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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Senators Ask Bush to Declassify 9/11 Report

Aired July 31, 2003 - 19:27   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Moving on now, the secret 28 pages of a congressional report on September 11 continue to divide Washington.
An estimated 42 senators are pushing for the pages to be released. The president says that would jeopardize national security. But some of his critics are wondering whether those 28 pages actually jeopardize the Saudis. The Saudis say they also want the pages released.

But as CNN justice correspondent Kelli Arena reports now, that has not silenced questions about Saudi Arabia's ability or willingness, frankly, to cut off terrorists' financial lifelines.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Palestinian group Hamas, designated a terror organization by the U.S., receives nearly two-thirds of its funding from Saudi Arabia. That according to new evidence presented to Congress by a former Israeli ambassador.

DORE GOLD, FORMER ISRAELI U.N. AMBASSADOR: As we speak, approximately 50 to 70 percent of the Hamas budget comes from Saudi Arabia. And I would say that that portion, the Saudi portion, of Hamas funding is growing, rather than declining.

ARENA: U.S. officials say the money sent to Hamas and other organizations, including al Qaeda, is funneled through Saudi charities.

Among those in question, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth and the International Islamic Relief Organization, both run by individuals with ties to the Saudi government.

Members of Congress want to know whether some agencies are more interested in protecting the U.S.-Saudi relationship than fighting the war on terror and why some groups have not been designated as organizations which support terrorism.

RICHARD NEWCOMB, TREASURY DEPARTMENT: So long as there is a responsible action to be taken, designation per se is not the only possible tool.

ARENA: Foreign policy advisor Adel al-Jubeir decline an invitation to testify but last month he offered this defense.

ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI FOREIGN POLICY ADVISOR: We've looked at her charities. We have put in regulations and rules to ensure that the funds of those charities are accounted for, do not go to any evil purposes.

ARENA: After the May 12 bombings in Riyadh, the FBI and other agencies have remarked on a notable increase in cooperation from the Saudis, but many issues remain unresolved.

JON PISTOLE, FBI COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: From our position, the jury is still out on the effectiveness of what they have done. We simply have not seen the results of those initiatives from a terrorism financing perspective.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA: What more the Saudis are willing to do will be the focus of a meeting in Riyadh next week with a national security team made up of members from the FBI, Treasury and the State Department -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Kelli, thanks for the update.

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