9/11 Families United Statement on Today’s Senate Hearing & Planned Saudi Takeover of Professional Golf

“Time and time again, the Kingdom has used its coffers to buy influence in the U.S. and dodge accountability.  This golf deal is yet another chapter in the long story of our quest for a true reckoning, one that has been denied us for 22 years.”

Washington, D.C. – As the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) holds a hearing this morning to examine the planned Saudi takeover of the PGA Tour and the future of professional golf in the United States, 9/11 Families United will be submitting the statement below from its National Chair Terry Strada for the official record.  Terry will be in attendance at today’s hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building and her statement details the Kingdom’s years-long campaign to avoid accountability for 9/11 and their decision to avoid testifying. She also speaks to the betrayal the 9/11 community feels over the PGA Tour’s decision to assist with the Saudis’ public relations rehabilitation campaign, and particularly the actions of their witness at today’s hearing, Jimmy Dunne. 

Last week, 9/11 Families United announced the launch of a new advertising campaign in the heart of New York’s Times Square to condemn and draw attention to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s unprecedented effort to deflect attention away from its atrocious human rights record and support for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  The ad, which can be viewed in full here, reminds Americans that Saudi Arabia’s other sponsorships, in addition to the PGA Tour include:

  • The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks
  • Global Jihadist Extremism
  • Murder & Bone Saw Dismemberment of an American Journalist
  • Indiscriminate Bombing of Civilians
  • Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
  • Human Rights Violations

Terry’s full statement submitted for today’s record is below:

Statement of Terry Strada, National Chair of 9/11 Families United
U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Hearing on PGAT-LIV & Saudi Arabia’s Influence in the United States
July 11, 2023

Mr. Chairman and esteemed members of the Committee:

As the National Chair of 9/11 Families United which is an organization of family members of those murdered in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as well as many of those who survived, were injured in, or sickened from the attacks—a community of more than 10,000 people – I appreciate the opportunity to have this statement entered into the record for today’s hearing. 

It has been nearly 8,000 days since my husband Tom Strada was brutally murdered by Saudi-funded terrorists when they attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, murdering thousands and injuring scores more.  For those of us left behind, we live with the pain and suffering the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia inflicted on us when it sent its government agents here to America to assist some, if not all, of the 19 hijackers in carrying out the deadliest terrorist attack the world has ever witnessed. For us, the pain never ends, and along with our country, we have vowed to “Never Forget.”

Today we are watching a truly bizarre spectacle, as the PGA Tour is effectively turning over the game of golf to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  We know why the PGA Tour is doing it — it’s for the money.  But that isn’t why the Saudis are doing it.  They’re doing it as a public relations strategy to distract from their authoritarian past and present, and especially their unacknowledged culpability for supporting al Qaeda and the hijackers of September 11. 

We are here to watch representatives from the PGA Tour, who have signed on to help the Kingdom try once again to fix its reputation, this time through sportswashing.  Those same PGAT representatives expect those of us who experienced our losses to “move on” without so much as an acknowledgment of wrongdoing. They will stick to their Saudi talking points just like the LIV golfers did, claiming simply that golf is “a force for good.” 

Let’s be clear about LIV Golf.  It was never about golf.  It was never even about money.  We all know that LIV Golf was a financial disaster, with a miniscule fan base and no TV revenue to speak of.  It was a way for the Saudis to deploy their tired old playbook: deny loudly, obstruct all investigations, and deflect attention with another shiny object.  Remember when Mohammad bin Salman was traveling the U.S. and hanging out with Silicon Valley executives and Hollywood stars, all while Saudi Arabia’s paid foreign agents were fighting against the 9/11 family community in Congress while its lawyers dissembled in court?  That’s the playbook.  It is never about the truth.

The Saudis view the PGA Tour not as a financial investment, but as a way to remake the image of Saudi Arabia that is more palatable to Americans than the stark realities of mass executions, child rape by security forces, other human rights abuses — not to mention their continued refusal to demonstrate compliance with more than half of the reforms recommended by the Financial Action Task Force to combat terror financing. 

The 9/11 community has watched the Saudis’ public relations rehabilitation campaign play out for years both on Capitol Hill and in federal court where the Kingdom is still fighting us.  We’ve watched as the Saudis employ lobbyists and lawyers to try to sell one version of the Kingdom in public while battling us tooth-and-nail behind closed courtroom doors in New York City.  The Senators in this room have probably heard from some of them lately, especially because they include at least one former Senator, Mark Begich of Alaska.[1]  I assume he and his colleagues at the Saudi-backed law firm of Brownstein Hyatt have been in touch about this hearing.

It seems one piece of advice given to the Saudis is that they shouldn’t participate in today’s hearing themselves and instead try to put forward a more familiar face. Today’s witness for the Kingdom’s position, Jimmy Dunne, is the latest American to join the Kingdom’s sportswashing campaign.  He was a founder of Sandler O’Neill + Partners, L.P. and is now a PGA Tour board member.  He openly boasts he played a key role in brokering the Saudis’ takeover of the PGAT.  Indeed, as New York Magazine wrote recently, “Dunne’s involvement in the deal nonetheless proves the kind of influence Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund can buy.”

Mr. Dunne’s conduct here is stunning when you know the history.  On the morning of September 11, 2001, sixty-six of Dunne’s colleagues at Sandler O’Neill were working on the 104th Floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center.  Like my husband and nearly 3,000 others, they were murdered that morning.  Mr. Dunne’s life was spared because he was playing a round of golf, and by the end of the day, he was Sandler O’Neill’s most senior surviving executive. 

That history is what makes Mr. Dunne’s betrayal today so devastating to many in the 9/11 community.  Worse, in his testimony today Mr. Dunne will likely reprise a quote he’s recently given to the media in which he insists that none of the Saudis he’s working with on this deal had anything to do with 9/11 and if he finds out they did “​​I’ll kill them myself.”  

It’s a clever soundbite, and I’m sure he’s rehearsed some version of it for today, but it’s entirely absurd. As U.S. Intelligence reports confirm, in the years before 9/11, the Saudi government—the very government he is now working with—provided significant financial support to extremist organizations such as al Qaeda, and government agents on the Kingdom’s payroll directly facilitated the attacks. 

Another well-worn talking point Mr. Dunne and others in this PGAT-LIV sportswashing enterprise sometimes trot out is the notion that it’s time to move on and put aside past differences with Saudi Arabia. They ask Americans to forget the crimes against humanity as though there has already been an acknowledgment of the Saudi role, that the Saudis have accepted responsibility and begged forgiveness, and that our nation’s relations are based on an honest accounting of that history.  Nothing could be farther from the truth. The House of Saud in power in 2001 remains in power today.  It has never been held accountable for the role its state-run banks, charities, and wealthy citizens played in financing terrorism and the September 11 Attacks.

Just a few months ago, Jay Monahan of the PGA Tour claimed to understand the Saudi history.  Today, his stand-ins will sit here and pretend otherwise.

I wish we were surprised.  Time and time again, the Kingdom has used its coffers to buy influence in the U.S. and dodge accountability.  This golf deal is yet another chapter in the long story of our quest for a true reckoning, one that has been denied us for 22 years. 


About 9/11 Families United:

9/11 Families United is an organization consisting of family members of those murdered in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as well as many of those who survived, were injured in or sickened from the attacks, a community that numbers well over 10,000.  More information is at www.911familiesunited.org.