WASHINGTON – Investigators have traced the funding for the Sept. 11 attacks to Al Qaeda accounts in Pakistan (search), a top FBI counterterrorism official told a Senate panel Thursday. Officials did little to clarify the Saudi role in the funding.
John S. Pistole, deputy assistant director of the FBI's counterterrorism division, said that investigators have "traced the origin of the funding of 9/11 back to financial accounts in Pakistan, where high-ranking and well-known Al Qaeda (search) operatives played a major role in moving the money forward, eventually into the hands of the hijackers located in the U.S."
Pistole did not specify in his testimony to the Senate Governmental Affairs committee (search) how those accounts in Pakistan were funded.
The FBI has estimated the Sept. 11 attacks cost between $175,000 and $250,000. That money, which paid for flight training, travel and other expenses, flowed to the hijackers through associates in Germany and the United Arab Emirates. Those associates reported to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who managed much of the planning for the attacks from Pakistan, U.S. officials said.
Pistole did not discuss reports that some support for the Sept. 11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. Fifteen of the hijackers were Saudis.
Senators sought details on the Bush administration's efforts to crack down on Saudi charities accused of terrorism ties.
Richard Newcomb, director of the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, said that some Saudi organizations provide considerable support for terrorism.
"The extent to which that takes place is not completely clear, but I would characterize it as considerable," he said.
Newcomb's office is one that recommends freezing foreign bank accounts tied to terrorists. Under questioning from Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Newcomb said other federal agencies had at times quashed his office's recommendations to freeze funding for certain organizations. He would not name those organizations.
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., said he worried that Saudi Arabia "was being shielded for foreign policy reasons."
The hearing came against the backdrop of questions about Saudi connections to terror, particularly to the Sept. 11 attacks.
Some are calling for the declassification of 28 secret pages in the recent Sept. 11 report that officials say describe a web of connections between prominent businessmen, members of the Saudi royal family and the Islamic charities they support.