maintains the 9/11 Commission did not "pursue some of the leads that we had left them with."
What might resolve the discrepancy is the release of the 28 pages.
According to Carter, that matter rests with the director of national intelligence for an interagency declassification review, "whatever that is."
"We think the 28 pages are really the tip of the iceberg," he added.
So why would Moussaoui want to help 9/11 plaintiffs?
"I think the reality is he's sitting in prison for the rest of his life and the Saudi royals are not, and I think he has a desire to demonstrate and clear the record about everyone who was involved," Carter said.
Two weeks ago, I asked White House chief of staff Denis McDonough whether the death of Saudi King Abdullah would support the release of the 28 pages.
"I'm not going to get involved in the 28 pages now, Michael, any more than I did before," McDonough said.
Moussaoui's testimony makes that position even less sustainable. Mr. President, release the 28 pages. We can handle the truth.