Who is the Islamophobic Conspiracy-theorist Behind the Saudi 9/11 'Dry Run' Story?

Published September 11th, 2017 - 10:03 GMT
The Saudi government funded a ‘dry run’ for 9/11, a New York Post story has claimed (Flickr)
The Saudi government funded a ‘dry run’ for 9/11, a New York Post story has claimed (Flickr)

The Saudi government funded a ‘dry run’ for 9/11, paying for two Saudis to fly from Phoenix to Washington, attempting to gain access to the cockpit in the process.

This, according to a New York Post piece published Saturday, two days before the sixteenth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks.

Given its timing and dramatic allegations, the article has gained considerable attention, with the same assertions being reported in Al Jazeera, the New Arab, UK’s The Independent and Mail Online, among others.

All, however, cite the New York Post piece rather than an original source.

But how reliable is the Post story?

As basis for his claims, writer Paul Sperry himself points to “fresh evidence submitted” in the lawsuit being brought against Saudi Arabia by relatives of 9/11 victims.

He indicates that Sean Carter, the lead attorney for the 9/11 plaintiffs, told him in an interview that the allegations are drawn from “nearly 5,000 pages of evidence submitted of record and incorporated by reference into the complaint.”

Sperry writes: “Citing FBI documents, the complaint alleges that the Saudi students [...] were in fact members of “the Kingdom’s network of agents in the US,” and participated in the terrorist conspiracy.”

These references to a “network of agents” and “the terrorist conspiracy” recall the rhetoric of Sperry’s 2005 book “Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives have Penetrated Washington”.

From its description it is clear that the 12-year-old work went beyond investigative journalism to employ a scare-mongering anti-Islamic and intolerant narrative which reads like a conspiracy theory.

“As Americans continue to worship at the altar of cultural diversity and endorse religious tolerance for tolerance sake,” it reads, “Muslims masquerading as "moderates" have insinuated themselves into the very fabric of American society…”

It continues: “The Muslim establishment that publicly decries the radical fringe-represented by al-Qaida's brand of Islam known as Wahhabism, the official religion of Saudi Arabia is actually a part of it.”

Presenting “Muslims” in general as an enemy of the US, rather than extremism or terrorism, Sperry’s book was warmly received by many on the far-right.

“Political correctness and capitulation to the demands of the Muhammedan jihadist directly resulted in 9/11. Read to find out why,” says one five-star Amazon review.

His other works include "Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That's Conspiring to Islamize America", which "portrays the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as a subversive organization allied with international terrorists," according to one review.

Sperry, a former media fellow at the conservative public policy think-tank the Hoover Institution, has also written for far-right news website Breitbart.

His pieces for Breitbart were attempts to undermine Khizr Khan, the father of a US soldier killed in the Iraq war, who criticized Donald Trump at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

Sperry attacked Khan for allegedly believing “the constitution ‘must always be subordinated to the Sharia’”. To evidence his headline claim, Sperry referred to a 30-year-old book review by Khan, which he speculated “in context” indicates his support for Sharia ahead of the US constitution.

The tone of the piece is conjectural, ignorant of Islamic thought and borders on Islamophobic at times.



Why were the claims reproduced so enthusiastically?

Evidence to the effect that the Saudi embassy bought plane tickets for employees to test the waters for a terror attack on the US two years before 9/11 may well have been put forward. It may or may not convince the court should the case go to trial as anticipated.

But it is worrying that so many international news outlets picked up on this story from a tabloid paper without referencing the writer's history as a speculative, Islamophobic conspiracy-theorist.

In fact, it is not hard to see why many of the outlets using the story were not overly keen to double check its background.

Al Jazeera, Middle East Eye and the New Arab all have Qatar connections, whose closure has been demanded by Saudi Arabia in the ongoing Gulf crisis. The Daily Mail is a right-wing paper that often pursues a fear-mongering anti-Islam narrative. For these outlets, headline was more important than source in this case.

Sperry's claims come after a law passed last year allowed families of the September 11 attack victims to sue the Saudi government.

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