This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, May 4, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, Saudi Arabia is our friend.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Ties between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia go back a long way, but some critical books and media reports have put that relationship under a great deal of strain. Now the Saudi royal family is making an effort to deal with the problem. His royal highness, Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz (search) joins me now from Dubai. Sir, the big question today, why are so many people so suspicious of the Saudi Kingdom?
PRINCE SULTAN BIN SALMAN, SECRETARY GENERAL OF TOURISM: Well, since September 11th, of course, it's been a major part of a disinformation campaign about the country. Our country has already spoken very loudly about people trying to destroy the greater links between Saudi Arabia and the United states, which have been on for many, many years. And, hopefully, of course, it will continue for many years to come. I'm not really here speaking on behalf of the royal family, just to correct your statement, of course. I'm just speaking on behalf of the family, our immediate family. My brother Ahmed, whose reputation also was smeared in the middle of this disinformation campaign. I'm here on behalf of his five small children, his mother, and father and wife and brothers and sisters.
GIBSON: Now, what you are talking about is the assertion in Gerald Posner's book, "Why America Slept" that when Abu Zubaydah (search) -- the Al Qaeda operative who was captured and he thought he was being interrogated by Saudi interrogators, he seemed to be relieved rather than afraid. He said call this number. You'll be told what to do, and that was your brother's phone number. They also said that your brother knew in advance the 9/11 attacks were coming. Well
BIN SALMAN: Well, you know, that's, of course, really absurd. First of all, Vincent Cannistraro (search), who is the head of the CIA's anti-terrorism unit at the time have come out in many statements and also, of course now is willing to restate his position that these sources that Mr. Posner talks about is bogus, and this has never happened or taken place. Of course, the CIA is still there, and we are here seeking the truth. You are journalists, of course, a respected journalist. We would like people to go out and seek the truth. We would like the CIA to come out and explain these allegations.
These allegations have been just a part of a series of allegations that continuously now are being proven untrue. Other allegations were -- just came out again repeating the same Posner's allegation by Mr. Unger, another book that came out about the House of Saud (search) and the House of Bush. Another allegation charging that Saudis were smuggled out of the United States. As you remember, last week the 9/11 Commission came out clearly and said that FBI records and even investigations have denied necessity wrong doing. And, of course, my brother was the furthest person perhaps to be involved with such outrageous conspiracies because, first of all, he loved the United States. He had a home in the United States. He owned beautiful horses. He won the Kentucky Derby, which he dedicated the American people. He almost won the Triple Crown. He was there when Sept. 11 -- these horrendous events happened, in fact, Sept. 11. He was there in the U.S.
GIBSON: Sir, if I could remind you ...
BIN SALMAN: For a person who allegedly knew all these things to be in the United States.
GIBSON: You are very familiar with the United States. We even have a picture of you in space.
BIN SALMAN: Very much so.
GIBSON: So you well know how the American people feel about this. On one hand, they're being told -- this is you in your NASA uniform. The American people are being told that Saudi Arabia is a good friend of the United States. Yet, we see that Saudi billions have gone to madrasas around the world to spread a religious idea which breeds hate for the West, particularly the United States, in a way that's coming back to haunt Saudi Arabia right now. Saudi Arabia is under attack from the same Al Qaeda terrorists who want to attack the United States. And so, we wonder are Saudis playing a dual game, a smiling to our face, but behind our back empowering our enemies.
BIN SALMAN: Well, that's, of course, the farthest thing absolutely from the truth. Like you said, I know the United States very, very well. Have many friendships there and still do, of course. I am -- I probably represent the majority of the Saudi people -- the great vast majority of the Saudi people who have seen the Sept. 11 events being a great catastrophe for the reputation of Islam also, being associated with Islam. And for it to be a Muslim thing to do. Saudi Arabia relationship go a long way. Again, these are allegations that money is being given out by the billions to madrasas, and to attack people and a dual relationship. We are living in an incredible disinformation campaign about Saudi Arabia ...
GIBSON: But, sir ...
