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Unfinished Business

Bill Doyle is on a mission to prove that Saudi Arabia bankrolled the 9/11 attacks

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Some of Brisard’s most valuable discoveries came in the eastern European country of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where during the Bosnian war of the early 1990s, Muslim fighters called the mujahideen traveled from other countries to, as they saw it, protect Bosnian Muslim communities from encroaching Serbian forces. In a March 2002 raid by Bosnian police in the Sarajevo offices of the Benevolence International Foundation – a Saudi charity that the lawsuit alleges was a front for terror funding – investigators found a document dubbed the “Golden Chain,” the authenticity of which was acknowledged by U.S. intelligence officials the following year. Believed to have been written in 1988, the document outlines the top 20 financial sponsors of al-Qaida, all of them Saudis. The list included bankers, businessmen and even two former ministers; their aggregate net worth, as Brisard last estimated in 2003, was $85 billion. One of the entities on the chain was listed only as “Bin Laden brothers.”

The lawsuit, now consolidated under the title In re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001, MDL 1570, was filed on August 15, 2002. With the help of Bill Doyle – one of the first family members of a 9/11 victim to sign on to the suit after the Burnetts – the list of plaintiffs grew to what is today 6,706 people. “I’m going to throw my hat in the ring,” Doyle remembers telling Motley, “and the families are going to follow me.”

The original suit targeted 100 defendants, including dozens of wealthy Saudi nationals and eight prominent Saudi-backed charities, all of which were either incriminated by Brisard’s findings or were listed on what is now the U.S. government’s Specially Designated Nationals List. What reaped the most headlines, however, was that three prominent Saudi princes – one of whom was alleged to have donated $6 million to charities which he knew financed al-Qaida – were also charged.

By March 2004, the case had grown to include 205 defendants and had already cost Motley’s firm $12 million, according to The New York Times. But despite Motley’s deep pockets and experience, the case floundered. After the suit was consolidated with similar litigation in other districts, it was transferred in January 2004 to the Southern District of New York. There, the case was assigned to an elderly judge, Richard Casey, who was blind and had to have documents dictated to him. The discovery phase, unsurprisingly, moved at a glacial pace, which didn’t improve much after the case was handed to a different judge following Casey’s death in March 2007. The new judge, George Daniels, was described in a 2004 profile by The New York Times as the “unchallenged king of delayed decisions.”

When the case finally inched forward in 2009, however, Motley and his team encountered another formidable adversary: the White House. In May of that year, the Justice Department’s then solicitor general, Elena Kagan, asked the Supreme Court to throw out the case against the Saudi royalty, citing the protections afforded them by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and the possibility of “potentially significant foreign relations consequences of subjecting another sovereign state to suit.” The Supreme Court dismissed the charges against the Saudi royalty in June – and Kagan is now a Supreme Court justice.

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