[star]The American Mind[star]

June 25, 2006

Khobar Towers: Ten Years Later

Ten years ago terrorists blew up Khobar Towers that killed 19 U.S. troops. Former FBI director Louis Freeh blasts the Clinton administration for doing little to investigate and placating to "moderate" Iranians when the evidence pointed directly at the Shia state.

The aftermath of the Khobar bombing is just one example of how successive U.S. governments have mishandled Iran. On June 25, 1996, President Clinton declared that "no stone would be left unturned" to find the bombers and bring them to "justice." Within hours, teams of FBI agents, and forensic and technical personnel, were en route to Khobar. The president told the Saudis and the 19 victims' families that I was responsible for the case. This assignment became very personal and solemn for me, as it meant that I was the one who dealt directly with the victims' survivors. These disciplined military families asked only one thing of me and their country: "Please find out who did this to our sons, husbands, brothers and fathers and bring them to justice."

It soon became clear that Mr. Clinton and his national security adviser, Sandy Berger, had no interest in confronting the fact that Iran had blown up the towers. This is astounding, considering that the Saudi Security Service had arrested six of the bombers after the attack. As FBI agents sifted through the remains of Building 131 in 115-degree heat, the bombers admitted they had been trained by the Iranian external security service (IRGC) in Lebanon's Beka Valley and received their passports at the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, Syria, along with $250,000 cash for the operation from IRGC Gen. Ahmad Sharifi.

We later learned that senior members of the Iranian government, including Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the Spiritual Leader's office had selected Khobar as their target and commissioned the Saudi Hezbollah to carry out the operation. The Saudi police told us that FBI agents had to interview the bombers in custody in order to make our case. To make this happen, however, the U.S. president would need to make a personal request to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

So for 30 months, I wrote and rewrote the same set of simple talking points for the president, Mr. Berger, and others to press the FBI's request to go inside a Saudi prison and interview the Khobar bombers. And for 30 months nothing happened. The Saudis reported back to us that the president and Mr. Berger would either fail to raise the matter with the crown prince or raise it without making any request. On one such occasion, our commander in chief instead hit up Prince Abdullah for a contribution to his library. Mr. Berger never once, in the course of the five-year investigation which coincided with his tenure, even asked how the investigation was going

It took former President George H.W. Bush to get FBI agents to question the bombers locked in Saudi prisons.

When evidence linked Iran to the bombing Freeh says the Clintonians didn't seek justice:

Upon being advised that our investigation now had proof that Iran blew up Khobar Towers, Mr. Berger's astounding response was: "Who knows about this?" His next, and wrong, comment was: "That's just hearsay." When I explained that under the Rules of Federal Evidence the detainees' comments were indeed more than "hearsay," for the first time ever he became interested--and alarmed--about the case. But this interest translated into nothing more than Washington "damage control" meetings held out of the fear that Congress, and ordinary Americans, would find out that Iran murdered our soldiers. After those meetings, neither the president, nor anyone else in the administration, was heard from again about Khobar.

From Iran's perspective they see a United States that talks tough but doesn't end up doing anything. Iranian-linked Hezbollah killed 241 Marines in Beirut in 1983. President Reagan ordered them to pack up and leave. We know Iran supported the Khobar Towers bombing yet did nothing. Then there was the shame of President Jimmy Carter looking powerless while Iranians held Americans hostage at our Tehran embassy for 444 days. Based on that track record the Iranians shouldn't expect any harsh response for their pursuit of nuclear weapons.

"Khobar Towers"

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Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Terrorism at 11:51 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)