The FBI released a heavily drafted 16-page declassified document on Saturday evening that highlights logistical support to two Saudi hijackers prior to September 11, 2001.
The document was released exactly 20 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and days after President Biden requested a declassification review from the FBI and other government agencies linked to the tragedy.
The document summarizes a 2015 FBI interview with a Saudi applicant for US citizenship who had frequent contact with other Saudi nationals in the US who provided “significant logistical support” to the first hijackers arriving in the country.
Some of the families of the 9/11 victims have been hoping for years to obtain documents to help them in a possible lawsuit against the Saudi government, alleging that it supported the hijackers. But while the document details the contacts the hijackers had with Saudi associates in the United States, it does not provide evidence that senior Saudi government officials were complicit in the plot.
Saudi Arabia has consistently denied any involvement in the attacks and the Saudi Embassy in Washington has said it supports the full declassification of all records as a way to “end the baseless allegations against the Kingdom once and for all. “.
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Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudis and Osama bin Laden was born in the country.
Jim Kreindler, an attorney for relatives of the victims, said in a statement that “the findings and conclusions of this FBI investigation validate the arguments we have made in the litigation regarding the responsibility of the Saudi government in the 9/11 attacks.
“This document, along with the public evidence gathered to date, provides a diagram of how (al-Qaeda) operated inside the United States with the active and conscious support of the Saudi government,” he said. -he declares.
Hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar were aided in finding an apartment in San Diego by Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi national with ties to the government, when they first arrived in the United States in 2000. Al-Bayoumi said he had met. during a “chance meeting” in a restaurant before helping them. Bayoumi was known to the Saudi national whose FBI interview was the basis for the publication of the document on Saturday.
During the interview, the FBI made several attempts to verify whether this characterization was accurate or whether it had been arranged in advance, according to the document.
Saudi Arabia is an ally of the United States, particularly on counterterrorism issues, but relations have been strained recently, notably by the 2018 murder of writer Jamal Khashoggi. Earlier this year, the Biden administration implicated Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Khashoggi’s death. The United States has not called for any punishment against the crown prince.
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Despite an investigation of Saudi officials after 9/11, the 9/11 Commission report found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials have individually funded” the hackers. ‘air. The money could have been funneled to al Qaeda through Saudi-linked charities, the 2004 report concluded.
The Saturday night document was leaked hours after Biden attended the 9/11 commemorative events in New York City, Pennsylvania and northern Virginia. Relatives of the victims had previously objected to Biden’s presence at ceremonial events as long as the documents remained confidential.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.