The 9/11 Commission made “dramatic changes” to its final report to omit information about the role of Pakistan, according to The Friday Times, a Pakistani weekly. After learning that the report would contain damaging revelations, the Pakistani government dispatched lobbyists to Washington to influence the 9/11 Commission, and may have even paid bribes to Commission members or their staff, the weekly says, citing an official at the Pakistani Foreign Office. “The disclosure sheds doubt on the integrity and honesty of the members of the 9/11 Inquiry Commission and above all on the authenticity of the information in their final report,” according to one source cited by the weekly.
The story was picked up yesterday by The Telegraph of Calcutta, India and is now shooting around the blogosphere. We cannot vouch for its veracity, but we can guess at the sort of information that both the US and the Pakistani government might have wanted to omit from The 9/11 Commission Report:
For example, prior to Sept. 11 the chief of the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI allegedly approved a $100,000 wire transfer to a certain Mohamed Atta. Yet the same ISI chief, Mahmud Ahmed, was in Washington for a working visit to his counterparts in the US government for more than a week prior to Sept. 11. On the morning of 9/11 itself, he was having breakfast at the Capitol with the future congressional investigators of the September 11th events. These alleged investigators, Porter Goss and Bob Graham, somehow failed to mention anything about the Pakistani connection in their report, in the same way that the 9/11 Commission later closed its eyes to the same facts. Were bribes really necessary to whitewash all this? In reality, the “Pakistani Connection” actually leads back to the US intelligence behemoth. For the full background, be sure to read “The Pakistani ISI” appendix to the “Justice for 9/11” Attorney General complaint.
(The following was published originally in the subscription-only The Friday Times of Pakistan, March 3, 2006. Reproduced here solely for educational purposes, see below.)
Did Pakistan influence the 9/11 Commission Report?
According to an FO official, “dramatic changes” were made in the final draft of the 9/11 Commission Report after Pakistani lobbyists convinced the commission’s members to remove anti-Pakistan findings
Pakistan gave tens of thousands of dollars through its lobbyists in the United States to members of the 9/11 inquiry commission to ‘convince’ them to drop some anti-Pakistan findings in the report. This was disclosed by Foreign Office officials to the Public Accounts Committee at a secret meeting held last Tuesday. Even more interesting was the revelation that Pakistan embassy officials in Washington did indeed manage to convince the commission to drop the information.
The 9/11 inquiry commission was constituted to look into the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States and make proposals to fight terrorism in the long run. A lengthy report of the commission has since been published in book form. This book, say FO sources, left out some information relating to Pakistan because the commission’s members were paid by Pakistan to prevent them from including damaging information. “The disclosure sheds doubt on the integrity and honesty of the members of the 9/11 Inquiry Commission and above all on the authenticity of the information in their final report,” said an insider.
Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan and Special Secretary Sher Afgan were present at the meeting when an FO official, Sadiq, who was part of the secret negotiations with members of the US inquiry team and has just returned from Washington after completing a three-year tenure at the Pakistan embassy, revealed that a lot of money had been spent to ‘silence’ the members of the inquiry commission and induce them to go ‘soft’ on Pakistan.
According to the FO official, “dramatic changes” were made in the final draft of the inquiry commission report after Pakistani lobbyists arranged meetings with members of the Commission and convinced them to remove anti-Pakistan findings. This information is also given in the PAC records available with TFT and reveals that Pakistan won over the sympathies of 75 US Congressmen as part of its strategy to guard the interests of Pakistan in the United States. India, on the other hand, has its own influence in the US Congress through the 150-member India Caucus.
“The information given to PAC by FO reveals the effectiveness of lobbyists from Pakistan and India and how both spend millions of dollars to protect their interests,” an insider told TFT. “If this information is correct, then it is not only damaging for Pakistan but also for the US where some people publicly degraded Pakistan by saying that ‘Pakistanis will sell their mothers for a dollar’.”
The remark was made by the US attorney general about Pakistani officials who had allegedly played an important role in capturing Aimal Kasi, wanted in the USA for killing two CIA officials just outside the Agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia. “It seems that money can play an important role in buying powerful people everywhere, including the US. This is not something peculiar to Pakistan,” said an observer. Insiders, however, say the US Congress does not know about the fact that money was paid to the inquiry commission to silence it.