BIN SALMAN: Which is unfortunate. But at the same time, an example of that is the allegation on my brother's reputation. I mean, the most absurd things have been said. Now a man's reputation is at question. And how does he get his reputation back? He is a deceased person. He died in 2002. How does he get his reputation back?
GIBSON: Well, sir, I'll let you defend your brother, but I am quoting now from a March 2002 edition of the Saudi government English weekly "Ain-Al-Yaqeen" about the efforts to spread Wahhabism around the world. And it says -- and this is the official government -- Saudi government statement -- "the determination of the kingdom to support Islam to the best of its ability was evident from the formation of the kingdom by King Abdul Aziz, but was only when oil revenues began to generate real wealth that the kingdom could fulfill its ambitions of spreading the word of Islam to every corner of the world." That sounds as though the Saudi government admits what it is being accused of doing, just funding these Madrasas that preach hate all around the world.
BIN SALMAN: Well, first of all, "Ain-Al-Yaqeen" is some publication I've never really never heard of in my life. And, second, Saudi Arabia's great wealth was dedicated not just to spreading anything -- many of the things that you have mentioned kindly, but it's been spent on development, on educating people. So-called Wahhabism is something we don't believe in Saudi Arabia. I went to the same schools in Saudi Arabia, so have many, many millions of Saudis who dress like me, look like me. We don't know where these allegations come from. The break happened is when after the Afghan war many Saudis and others, many nations -- I mean, you have Americans also who are caught in Afghanistan. They didn't go to Saudi schools or Saudi Madrasas.
The question here is that today what we're doing is we -- in the name of freedom of press and in the name of all kinds of other things, making accusations and requiring the accused to prove I'm guilty. I know -- you know, as you said before, I know America very well. I have a lot of American friends. I still am in touch with many, many American friends. I have many I work with back in Saudi Arabia until today. I know them to be honorable people, to be people for truth. And I have enjoyed the relationships and those ideals. Now we're looking at different set of ideals in America. Unfortunately, they're not reflecting the mass American population.
Now you are accusing people, people are accusing people, of doing horrific things, and also repeating them and by repeating lies, you don't get to the truth. You want to get to the truth, you do investigative work. You investigate and you thoroughly go you through your cases, and before you put people's reputations and names at harm's way.
GIBSON: But, sir, we know the Saudi public, the Saudi royal family, is opposed to the support for Israel that the United States gives. The Saudi defense minister recently said yarmulke-wearing Congressman are to blame for media attacks on Saudi Arabia. The crowned prince just discussing the recent attack in Yanbun said, "Zionism is behind the terrorist action in the Kingdom. I am 95 percent sure of that." Why shouldn't we suspect that the -- that the Saudi animosity towards Israel and the Saudi support for the Palestinians is not bubbling over into hate for the United States?
BIN SALMAN: Well, again, you -- with much respect, you have mixed many issues together. I'm not really here to cherry pick and reply for my government on that statement, in what context that statement was said and so on. If you also want to go through that, Saudi news speaks language very well who knows your country very well. I may have even been to more states than you have. I'm not sure, but maybe 49 states, have enjoyed a very, very long period in the United States. The first thing that hit me when I went to the U.S. many, many years ago in the early 1970s are the stereotypes in the American media and American films. And, of course, today if you want to go into Web sites, and magazines and publications and hate stuff, you would find a lot of things about Muslims and Islam and so on. We really should not be in that position, nor us, or you or anybody else.
It's a small world, like you probably put up before. I was probably in a space mission with the U.S. crew. If you have seen the world from what I had seen it, from my perspective, you would really be wondering why are we in this position today? Today, in my capacity today sitting with you, I'm in Dubai today because I am attending a conference here in Dubai. Every time I look at my brother's five girls, four small girls and a boy and look at my mother, it really pains me a lot because he was a good man, he was a charitable man, and he -- he was a man who loved life. He was apolitical. How does that happen? How do you take a reputation of a person like that and spin allegations out? Even Mr. Posner. I really have no bone to pick with Mr. Posner or anybody else, but even Mr. Posner himself was quoted ...
GIBSON: Sir, I hate to interrupt you, but I've got to right now. Prince Sultan bin Salman, thank you for joining us from Dubai.