The FBI on Saturday — the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks — released a newly declassified document detailing assistance given to two of the Saudi hijackers.
The late night disclosure revealed logistical support the terrorists got from fellow countrymen in the US, but did not provide proof that Saudi Arabia colluded in the act of war.
The formally classified — and heavily redacted — 16-page document was the first record to be made public under the recent direction of President Biden.
It summarizes a 2015 FBI interview with a man who was in frequent contact with Saudi nationals in the US who helped hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar in the run-up to the attacks.
Hazmi and Mihdhar arrived in California in February 2000, and met connected Saudi national Omar al-Bayoumi, who helped them lease a San Diego apartment.
Bayoumi has described his halal restaurant meeting with the hijackers as a “chance encounter.” The FBI tried to ascertain during the interview if that was true, or if the sit-down had actually been arranged in advance.
The bureau interviewed Bayoumi after finding out he had been in touch with a staffer at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles who was applying for US citizenship. That man, whose identity wasn’t revealed, had previously had repeated contacts with Saudi nationals who provided “significant logistical support” to several of the hijackers, according to investigators.
The text also mentions former diplomat Fahad al-Thumairy, who is accused of leading an extremist faction at his mosque. In 1999, Thumairy called the Saudi Arabian home of two brothers who later became detained terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, the document said.
Both Bayoumi and Thumairy left the US weeks before the attacks.
Biden last week ordered the Department of Justice and other agencies to review a trove of secret papers related to the FBI’s 9/11 investigation and to release what documents they can over the next six months.
The president had been under pressure from family members of the victims, who have long sought the records as they pursue legal action against Riyadh, alleging senior Saudi government officials helped the hijackers. Some of the relatives objected to Biden attending Saturday’s memorial services as long as the evidence was under wraps.
The oil-rich monarchy has denied being complicit in the attacks. Saudi officials hailed the declassification as a way to “end the baseless allegations against the Kingdom once and for all.” Fifteen of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia and slain al-Qaida boss Osama bin Laden hailed from a prominent Saudi family.
A lawyer for relatives of the victims said the FBI’s findings “validate the arguments we have made in the litigation regarding the Saudi government’s responsibility for the 9/11 attacks”
“This document, together with the public evidence gathered to date, provides a blueprint for how (al-Qaida) operated inside the US with the active, knowing support of the Saudi government,” Jim Kreindler said.
Kreindler said Saudi officials had “accidental meetings” with the killers and helped them settle into the US and attend flight schools.
Brett Eagleson, whose father, Bruce was killed at the World Trade Center, said the disclosure “accelerates our pursuit of truth and justice.”
Previously declassified documents have shown the US investigated some Saudi diplomats and dignitaries who knew hijackers after they arrived in the country, but the 9/11 Commission found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” the attacks. The 2004 report did note that Saudi-linked charities could have diverted money to fund the mass murder.
With Post wires