News & Politics

What's in the 9/11 Documents the FBI Released on Saudi Arabia's Involvement in the Attacks?

(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

Joe Biden ordered the declassification and release of a 16-page document relating to the government of Saudi Arabia’s potential involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

The document — heavily redacted, according to Fox News — sheds little light on the Saudis’ role, if any, in the attack.

Saudi national Omar al-Bayoumi, a legal U.S. resident, assisted two of the 9/11 hijackers when they first arrived in San Diego. The FBI had identified al-Bayoumi as a Saudi intelligence agent prior to the arrival of the hijackers. There were several other individuals already in America who had contacts with the hijackers.

The information in the document comes from an interview with a Saudi man applying for U.S. citizenship in 2015. The anonymous Saudi apparently had contacts with several Saudis already in America who gave the 9/11 hijackers “significant logistical support,” according to the bureau.

Related: Are We Safer Today Than We Were on September 11, 2001?

But was his meeting with the future hijackers a “chance encounter” as al-Bayoumi insists? Or was the Saudi intelligence asset “running” the hijackers? The FBI was never able to assemble enough evidence to prove their suspicions about any of the Saudi nationals who helped the hijackers.

Wall Street Journal:

In the memo, FBI agents described their analysis of phone records that appeared to connect some of the subjects of the investigation to an associate of Osama bin Laden or other eventual detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

The memo also showed a flurry of phone contacts around the arrival of two of the hijackers in Los Angeles. It also described how some witnesses contradicted the claims by some of the subjects of the investigation, who had denied knowledge of the plot. Some of the names and other information in the memo were redacted.

There were other Saudi nationals involved in supporting the hijackers, which appears to indict the Saudi Arabian government — at least, a faction of that government.

One of the men under investigation at the time, Fahad al-Thumairy, had told the FBI he had a chance encounter with the two hijackers in a restaurant in Los Angeles, recognized their accents and struck up a conversation. Another witness told the FBI, according to the memo, that Mr. al-Thumairy had come into the restaurant, positioned himself by the front window and approached the two hijackers before he could have heard them speak.

Another Saudi man under investigation at the time, Omar al-Bayoumi, had checked into a Culver City, Calif., hotel a month before the hijackers’ arrival, with a man whose phone numbers were linked to a spiritual adviser to a Bin Laden lieutenant, the memo said. Both men had relationships with the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles, according to previously released documents and the memo. The status and whereabouts of the men couldn’t be ascertained, and they couldn’t be reached for comment.

Al-Bayoumi had ties not only to Saudi intelligence but to the Saudi royal family as well. He received a hefty monthly check starting in 1999 from a bank account under the name of a Saudi princess, the wife of the kingdom’s ambassador to Washington, Bandar bin Sultan. Bandar was considered to be a close advisor to King Abdullah and was the most well-connected Saudi in America.

The Saudis deny everything, of course. They welcome the release of any and all documents, including grand jury testimony. We’ll probably never find out how high up the food chain in Saudi Arabia the 9/11 plot reached.

The families of 9/11 victims suing the kingdom are still waiting for justice.