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AMERICAN MORNING

Book Outlines Saudi-Al Qaeda Connection

Aired September 4, 2003 - 08:34   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, ANCHOR: Soledad, right now the allegations about Saudi Arabia's ties to terrorism far from dead right now.
Investigative reporter Gerald Posner says interrogations of captured al Qaeda operations chief Abu Zubaydah revealed an explicit quid pro quo between Osama bin Laden, his al Qaeda network, the Pakistanis and the Saudis.

The revelation, in Posner's new book, is titled "Why America Slept." Gerald Posner is our guest here on AMERICAN MORNING.

Nice to see you.

GERALD POSNER, AUTHOR, "WHY AMERICA SLEPT": Great to see you.

HEMMER: Heck of a chapter in chapter 19. That's what we're going to focus on today. Abu Zubaydah. Take us back to March of 2002. Who he is?

POSNER: He's the number three man in al Qaeda. Key player, bin Laden trusted him. And in March of 2002, the date you say, Bill, is when U.S. Special Forces and special ops get him finally.

HEMMER: So they go into Pakistan, get him.

HEMMER: Go into Pakistan, they extract him, bring him out, he's wounded, shot three times. They have to stabilize him. And they apply this chemical means of, you know, good guy-bad guy.

They essentially give him a narcotic infusion that increases the pain if they take it away and decreases it if he starts to talk. But still he doesn't cooperate. So they move him to Afghanistan.

You were there, as a matter of fact. You were reporting out of Afghanistan, probably not far from where they moved him. They move him into a location that's secure and they set up a jail that looks like it's a Saudi jail because they think that if he sees Saudi interrogators he's going to say, "These guys are going to torture me and probably behead me shortly."

Instead, when he sees Saudis he says, "Great, you guys. Let me give you a telephone number, a cell phone number. Call this up and they'll tell you what to do." To a prince.

HEMMER: Back up and hang on one second here. The interrogators were actually Americans.

POSNER: Americans.

HEMMER: Dressed up as Saudis to give him the impression that they were there to perhaps take his head off.

POSNER: What Americans call a false flag operation. Put him into the setting of a country where they believe they're about to be treated much more harshly, with a hard interrogation like Egypt or like Saudi Arabia, than we could do.

HEMMER: But he's given a bit of a truth serum?

POSNER: Yes.

HEMMER: How reliable is that?

POSNER: Truth serum is a misnomer. There is no such thing. All it is, really, sodium pentothal is really a short anesthesia that gives you -- reduces your inhibitions.

But what's great about Zubaydah in this case, is since he was already on IV drips because he was wounded, they were able to give him the truth serum without him knowing that it was added. If a prisoner is given a shot, sodium pentothal, they can try to fight it. That reduces its effectiveness. But in the case of Zubaydah, they were able to add it into the IV. So it reduces his inhibitions, on top of his medical condition.

HEMMER: OK. So then what does he say? Who does he implicate during that interrogation?

POSNER: Finally, Bill, we have names. This is very interesting. People have been saying since 9/11, who, who, who? Where are the possible links to the al Qaeda and the Saudis?

He implicates of all people, the first person, a fellow called Prince Ahmed bin Salman, who turns out to be the majority owner of the largest media company in Saudi Arabia and a nephew of King Fahd. A westernized member of the royal family who actually owns a Kentucky Derby winner, is a frequent visitor to the U.S.

He was here on September 11, as a matter of fact, down in Kentucky at a Marriott Hotel. He names him first.

And then he names two other Saudi princes, a 41-year-old former military officer and a 25-year-old and he says they will also help you out. And then he names the former head of Saudi intelligence, Prince Turkey, who's now the ambassador to Great Britain.

HEMMER: Three people here implicated, members of the royal Saudi family. How does he say they helped him?

POSNER: He says essentially that they were his conduits in Saudi Arabia between the Saudi government and al Qaeda. And here's the most fascinating part. And he names of Pakistani air marshal chief, as well. Bill, as we're talking today, I'd like to be able to go back because I'm sure you would as a reporter, and ask the Saudi princes he names what they have to say about that. But in every case except one they're dead.

The Saudi princes he named all die a few months later when we inform the Saudis about what he said in this interrogation. One of them, Prince Fahd, the king one, has surgery inside the Saudi capital for derbiticulitis (ph), and then a blood clot supposedly goes to his heart and kills him. The next day the -- He was 43.

The 41-year-old prince dies in a car accident, single car, no other car involved, high speed they say.

The third prince, 25 years old, ends up dying, the Saudis say, of thirst in the middle of the Saudi summer.

HEMMER: So now the conspiracy theorists are going to run wild with all this stuff.

POSNER: And odd for me, a guy who usually debunks conspiracies, here opening up the door to possibly one. But I do think there's something suspicious.

HEMMER: A couple things I need to get through. And I'm really tight on time right now.

Page 190 of your book, I won't read it verbatim, but the implication is obvious. You say the Saudi Arabian royal family paid off the Taliban and paid off al Qaeda to keep the fundamentals and radicals out of their country.

If that's the case, though, we saw a bombing in Riyadh a few months ago. Why are there not more terrorist hits in Saudi Arabia, if that's the case? Are you saying that there is more payoffs and more money happening?

POSNER: No. I think it's finally ended. I think that the May bombings in Saudi Arabia was finally the divorce. It's taken place.

HEMMER: What ended it?

POSNER: What ended is the Saudis knew after 9/11 that they could not keep this relationship up. Their desire to keep al Qaeda having Jihad in other countries but not in the kingdom, it backfired. It didn't work. And once 9/11 happened the Saudis had to decide. They reluctantly and slowly decided to become U.S. allies.

HEMMER: But that goes back to the point again. If you're not getting any more money for the Taliban and al Qaeda then why have not the terrorist activity returned to Saudi Arabia? It was just this one time.

POSNER: I know, but I think we're going to see more of it, as a matter of fact. And now you see Saudi policemen being killed in fights with militants. The militants are gearing up. And Jihad is going to be waged in Saudi Arabia, I think, increasingly.

HEMMER: The Saudis think this is an absolute fabrication. We've heard it from intel officials, too. You've heard the criticism.

POSNER: Everybody is dumping on me. Nobody has said that they like this information.

HEMMER: Help me understand this, then. There is no -- nothing in your book that says that members of the royal family knew 9/11 was coming.

POSNER: Except Zubaydah, in his confession, says that Prince Ahmed and one Pakistani air force chief had pre-knowledge that there would be an attack in America on 9/11 but didn't know what it would be. They didn't know World Trade Center, 3,000 dead, major attack. Those are the only two names given.

HEMMER: Wish we had an hour. "Why America Slept" is the new book out. Chapter 19 is the one getting all the attention.

Good to see you, Gerald Posner.

POSNER: Good to see you.

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