But before questioning the conclusions of the Baker commission, I'd like to ask why Americans are not screaming about the choice of James Baker as an unelected official to head this commission. Don't we have elected representatives who can deal with such important topics? More importantly, has anybody in the major media outlets covered the real story here, the obvious and well established connections between James Baker and Saudi Arabia? His law firm, Baker Botts, has been representing Saudi Arabia in law suits stemming from 9-11. His firm is getting megabucks from the Saudis. This is not a rumor from radical subversives living in a cave (who haven't been home taught for the past couple of months, FYI). Just Google "Baker Botts Saudi" and, right after some information from the Baker Botts Website, you'll see this article from MSNBC in April 2006:
April 16 - After months of working below the radar, a huge U.S. legal team hired by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has sprung into action and begun a major counteroffensive against a landmark lawsuit seeking $1 trillion in damages on behalf of the victims of the September 11 terror attacks.OK, so here we have a guy from a firm representing Saudi Arabia , with other lucrative ties to the Arab world, who is now appointed by President George W. Bush to guide America's policy involving Iraq and the Middle East. The result points its finger at Israel and, according to one news source, has made the terrorists rejoice. But the media has left us in the dark about the Arab connections to James Baker. Shouldn't we be concerned?
THE OPENING DEFENSE SALVO in what promises to be a bruising legal battle was fired last week when a trio of lawyers from Baker Botts, a prestigious Houston-based law firm, filed a motion on behalf of Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi defense minister. The motion attacked the 9-11 lawsuit as a "broadside indictment of Saudi government, religion and culture." It also argued that, as the third-ranking official of a foreign government, their client is immune from any U.S. legal action and that he should therefore be dismissed from the case altogether.
But in laying out their arguments, Sultan's U.S. lawyers also presented highly detailed new evidence of the Saudi government's role in funneling millions of dollars to a web of Islamic charities that are widely suspected by U.S. officials of covertly financing the operations of Al Qaeda and other international terrorist groups.
Backed up by stacks of court affidavits and copies of cancelled checks, the Baker Botts team openly acknowledge in their brief that Sultan has for the past 16 years approved regular payments of about $266,000 a year to the International Islamic Relief Organization -- a large Saudi charity whose U.S. offices were last year raided by federal agents. Sultan also authorized two additional grants totaling $52,000 to the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, another Saudi-based group that has drawn the scrutiny of U.S. antiterrorism investigators. . . .
Lawyers for the defendants have derided the entire 9-11 case as a fanciful concoction of conspiracy theories and speculative musings that bear little, if any, relationship to the actual events of 9-11. They also say that much of the complaint involves matters that do not belong in a U.S. courtroom, such as the claim that members of the Saudi royal family are anti-American, seek to export "Wahhabi ideology" -- the country's puritanical brand of Islam -- and that Prince Sultan has "publicly accused the 'Zionist and Jewish lobby' of orchestrating a media blitz against the Saudi Kingdom."
"Surely," the lawyers for Sultan write in their brief, "the plaintiffs do not contend that an American court can or should pass judgment on the religious beliefs or practices of Saudi Arabia or determine whether its government is 'anti-American.'"
But however persuasive (or not) those arguments are, there may be a host of other factors that influence how the case plays out. Despite initial feelers by lawyers for the Saudis, few now expect the State Department to intervene with Judge Robertson to ask that the case be dismissed. (It's a political nonstarter, lawyers on both sides say.) In the meantime, although President Bush and his senior aides have publicly praised the Saudis for their "cooperation" in the war on terror, officials at the Treasury and Justice departments have privately expressed deep frustration over the failure of the Saudi government to impose stricter controls over their Islamic charities and turn over crucial evidence about the murky flow of money to Al Qaeda.
Motley's team and their investigators have been working closely with some of those government officials. A few of those officials, sources say, see the 9-11 lawsuit as a useful tool to turn up the public heat on the Saudis. In that sense, there is a growing view among U.S. counterterrorism officials that it might be a good thing for the case to proceed--no matter how embarrassing it might prove to the Saudis.
To keep that from happening, sources close to the case say, members of the Saudi royal family and the country's wealthiest businessmen--many of whom are defendants in the case--have offered up seven-figure retainers to some of the toniest and most politically connected law firms in the country.
Baker Botts, Sultan's law firm, for example, still boasts former secretary of State James Baker as one of its senior partners. Its recent alumni include Robert Jordan, the former personal lawyer for President Bush who is now U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
Israel has its problems, certainly, but I'm still leaning toward gathering rather than destroying. Call me crazy.