by: John Bachman Updated:ATLANTA,None —
It's one of the largest sales of U.S. weapons ever. The government has approved sending billions of dollars worth of equipment to Saudi Arabia. But there are more concerns the sales shouldn't go through, because of new suspicions about the Saudis' role in the Sept. 11 attacks.
The terrorist attacks of 9-11 were the deadliest on U.S. soil. Nineteen hijackers carried out the plot. Fifteen of them were from Saudi Arabia. There's at least one person who believes that's more than a coincidence.
Former Senator Bob Graham was born in Georgia, but represented Florida in Congress. He co-chaired the Joint Congressional Committee that investigated the attacks.
Graham wrote a book based on the committee's 800-page report, but government security officials stepped in.
"In that report there was one chapter that primarily dealt with the role of the Saudis in 9-11," Graham said. "That was the only chapter in the book that was totally censored."
So Graham wrote a second book, this one fiction. He called "Keys to the Kingdom" informed fiction, and said it's filled with a lot of events that really happened.
One example is a Saudi agent Omar al-Bayoumi who lived in San Diego in 2001. Graham said the agent was paid for a job he never did, and was given a huge raise the same month two of the hijackers showed up in San Diego.
Channel 2's John Bachman asked Graham what that reveals.
"It tells us that Saudi Arabia is not the ally we think it is," Graham said.
Still, the United States is selling Saudi Arabia $60 billion in weapons. It is one of the largest sales of arms ever, and includes F-15 fighter jets, helicopters and missiles.
Retired Georgia National Guard Lt. Gen. David Poythress said keeping a close relationship with Saudi Arabia makes sense, not just because of oil, but because the Saudis help protect the U.S. fleet in the Persian Gulf.
"At the same time, they need domestic and regional military security. We can provide that," Poythress said.
Bachman asked him about the allegations of the Saudis connection to September 11.
"Who will ever know. Clearly, there's this kind of incestuous relationship between the royal family and the most radical elements of Islam in the Arabia Peninsula," Poythress said. "The royal family has no doubt turned a blind eye to a great deal of the fundamental Islamic radicalism."
Ten years after the attacks, even more evidence is surfacing. Just weeks ago, the Miami Herald reported a connection between September 11 ringleader Mohammad Atta and a Saudi family who lived in Sarasota, Florida.
"At least in 5 instances, Atta visited in his home," Graham said. "Extensive telephone conversations. We also know that on August 30th, 12 days before 9-11, that fairly quickly in a very rushed situation, (the family) left Sarasota and returned to Saudi Arabia."
The FBI said it interviewed and cleared the family of any involvement in 9-11.
Graham said he's skeptical. He said thousands of Americans already have paid the ultimate price for America's close relationship with Saudi Arabia.
Graham believes more Americans still are paying the price. "Because we're still treating the Saudis as if it were a loyal ally."