Late Saturday, the FBI released a newly declassified document relating to logistical assistance provided to two of the Saudi hijackers in the run-up to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
- The newly-released document details a 2015 FBI interview with a staffer who worked at the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles prior to the 9/11 attacks
- The man is only referred to in the document as PII
- PII is accused of helping 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar shortly after they arrived in the United States
- Families of 9/11 victims are eager to probe potential Saudi government links to the attack
The dossier outlines the hijackers’ interactions with Saudi associates in the United States, but it does not provide evidence that high Saudi government officials were involved in the plot.
The paper, which was made public on the 20th anniversary of the attacks, is the first investigative record to be made public since President Joe Biden ordered a declassification review of information that had been kept secret for years.
The 16-page report is a synopsis of an FBI interview conducted in 2015 with a man who had frequent contact with Saudi nationals in the United States who backed the first hijackers to arrive in the US before to the attacks.
Last week, Biden directed the Justice Department and other agencies to perform a declassification review and release as many papers as possible over the next six months. He had come under fire from victims’ families, who had long wanted the data.
The extensively classified paper was released late Saturday night, just hours after Biden attended 9/11 memorial events in New York, Pennsylvania, and northern Virginia. Victims’ families had previously objected to Biden’s participation in ceremonial ceremonies as long as the materials remained classified.
Long has the Saudi government denied any participation in the assaults. The Saudi Embassy in Washington has advocated for the complete declassification of all records in order to “end the baseless allegations against the Kingdom once and for all.” According to the embassy, any claim that Saudi Arabia was complicit was “categorically false.”
The revelation of the records comes at a politically sensitive time for the United States and Saudi Arabia, two countries that have formed a strategic — if challenging — cooperation, particularly in counterterrorism affairs.
The Biden administration issued an intelligence assessment in February that implicated Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the 2018 killing of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but Democrats chastised the government for avoiding direct punishment of the crown prince himself.
Victims’ families hailed the document’s release as a crucial step forward in their efforts to link the attacks to Saudi Arabia. The release of the FBI evidence, according to Brett Eagleson, whose father, Bruce, was slain in the World Trade Center attack, “accelerates our pursuit of truth and justice.”
Jim Kreindler, a lawyer for the victims’ relatives, said in a statement that “the findings and conclusions in this FBI investigation 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,” he said.
He went on to say that Saudi officials were exchanging phone calls with al-Qaida operatives and then having “accidental meetings” with the hijackers while assisting them in settling in and finding flight schools.
Since shortly after the attacks, when it was revealed that 15 of the 19 attackers were Saudis, there has been speculation of official involvement. Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader at the time, was born into a prominent Saudi family.
According to declassified documents, the US investigated some Saudi diplomats and others with Saudi government ties who knew hijackers after they arrived in the US.
Despite this, the 9/11 Commission report in 2004 found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” the al-Qaida-led attacks, though it did note that money could have been diverted to the group through Saudi-linked charities.
(Source: The Associated Press)