This information about Pakistani lobbyists influencing the inquiry commission was revealed when PAC member MNA Rai Mansab Ali started grilling FO officials about millions of dollars paid out to lobbyists around the world and the assignments they were given. He said the FO could not waste the hard-earned money of Pakistan by hiding behind the slogan of ‘national interests’.
Upon this, one FO official explained how the Pakistani embassy was working closely with lobbyists to achieve important targets, one of which had been the task of getting anti-Pakistan information out of the 9/11 Commission Report.
According to Sadiq, a few days before the completion of the inquiry report, US lobbyists told embassy officials that they had inside information that the inquiry commission had damaging findings on Pakistan’s role in 9/11. Meetings were hence arranged with commission members who were convinced to drop this information.
“The report that was finally published is sans the damaging information about Pakistan,” Sadiq told PAC members. “The US softened towards Pakistan only because of the efforts of the FO.”
FO Secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan said hiring lobbyists was an established practice and all countries had their own lobbyists in the US. However, he had no answers about the specific targets and goals set for these lobbyists.
“Our embassy in Washington says they need lobbyists so we hired some for them,” Riaz told the PAC. At this, MNAs present at the meeting complained that the FO had made a practice out of something whose utility and goals it could not explain. Riaz then admitted that the FO had no specific goals but that lobbyists were hired to improve Pakistan’s image.
“Influential people help Pakistani embassy officials approach politicians, Congressmen, journalists and top policy makers in the US. Contacts in that country are crucial,” he explained.
Sadiq also said that lobbyists inform the Pakistani embassy whenever there are any negative developments about Pakistan or any damaging issues raised against Pakistan in the US Congress. With the help of this inside information, embassy officials are much better prepared to deal with such issues, if and when they arise.
“You need to understand that we have to spend a lot of money on influential people in the US in order to protect our interests,” Secretary FO Riaz told PAC members.
Critics, however, have a different angle on the money that is thus spent. “There have been reports in the past about shady lobby firms hired by Pakistan. How do we know, on the authority of Mr Sadiq, that the lobbyists were indeed right about the damaging information in the report?” says a former senior official. Another source TFT spoke with said that it did not make any sense for Pakistan to spend millions after being told that the report contained some anti-Pakistan material. “Did anyone except the lobbyist see it? Did the embassy corroborate the information before dishing out the money? There are many questions here and I don’t think the FO is answering them,” he said.
(c) Copyright 2006 The Friday Times, Pakistan
(The following was published in THE TELEGRAPH, Calcutta, India, Monday, Mar 13, 2006.)
Pakistan weekly spills 9/11 beans
OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
New Delhi, March 12: The Pakistan foreign office had paid tens of thousands of dollars to lobbyists in the US to get anti-Pakistan references dropped from the 9/11 inquiry commission report, The Friday Times has claimed.
The Pakistani weekly said its story is based on disclosures made by foreign service officials to the Public Accounts Committee at a secret meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday.
It claimed that some of the commission members were also bribed to prevent them from including damaging information about Pakistan.
The magazine said the PAC grilled officials in the presence of foreign secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan and special secretary Sher Afghan on the money paid to lobbyists.
“The disclosure sheds doubt on the integrity and honesty of the members of the 9/11 inquiry commission and, above all, the authenticity of the information in their final report,” it said.
The report quoted an officer as saying that dramatic changes were made in the final draft of the inquiry commission after the lobbyists got to work. The panel was formed to probe the September 11 terror attack and make suggestions to fight terrorism.
After the commission tipped the lobbyists about the damaging revelations on Pakistan’s role in 9/11, they contacted the panel members and asked them to go soft on the country. The Friday Times claimed that a lot of money was used to silence these members.
According to the report, the lobbyists also helped Pakistan win the sympathy of 75 US Congressmen as part of its strategy to guard Islamabad’s interests in Washington. “US softened towards Pakistan only because of the efforts of the foreign office,” an official was quoted as saying in the report.
The Pakistan foreign office defended the decision to hire the lobbyists, saying it was an established practice in the US.
An observer at the Islamabad meeting said money could play an important role in buying powerful people. The remark came in response to comments made by some US officials after 9/11 that “Pakistanis will sell their mothers for a dollar”.
Pakistan had emerged as front-runner in the fight against terrorism unleashed by the US after the terror strikes. Washington pumped in billions of dollars to win President Pervez Musharraf’s support in launching a crackdown on al Qaida network thriving on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
(c) Copyright 2006 The Telegraph
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