Was there a foreign government behind the 9/11 attacks? A decade later, Americans still haven’t been given the whole story, while a key 28-page section of Congress’s Joint Inquiry report remains censored. Gathering years of leaks and leads, in an adaptation from their new book, Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan examine the connections between Saudi Arabia and the hijackers (15 of whom were Saudi), the Bush White House’s decision to ignore or bury evidence, and the frustration of lead investigators—including 9/11-commission staffers, counterterrorism officials, and senators on both sides of the aisle.

By Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan
August 2011
Vanity Fair

Troubling links. From left: King Abdullah, Prince Naif, Osama bin Laden, Prince Bandar, and Prince Turki—Saudis all, as were 15 of the 19 hijackers of 9/11. Large photograph by Allan Tannenbaum/Polaris; bottom, from left, by Ludovic/REA/Redux, by Li Zhen/Xinhua/Landov, from Getty Images, by Hassan Ammar/AFP/Getty Images, by Hasan Jamali/A.P. Images.

Adapted from The Eleventh Day by Anthony Summers and Robynn Swan to be published this month by Ballantine Books; © 2011 by the authors.

For 10 years now, a major question about 9/11 has remained unresolved. It was, as 9/11-commission chairmen Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton recalled, “Had the hijackers received any support from foreign governments?” There was information that pointed to the answer, but the commissioners apparently deemed it too disquieting to share in full with the public.

The idea that al-Qaeda had not acted alone was there from the start. “The terrorists do not function in a vacuum,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters the week after 9/11. “I know a lot, and what I have said, as clearly as I know how, is that states are supporting these people.” Pressed to elaborate, Rumsfeld was silent for a long moment. Then, saying it was a sensitive matter, he changed the subject.

Three years later, the commission would consider whether any of three foreign countries in particular might have had a role in the attacks. Two were avowed foes of the United States: Iraq and Iran. The third had long been billed as a close friend: Saudi Arabia.

In its report, the commission stated that it had seen no “evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al-Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States.”

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