Representatives from 60 countries are flooding the U.S. capital today for the White House's Summit on Countering Violent Extremism. The event will include three days of speeches, presentations, and panel discussions. It all comes less than 24 hours after the self-proclaimed Islamic State burned to death 45 people in the western Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi.
A representative of Saudi Arabia is expected to be among those in attendance, which comes as a surprise to Jerry Goldman. Goldman is a shareholder at Anderson Kill law firm and a lawyer to the families of September 11th victims.
In 2002, a suit was filed in federal court on behalf of the families against the government of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi elite for their alleged role in funding and supporting Al Qaeda. That lawsuit floundered in 2013 amidst delays and a lack of substantial evidence.
But now, further testimony has emerged that may hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its involvement. Statements from former Al Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui suggest that members of the Saudi royal family had been major donors to the terrorist group in the late 1990s.
Moussaoui gave his account to Goldman and other lawyers last October from the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, where he is serving a life sentence.
“He has absolutely nothing to gain from this testimony, except for telling the truth,” says Goldman.
The Saudi government has rejected Moussaoui’s 100-page testimony, which describes a close relationship between the government of Saudi Arabia and the Al Qaeda operatives that planned the 9/11 attacks. But Goldman says that Moussaoui’s testimony fits within a broad historical pattern.
“The bad behavior that we allege of the Saudi royal family goes back a considerable period of time, and perhaps it’s still continuing,” he says. “That relevance is important, and most importantly, it’s relevance that the American people as a whole—not just the victims of 9/11—need to understand what happened and [to know] that people are finally held accountable for the wrongs that they caused.”
In light of Moussaoui’s testimony, some may believe that the lawsuit will go on at full speed. But that’s not the case. Goldman says that it appears that the U.S. government is shielding the Saudis.
“In our view, all of the information has not been release,” he says. “We’ve been working at this for 12 years and we’ve made a lot of progress, but there’s more progress to be made.”
Goldman says that he is waiting for the government to release the 28 pages redacted from the 9/11 Commission Report and the papers seized from Osama bin Laden's home in Pakistan several years ago—something federal officials have yet to do.
“We are confident at this point that when all of the evidence is revealed that our theory of the case linking the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to 9/11 will be found in a court of law,” he says. “The American people and the victims will then have justice.”
More than a decade after the Twin Towers collapsed, some are asking why this testimony hasn’t come out sooner. Years ago, Moussaoui gave his account to an attorney representing the family of former FBI counterterrorism chief John O'Neill, who died in the 9/11 attacks. John O'Neill was believed to be among the most knowledgeable U.S. officials on the connection between the late Osama Bin Laden and the Saudi royal family.
“I think John O’Neill would have been happy that people were finally asking Zacarias Moussaoui questions,” says Goldman. “I think the question that really arises is why didn’t the government really ask Zacarias Moussaoui the questions that we did? It’s clear that they didn’t during the course of his trial, and the judge at that trial raised that in a recent book: Why didn’t they try to flip him?"