The FBI has released the first document related to its investigation of the 11 September 2001 attacks, following an executive order by President Joe Biden.
Fulfilling one of his election promises, Joe Biden ordered the Ministry of Justice and other involved agencies to audit the array of documents and publish declassified information within six months. Relatives of the victims had recently called on President to skip memorial events of the attack’s 20th anniversary if he did not declassify documents.
The documents were expected to prove that Saudi Arabian authorities had supported the plot.
The first declassified document is from April 4, 2016. It is based on the results of conversations between the FBI agents and an employee of the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles.
A large number of text fragments in the 16-page document were deleted, including the name of the source who is said to have claimed American citizenship.
The document proved links between Omar Bayoumi, suspected to have been a Saudi intelligence operative, and two hijackers, Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Midhar, after they arrived in Southern California in 2000 ahead of the attacks.
Based on 2009 and 2015 interviews with a source, the document details contacts and meetings between Bayoumi, despite his claims to have befriended them and not taking part in the attack’s organization. According to the document, despite his official identity of a student, he had “very high status” in the Saudi consulate. He assisted the al-Qaeda members in translation, travel, lodging and financing.
The unknown source has also assured that there were links between the two hijackers and Fahad al Thumairy, a conservative imam at the King Faad mosque as well as an official of the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles. According to the telephone numbers linked to the source, he, Bayoumi and Thumairy contacted people who assisted Hamzi and Midhar, when they were in California.
The declassified document also unveiled communications of Bayoumi and Thumairy with Anwar al Alaki, the US-born cleric who was an important Al-Qaeda figure, later killed in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011.
The text released by the FBI outlined contacts between the hijackers and Saudi associates, but there is still no evidence that the Saudi government officials were involved in plotting the attack.
The document, which was significantly redacted, provides no evidence that Saudi Arabia or individual Saudi officials directly funded Al-Qaeda.
On its hand, Saudi Arabia has long claimed that it was not involved in the attacks, asking for transparency of the investigation and welcoming the release of classified documents by Washington.
“As past investigations have revealed, including the 9/11 Commission and the release of the so-called ’28 Pages,’ no evidence has ever emerged to indicate that the Saudi government or its officials had previous knowledge of the terrorist attack or were in any way involved,” the Saudi embassy’s statement reads.
However, one of the leaders of the lawsuit against Riyadh, Jim Kreindler, claims the document validates the lawsuit’s key contention that the Saudi government helped the hijackers. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.
“With this first release of documents, 20 years of Saudi Arabia counting on the US government to cover up its role in 9/11 comes to an end,” Mr Kreindler says.
Families of victims of 9/11 attacks are still waiting for stronger evidence when more classified material is released in coming month.
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