The document describes the contacts the hijackers had with Saudi collaborators in the US, but provides no evidence that the Saudi government was complicit in the plot.
The FBI has released a newly declassified 16-page document related to logistical support provided to two of the Saudi hijackers in the run-up to the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The document, released late Saturday, describes the hijackers’ contacts with Saudi collaborators in the United States, but provides no evidence that the Saudi government was complicit in the plot. This is the first investigative record released since U.S. President Joe Biden ordered a reclassification of material kept out of the public eye for years.
Biden has come under pressure in recent weeks from victims’ families, who have been searching the records for a long time while pursuing a lawsuit in New York alleging that senior Saudi officials were complicit in the attacks.
The Saudi government has long denied any involvement. The Saudi embassy in Washington said on Wednesday that it supported the complete declassification of all records as a way to “end the unfounded allegations against the Kingdom once and for all”. The embassy said all allegations that Saudi Arabia was complicit were “categorically false”.
Biden last week ordered the Department of Justice and other agencies to conduct a declassification investigation of investigative documents and which they could release in the next six months. The 16 pages were released Saturday night, hours after Biden attended 9/11 memorial services in New York, Pennsylvania and Northern Virginia. The relatives of victims have previously objected to Biden’s presence at ceremonial events, as long as the documents remain classified.
The strong record released on Saturday describes a 2015 interview with a person who applied for U.S. citizenship and had repeated contacts with Saudi citizens years before, which investigators say offers a large number of logistical support to several of the hijackers.
The documents are being released at a politically delicate time for the US and Saudi Arabia, two nations that have concluded a strategic – if difficult – alliance, especially on anti-terrorism issues.
The Biden administration released an intelligence assessment in February implicating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the assassination of US journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, but criticized Democrats for avoiding the Crown Prince himself’s direct punishment. .
With regard to September 11, there has been speculation about official involvement since shortly after the attacks, when it came to light that 15 of the 19 attackers were Saudis. Osama bin Laden, then the leader of al-Qaeda, was from a prominent family in the kingdom.
According to the documents already declassified, the US investigated some Saudi diplomats and others with Saudi government ties that hijackers knew after arriving in the US.
Yet the 9/11 commission’s report found ‘no evidence that the Saudi government, as an institution or senior Saudi officials, had individually funded’ the attacks that al-Qaeda has carried out. But the commission also noted the “likelihood” that Saudi government would support charities.
Specific investigation focused on the first two hijackers who arrived in the US, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar. In February 2000, shortly after their arrival in southern California, they encountered a Saudi citizen named Omar al-Bayoumi in a halal restaurant who helped them find and rent an apartment in San Diego. hired, had ties to the Saudi government and had previously drawn FBI investigations.