"It is another example of outstanding international counterterrorism cooperation," the official said.
MORE FROM NATIONAL JOURNAL
Riedel, a former high-level CIA official, said neither terrorist plan
would have been stopped without the Saudi assistance.
plot and the 2010 parcel-post plot, it was literally the difference
between success and failure," said Riedel, who is now a senior fellow at
the Brookings Institution. "The Saudis get a lot of negative press
because 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, but the
track record of cooperation has been extraordinary."
relationship between the CIA and the Saudi General Intelligence Service
improved sharply in 2009 after al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula -- the
group behind the newly disclosed terror plot -- mounted an audacious
suicide attack designed to kill Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, a
high-ranking Saudi counterterrorism official.
The strike failed,
but the Saudis responded by ramping up their efforts to recruit
informers and infiltrate the terror group with intelligence operatives
despite the enormous risks to the agents themselves.
allowed Riyadh to help Washington derail a 2010 plot to ship explosives
masked as printer cartridges aboard U.S.-bound FedEx and UPS cargo
planes. In that case, Saudi Arabia gave the CIA the actual routing
numbers of the two packages; without the information, the planes could
have been destroyed over Chicago or another major U.S. city.
warming security relationship marks a sea change from just a few years
ago, when lawmakers passed a 2007 measure that barred any American aid
to Saudi Arabia amid criticism that Riyadh wasn't doing enough to block
its citizens from funneling money to militants in Iraq and other
countries. Given the paltry amount of U.S. aid at stake, the legislation
was primarily a symbolic gesture.
"By cutting off aid and closing
the loophole, we send a clear message to the Saudi Arabian government
that they must be a true ally in advancing peace in the Middle East,"
then-Rep. Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat, said at the time.
ties have become so close that the Obama administration didn't make
much of an effort to convince Riyadh to halt its crackdown on the
country's small number of pro-democracy activists during the Arab
The United States has given Saudi Arabia permission to
acquire 84 next-generation F-15s and to upgrade another 70. The $29.4
billion deal is the largest single weapons sale in U.S. history. Riyadh
is also negotiating with the Pentagon to buy up to a dozen
next-generation Navy vessels equipped with the Aegis missile-defense
system, which can be used to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles;
such a purchase would cost at least $10 billion more.