April 9, 2004
Washington Bureau Chief
1750 Pennsylvania Ave NW #1220
Washington, DC 20036
Dear Mr. Klaidman:
In his online Newsweek column, Michael Isikoff makes an unsupported and irresponsible claim that “a money trail among suspected terrorists leads straight to the doors of the Saudi Embassy”. This outrageous and sensational journalism is consistent with Mr. Isikoff’s past behavior and demonstrates his bias against Saudi Arabia and his disregard for the truth.
In the fall of 2002, Mr. Isikoff published another outrageous story that claimed a man named Omar al-Bayoumi, who had contact with the 9-11 hijackers, was a “Saudi government agent”. He also reported that al-Bayoumi gave money to the hijackers which he received from Princess Haifa, wife of the Saudi Ambassador. The FBI has since made clear that both charges are false. Michael Isikoff has yet to correct his record.
Now he strains to make a connection between the Saudi Embassy and two Pakistanis, Ms. Aafia Siddiqui and Dr. Mohammed Amjad Khan. Citing two Saudi citizens who received government support and lived for a time in the same building as the two Pakistanis, and based on that fact – and that fact alone – he essentially implies that the two Saudis are suspects. Would he designate as suspects all the other residents in the building?
But Mr. Isikoff chose to ignore a number of important facts that were provided to him:
Mr. Isikoff attempts to add intrigue to his story by making an issue of the fact that after receiving the $20,000 wire from the Saudi Embassy in Washington, one of the Saudis, Ahmed Al-Reshood, wrote a $20,000 check to another Saudi, Hatem Al Dhari, who five days later wired $17,193 back Al-Reshood’s bank in Saudi Arabia.
But again, Mr. Isikoff elected not to report the simple explanation that he was given. The fact is the transfer of funds between Mr. Al-Reshood and Mr. Al-Dhari is perfectly legitimate, and Mr. Isikoff was informed of this: that the Al-Reshood family returned to Saudi Arabia when the wife’s treatment was completed in early July 2001, which was before all of their bills had been paid and before they received the government financial support they requested. Prior to departing the United States, Mr. Al-Reshood wrote a $20,000 check to Mr. Al-Dhari who used the funds to pay Mr. Al-Reshood’s remaining obligations and then returned the balance to him in Saudi Arabia.
In addition, Mr. Isikoff lists a number of personal transactions by Saudi officials, which he admits have nothing to do with his story or with terrorism. They are simply listed in an attempt to add intrigue to the story.
It is clear that Mr. Isikoff has a personal prejudice against Saudi Arabia which has repeatedly caused him to ignore the truth and set aside journalistic integrity. We ask of Newsweek that future stories about Saudi Arabia be held to the higher standard of journalism that we typically see in that magazine.
Nail A. Al-Jubeir
Saudi Arabian Information Office