Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Bombing of Khobar Towers

"Iran Murdered Our Soldiers"

Louis Freeh
Louis Freeh

One week after the bombing at Khobar Towers, then-FBI Director Louis J. Freeh arrived in Dhahran to supervise the investigation.  He inspected the crime scene, conferred with Saudi officials, and briefed Saudi investigators as well as his own agents.  It was the first of many trips he made to Saudi Arabia regarding the Khobar investigation.  But any hopes for timely arrests and prosecutions evaporated in the desert heat as the FBI team faced the difficulties of working a criminal investigation in the Middle East. 

Sandy Berger
Sandy Berger

In a Wall Street Journal editorial on the 10th anniversary of the attack, Freeh expressed his frustrations and blamed President Clinton and his national security advisor Sandy Berger for having "no interest in confronting the fact that Iran had blown up the towers."  Freeh went on to say that the suspected bombers arrested by the Saudi Security Service "admitted they had been trained by the Iranian external security service (IRGC) in Lebanon's Beka Valley and received their passports at the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, Syria, along with $250,000 cash for the operation from IRGC Gen. Ahmad Sharifi."

Crown Prince Abdullah
Crown Prince Abdullah

The FBI desperately wanted to interview the six suspected bombers being held by the Saudis, but the Saudi police insisted that they could not allow that until President Clinton made a personal request to Crown Prince Abdullah.  For 30 months, Freeh pressed the president and his national security advisor to make the request, but they failed to do so.  Freeh believes that the administration did not want to jeopardize its attempts to improve relations with Iran, which were now being led by a more moderate president, Mohammad Khatami.  Freeh admits that this case "became very personal" for him after meeting with the families of the victims.  Frustrated with what he considered foot-dragging on the part of the administration, he approached former President George H. W. Bush and asked if he would intervene with the Saudis.  The former president met with the crown prince and made the request.  Within weeks, FBI agents were given access to the imprisoned suspects in Saudi Arabia.  The resulting interviews produced "direct evidence of Iran's complicity." 

But according to Freeh, the Clinton administration feared that "Congress, and ordinary Americans, would find out that Iran murdered our soldiers," which would imperil their diplomatic initiatives.  In the editorial, Freeh states plainly that President Clinton "deserted" the 19 victims and their families.

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