GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — The FBI launched declassified data from its secretive investigation that explored potential hyperlinks between the Saudi authorities and 9/11, with a number of the long-anticipated paperwork launched on the twentieth anniversary of the al Qaeda terrorist assaults that killed practically 3,000 individuals.
Households of the 9/11 victims have sought a number of particulars tied to attainable Saudi authorities involvement within the assaults. Final week, President Joe Biden issued an government order directing the DOJ to declassify info stemming from an FBI inquiry into attainable Saudi-9/11 hyperlinks.
Though Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied any involvement within the 9/11 assaults, the 9/11 sufferer households have pointed to hyperlinks resembling Omar al Bayoumi, mentioned to have been a former Saudi intelligence officer, and Fahad al Thumairy, a former Saudi Consulate official, who allegedly had contacts with Khalid al Mihdhar and Nawaf al Hazmi, two of the 15 Saudis among the many 19 hijackers.
Mihdhar and Hazmi, who went on to be the “muscle” hijackers on the aircraft that crashed into the Pentagon, went to a coaching camp in Afghanistan and have been apparently chosen by Osama bin Laden for the 9/11 hijacking operation. They have been the primary hijackers to enter the U.S., arriving in Los Angeles in January 2000. The 2 met Bayoumi at a Los Angeles restaurant early the subsequent month, and he reportedly helped the duo open financial institution accounts and lease flats in the identical complicated as him in San Diego.
The 17 pages of declassified however nonetheless partially-redacted data, dated April 4, 2016, relate to the FBI’s “digital communication” tied to Operation Encore, an FBI investigation into Sept. 11, 2001, which included scrutinizing attainable hyperlinks between the Saudi authorities and the terrorist assaults that occurred that day. Many names are redacted, allegedly to guard “personally identifiable info” (dubbed PII all through the data), making monitoring individuals all through the paperwork practically unattainable.
The “synopsis” within the declassified doc is an “replace concerning interview (12 and 13 November 2015) and related evaluation pursuant to his pending U.S. Citizenship software and statements concerning the circumstances of his contact with individuals who supplied logistic help to 9/11 hijackers” Hazmi and Midhar. The redacted particular person “had a number of private and telephone contacts with people who supplied, or are suspected of offering, important logistic help to Hazmi and Midhar” together with Bayoumi, Thumairy, Mohammed Muhanna, three redacted names, “and the topics of a number of different FBI investigations.”
The 9/11 Fee Report, launched in 2004, conceded that “Saudi Arabia has been a problematic ally in combating Islamic extremism” and that “Saudi Arabia’s society was a spot the place al Qaeda raised cash straight from people and thru charities.” However the report concluded: “It doesn’t seem that any authorities aside from the Taliban financially supported al Qaeda earlier than 9/11… Saudi Arabia has lengthy been thought of the first supply of al Qaeda funding, however we have now discovered no proof that the Saudi authorities as an establishment or senior Saudi officers individually funded the group.”
Saudi Arabia’s embassy within the U.S. mentioned final week that the dominion “welcomes the discharge of categorized paperwork” associated to 9/11, arguing that “any allegation that Saudi Arabia is complicit within the September 11 assaults is categorically false.”
Most of the newly-declassified data centered round Bayoumi assembly the 2 future hijackers on the restaurant, casting critical doubt on his claims that the assembly occurred by likelihood.
“PII said that he wanted to convey Hazmi and Midhar to the Mediterranean Gourmand Restaurant situated on Venice Boulevard in Los Angeles,” the FBI wrote.
The bureau mentioned that “after assembly PII on the Consulate in late January 2000, Bayoumi, accompanied by Bin Don, drove to the Mediterranean Gourmand Restaurant the place they encountered Hazmi and Midhar” and that “this is similar restaurant” the redacted particular person mentioned “he wanted to ship Hazmi and Midhar to.”
“Bayoumi’s logistic help to Hazmi and Midhar included transaction, journey help, lodging, and financing. Anomalous cash transfers inside Bayoumi’s financial institution accounts coincide with translations whereby Bayoumi supplied help to Hazmi and Midhar,” the bureau continued, including, “Bayoumi supplied statements in 2003 to federal investigators as to how he met Hazmi and Midhar on or about 2/1/20000 and the way he assisted them… Bayoumi’s statements are straight contradicted by eyewitness statements.”
The 9/11 Fee Report said : “They encountered Omar al Bayoumi and Cayman Bin Don at a halal meals restaurant on Venice Boulevard in Culver Metropolis, a couple of blocks away from the King Fahd mosque. Bayoumi and Bin Don have each informed us that that they had pushed up from San Diego earlier that day in order that Bayoumi may tackle a visa difficulty and accumulate some papers from the Saudi consulate. Bayoumi heard Hazmi and Mihdhar talking in what he acknowledged to be Gulf Arabic and struck up a dialog… Bayoumi informed them how nice San Diego was and supplied to assist them settle there. The 2 pairs then left the restaurant and went their separate methods.”
The fee mentioned Bayoumi and Bin Don have been interviewed “many instances” in regards to the February 1, 2000 lunch and their accounts corroborated one another “for probably the most half.”
