FC: Saudi Arabia blocks political websites, fosters terrorism?

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Wed Nov 21 2001 - 08:30:07 PST

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        Companies Compete to Provide Saudi Internet Veil
        By JENNIFER 8. LEE The New York Times
        Nearly a dozen software companies are competing for a contract to help
        Saudi Arabia block access to Web sites the Saudi government deems
       Nearly a dozen software companies, most of them American, are
        competing for a contract to help Saudi Arabia block access to Web
        sites the Saudi government deems inappropriate for that nation's half-
        million Internet users.
        For the companies, the Saudi account would be important not only for
        the direct revenue which analysts say could be worth several million
        dollars but also for its value as a flagship that could help win
        similar contracts from other governments.
        Saudi security agencies identify the political Web sites that are
        considered for inclusion on the blacklist. Among the banned sites are
        the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in the Arabian Peninsula
        (www.cdrhap.com) and the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia
        (www.islah.org). Even some less politically charged sites, including
        ones that recount the history of Saudi Arabia, are blocked.
    [The below message comes from Center Right; subscription information below. 
    "Friendship and the House of Saud,"
    by Jeff Jacoby, the Boston Globe
    November 18, 2001
    To hear Prince Bandar tell it, Saudi Arabia is devoted to the United States.
    "Our role," the Saudi ambassador said in a CNN interview some weeks ago, 
    "is to stand solid and shoulder-to-shoulder with our friends, the people of 
    the United States. . . .  In 1990, when we needed your help, you came 
    through for us.  And it's our turn now to stand up with you."
    That's the official line, the one the Saudis have spent a fortune promoting 
    over the years.  It is a theme the media routinely echo.  "No Arab nation," 
    Newsweek declared just two weeks ago, "has been as reliable a friend to 
    America over such a long period of time as Saudi Arabia."
    Is it true?
    When terrorists slaughtered thousands of civilians in a horrific attack on 
    Sept. 11, our friends the Saudis reacted with -- silence.  Other 
    governments welled up with shock, grief, and fury.  Riyadh said nothing.
    As it became clear that most of those who carried out the atrocities were 
    citizens of Saudi Arabia and that the mastermind behind them was a member 
    of a leading Saudi family, one might have expected the Saudis to express 
    great anguish and heartache.  One might have thought they would be anxious 
    to cooperate closely with the United States in rooting out those 
    responsible for the devastation.
    But there were no words of anguish, and there was little cooperation.  The 
    US investigation had barely begun when Riyadh arranged a private jet to fly 
    scores of its citizens -- including members of the bin Laden clan -- out of 
    the United States.  This meant, of course, that the FBI could not interview 
    people who might have had valuable information about the hijackers.
    That was only the beginning of the Saudis' unhelpfulness.  When Washington 
    asked for background information on the Sept. 11 terrorists, the Saudis 
    stonewalled.  While 94 airlines agreed to identify passengers on planes 
    flying to the United States, Saudi Arabian Airlines refused.  A month after 
    the attacks, The New York Times reported that "Saudi Arabia has so far 
    refused to freeze the assets of Osama bin Laden and his associates."  Of 
    particular concern was Riyadh's unwillingness to shut down the Islamic 
    "charities" that are Al Qaeda's lifeline.
    As American war plans took shape, the Saudis barred the use of their 
    military bases for attacks against the Taliban.  Britain's Tony Blair set 
    off on a Mideast tour to build support for the war effort, but was denied 
    entry to Saudi Arabia.  And just days after the US bombardment of 
    Afghanistan began, the Saudi interior minister denounced it.  "This is 
    killing innocent people," Prince Nayef scolded.  "We are not at all happy 
    with the situation."
    These are our friends?
    For years the United States has had an arrangement with Saudi Arabia's 
    rulers: They would sell us oil and we would pretend not to notice that they 
    were intolerant dictators who crushed dissent at home while nurturing some 
    of the world's most violent fanatics abroad.  But now we are at war with 
    those fanatics and the old bargain cannot continue.
    It is time to face the truth about our Saudi "friends:" Their money, their 
    diplomacy, their politics, and above all their Wahhabi strain of Islam -- 
    extremist, intolerant, aggressive, and poisonously anti-Western -- made 
    Sept. 11 possible.  The Taliban and Al Qaeda represent not perversions of 
    Wahhabism but its full flowering.  That is why they had the support of so 
    many Saudis -- and why the blood of the victims is on Saudi hands.
    For years, the House of Saud has had it both ways, posing as a friend of 
    America while spending lavishly to advance America-hating Islamist 
    extremism around the world.  When forced to choose between the two, they 
    have generally kept faith with the extremists.  In 1996, for example, Saudi 
    authorities derailed the US investigation into the Khobar Towers terrorist 
    bombing in Dharahn, which killed 19 American soldiers and maimed 372.  The 
    FBI was not allowed to examine the evidence or question suspects.  When a 
    US grand jury this year indicted 13 Saudis for the bombing, Riyadh refused 
    to extradite them.
    This is not how friends should behave.  And absorbing such insults is not 
    how a superpower should behave.
    For years Washington has allowed Riyadh to dictate the terms of the 
    US-Saudi relationship.  Because the Saudis demanded that Saddam Hussein not 
    be toppled, the Gulf War was aborted before victory had been achieved.  But 
    because Saddam wasn't destroyed, Saudi Arabia required continuing 
    protection, so thousands of US troops remained inside its borders.  That 
    occupation by "infidel" Americans, in turn, fueled the rage of Osama bin 
    Laden -- who used Saudi money and Saudi recruits to build up his army of 
    terrorists and plot the murder of Americans.  Our obsequiousness has cost 
    us dearly.
    Saudi Arabia and the United States, as Crown Prince Abdullah himself said 
    last month, have come to a crossroads.  Perhaps it is time they went their 
    separate ways.
    * * *
    Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe.  To receive his columns by 
    e-mail, send a note with your name and e-mail address to 
    <<mailto:columnsat_private>mailto:columnsat_private> .
    CENTER-RIGHT is edited by Eugene Volokh, who teaches constitutional law, 
    copyright law, and a seminar on firearms regulation at UCLA Law School 
    and organized with the help of Terry Wynn and the Federalist Society 
    Check out (and link to) our Web site,
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