On Meet the Press , Freeh all over the map about sources for suspicious Khobar Towers claim

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Appearing on the October 16 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press, former FBI director Louis Freeh gave contradictory descriptions of anonymous sources he refers to in his new book -- indicating that they were present at a reportedly crucial 1998 meeting and simultaneously suggesting that they were not. Freeh has claimed in his new book that at the meeting -- which Freeh himself did not attend -- President Clinton failed to pressure the Saudi royal family to allow the FBI to question suspects detained by the Saudis in connection with the 1996 terrorist bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, in which 19 Americans were killed. Freeh further claimed in the book that instead of pressuring the Saudis, Clinton "hit them up" for a contribution to his presidential library. As Media Matters for America noted when Freeh repeated this claim on the October 9 edition of CBS' 60 Minutes, Clinton administration officials strongly dispute Freeh's assertions. On Meet the Press, Freeh not only gave a conflicting and confusing answer when pressed on whether his "sources" were actually at the meeting, he also refused to say he knew "for certain" that Clinton asked for the contribution.

Freeh based his allegation, made in his book, My FBI: Bringing Down the Mafia, Investigating Bill Clinton, and Fighting the War on Terror (St. Martin's Press, October 2005), on "usually reliable sources." When pressed by host Tim Russert to identify the "usually reliable sources," Freeh initially indicated they were present at the meeting with Prince Abdullah, claiming they "are very senior people who had firsthand knowledge of the meeting." Freeh then claimed that his sources "have identity with the principals at the meeting," suggesting that his sources were not actually present but were familiar with the Clinton officials who reportedly were. But Freeh again indicated that his "usually reliable sources" were at the meeting, claiming: "They're not secondhand sources. They're not hearsay people." When Russert asked him directly if his sources were at the meeting, Freeh refused to answer and attempted to shift the discussion away from the specifics of the meeting: "I'm not going to identify my sources, obviously, but I think you have to look beyond that September 24 meeting and put the whole Khobar investigation into context."

From the October 16 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press:

RUSSERT: Your new book, My FBI, has created a lot of debate with some of the comments you've made about the investigation regarding Khobar Towers. Let me remind our viewers: Khobar Towers, June 25, 1996, tragic scene, 19 Americans killed when car bombers blew up a facility where American servicemen were staying.

On September 24, President Clinton met with then-crown prince, now king, Abdullah -- there they are in the Rose Garden -- and at that meeting, President Clinton insists that he asked the crown prince for cooperation in terms of the investigation you were conducting on who did Khobar Towers and why. And you write: "The story that came back to me from 'usually reliable sources' " -- in quotes -- "as they say in Washington, was that Bill Clinton briefly raised the subject only to tell the crown prince that he certainly understood the Saudis' reluctance to cooperate. Then, according to my sources, he hit Abdullah up for a contribution to the still-to-be-built Clinton presidential library." You were not in the room.

FREEH: I was not in the room.

RUSSERT: Who are these "usually reliable sources"?

FREEH: Well, the usually reliable sources in this case, Tim, are very senior people who had firsthand knowledge of the meeting, who have identity with the principals at the meeting. They're not secondhand sources. They're not hearsay people. I did confirm it with them after the book came out because of some of the questions, and I feel very confident on their information.

RUSSERT: Were they in the meeting?

FREEH: I'm not going to identify my sources, obviously, but I think you have to look beyond that September 24 meeting and put the whole Khobar investigation into context. The New Yorker magazine article, which was in the spring of 2001, actually corroborates the one part of the story, which is that the president didn't seriously or vigorously persecute the request, the request being to get FBI agents into the prison in Saudi Arabia to talk to detainees who would ultimately tell us that the Iranian government was responsible for this attack.

Stories/Interests
Freeh's "My FBI"
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.