“Nevertheless, Bayoumi has mentioned that he and Bin Don tried to go to King Fahd mosque after lunch however couldn’t discover it. Bin Don, then again, recollects rising the mosque twice that day for prayers, each earlier than and after the meal. Bin Don’s recollection is spotty and inconsistent. Bayoumi’s model might be challenged as properly, for the reason that mosque is near the restaurant and Bayoumi had visited it, and the encircling space, on a number of events, together with twice inside six weeks of February 1. We have no idea whether or not the lunch encounter occurred by likelihood or design,” the fee continued.
However the FBI wrote in 2016 that “roughly one hour previous to assembly Hazmi and Midhar, Bayoumi and Caisin Bin Don visited the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles and met with” a redacted identify, and that after the assembly Bayoumi and Bin Don drove to a “Mediterranean Gourmand Restaurant.”
Bayoumi informed the FBI that there was then a “likelihood” encounter with Hazmi and Midhar, however the bureau mentioned “the information of that are contradicted in eye-witness descriptions supplied by Bin Don.” Bayoumi claimed he heard the 2 future hijackers speaking, acknowledged their Gulf Arabic accents, then went over to speak with them, however Bin Don “contradicts Bayoumi’s statements, saying Bayoumi entered the restaurant and positioned himself to be looking the entrance window” and that “when Bayoumi noticed Hazmi and Midhar stroll into the restaurant, he approached them from a distance the place he couldn’t have heard them talking first.” The FBI mentioned Bin Don informed them “the group spoke for roughly thirty minutes in Arabic, which Bin Don studies being unable to grasp since he didn’t converse Arabic” after which “they exchanged phone numbers and departed.”
The FBI additionally mentioned that “Bayoumi said he by no means spoke to Hazmi or Midhar about Jihad,” however one month after 9/11, the ex-wife of a redacted identify was interviewed and mentioned she met Mayoumi a number of instances and “Bayoumi was all the time speaking in regards to the Islamic group must take motion” and that he informed her and her husband that they have been “at Jihad.”
Extra 9/11 fee report pages have been declassified in 2016, stating: “Whereas in america a number of the 9/11 highjackers have been involved with, and obtained help or help from, people who could also be linked with the Saudi authorities.” Because the launch of the fee’s report, the FBI inquiry unearthed extra info.
The 9/11 Fee mentioned that “Thumairy has denied preaching anti-Western sermons, a lot much less selling violent jihad” and that he “claimed to not acknowledge Hazmi or Mihdhar,” including that “each denials are considerably suspect.” The fee mentioned Thumairy “likewise denied realizing” Bayoumi “although witnesses and phone data set up that the 2 males had contact with one another.”
“After exploring the accessible leads, we have now not discovered proof that Thumairy supplied help to the 2 operatives,” the fee concluded.
But the FBI’s newly-declassified data said that “PII was tasked by Thumairy to help Hazmi and Midhar whereas they have been in Los Angeles” and that the redacted particular person described the hijackers as “two very important individuals.”
The FBI doc additionally states that “there’s important telephone connectivity between” one redacted identify and one other “previous to and straight following key occasions of logistic help supplied by” a redacted identify “to Hazmi and Midhar.” The bureau mentioned that “this sample of telephone connectivity between PII and PII will not be identifiable previous to the hijacker’s arrival in Los Angeles and doesn’t happen between PII and PII after the hijackers depart California.”
“Twenty years in the past in the present day they murdered our family members and inflicted immeasurable ache and struggling on our lives,” Terry Strada, a frontrunner of 9/11 Households United whose husband, Tom, was killed within the World Commerce Heart, mentioned Saturday night. “Now the Saudis’ secrets and techniques are uncovered and it’s properly previous time for the Kingdom to come clean with its officers’ roles in murdering 1000’s on American soil.”
Brett Eagleson, who misplaced his father, Bruce Eagleson, within the terror assaults 20 years in the past, mentioned it was “notably significant” that Biden “in the present day started to satisfy his promise to the 9/11 group.”
“In the present day marks the second when the Saudis can’t depend on the U.S. authorities from hiding the reality about 9/11. The discharge of the 2016 FBI Operation Encore Closing Assessment accelerates our pursuit of reality and justice towards the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the worst terrorist assault to happen on U.S. soil,” he continued. “We look ahead to extra transparency and releases of knowledge from the Biden administration that lastly present the American individuals the reality they’ve long-deserved, whereas our resolve strengthens to carry the Saudi authorities totally accountable for the large ache and losses we suffered.”
Biden’s September order required Legal professional Common Merrick Garland to launch relevant declassified paperwork to the general public over the subsequent six months, saying the declassification effort should embody additional scrutiny of the April 2016 FBI doc and a evaluation of the 2021 FBI digital communication closing Operation Encore.
“After I ran for president, I made a dedication to making sure transparency concerning the declassification of paperwork on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist assaults on America,” Biden mentioned. “As we method the twentieth anniversary of that tragic day, I’m honoring that dedication.”