FBI Releases Recently Declassified Record On 9/11 Attacks

A declassified FBI document related to logistical support provided to two of the Saudi hijackers in the run-up to the 9/11 attacks details the contacts the men had with Saudi associates in the United States, but does not provide evidence that the high officials of the kingdom were accomplices of the plot.

The document released Saturday, the 20th anniversary of the attacks, is the first investigative record released since President Joe Biden ordered a declassification review of materials that for years have remained out of the public eye. The 16-page document is a summary of an FBI interview conducted in 2015 with a man who had frequent contact with Saudi nationals in the US who supported the first hijackers who arrived in the country prior to the attacks.

Biden ordered the Justice Department and other agencies to conduct a declassification review and release whatever documents they can over the next six months. He was under pressure from the victims’ families, who have long searched the records while filing a lawsuit in New York alleging that Saudi government officials supported the kidnappers.

The heavily crossed-out document was released hours after Biden attended September 11 commemorative events in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon. Family members of the victims had said they would object to Biden’s presence in those memories as long as the documents remained classified.

American ceremonies mark the 20th anniversary of September 11

The Saudi government has long denied any involvement in the attacks. The Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington has said it supports the complete declassification of all records as a way to “end the baseless allegations against the Kingdom once and for all.” The embassy said that any accusation that Saudi Arabia was an accessory was “categorically false”.

The documents have come out at a politically sensitive time for the United States and Saudi Arabia, which have forged a strategic, albeit difficult, alliance, particularly on counterterrorism issues. The Biden administration released an intelligence assessment in February implicating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the 2018 assassination of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but drew criticism from Democrats for avoiding direct punishment from the royal himself.

Relatives of the victims said the publication of the document is a significant step in their effort to connect the attacks with Saudi Arabia. Brett Eagleson, whose father, Bruce, was killed in the attack on the World Trade Center, said the release of the FBI material “accelerates our search for truth and justice.”

Jim Kreindler, attorney for the victims’ families, said in a statement that “the findings and conclusions of this FBI investigation validate the arguments we have made in the litigation regarding the responsibility of the Saudi government in the September 11 attacks.

“This document, together with the public evidence collected to date, provides a blueprint for how (al-Qaida) operated within the United States with the active and conscious support of the Saudi government,” he said.

That includes, he said, Saudi officials exchanging phone calls between themselves and al Qaeda agents and then having “accidental meetings” with the hijackers while assisting them to set up and find flight schools.

The debate: two decades later, the enduring legacy of 9/11

Regarding 9/11, there has been speculation about official involvement since shortly after the attacks, when it was revealed that 15 of the 19 attackers were Saudis. Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader at the time, was from a prominent family in the kingdom.

The United States investigated some Saudi diplomats and others with ties to the Saudi government who knew the hijackers after they arrived in the United States, according to previously declassified documents.

Still, the Commission’s September 11, 2004 report found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” the attacks that Al Qaeda planned, although it noted that Saudi-linked charities could having diverted money to the group. .

Particular scrutiny has focused on the first two hijackers to arrive in the US, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, and the support they received.

In February 2000, shortly after their arrival in Southern California, they ran into a Saudi national named Omar al-Bayoumi at a halal restaurant who helped them find and rent an apartment in San Diego. He had ties to the Saudi government and had previously attracted FBI scrutiny.

Bayoumi has described his meeting at the restaurant with Hazmi and Mihdhar as a “chance encounter,” and the FBI during their interview made multiple attempts to determine whether that characterization was accurate or whether the meeting had been arranged in advance, according to the document.

The 2015 interview that forms the basis of the FBI document was with a man who was applying for US citizenship and who years earlier had had repeated contacts with Saudi nationals, who, according to investigators, provided “significant logistical support” to several of the kidnappers. Among the man’s contacts was Bayoumi, according to the document.

The man’s identity is hidden throughout the document, but it is described that he worked at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles.

Also referenced in the document is Fahad al-Thumairy, at the time a diplomat accredited to the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Los Angeles who investigators said was heading an extremist faction at his mosque. The document says the communications analysis identified a seven-minute phone call in 1999 from Thumairy’s phone to the home phone of the Saudi Arabian family of two brothers who were later detained in the Guantanamo Bay prison, Cuba. .

(AP)

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