Sept. 11 victims call for release of FBI report detailing Saudi Arabia’s involvement in attacks
Family members of victims and those injured in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks are calling on Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to release publicly an FBI report detailing what role Saudi Arabia played in supporting the attacks.
In a letter sent Wednesday evening, the families and victims called for the top intelligence official to release an FBI review completed in 2016 that summarizes a years-long investigation into what responsibility Saudi Arabia bears for facilitating the attacks.
The letter comes as President Biden announced on Wednesday that the U.S. would aim to remove all American forces from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The signatories to the letter say that their families are still seeking justice and accountability for the perpetrators of the attack and called on Haines to declassify and release intelligence that is believed to document Saudi Arabia’s involvement.
“Twenty years is too long for our own government to conceal evidence of Saudi involvement in the 9/11 attacks,” the letter reads. “And twenty years is too long for our own government to treat us as adversaries with respect to these issues of transparency and accountability.”
“A cloak of secrecy surrounding Saudi involvement in the events of 9/11 is contrary to our Nation’s most basic values — and a source of constant pain for our community that dishonors the memories of our murdered loved ones,” the letter adds.
The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 were the most devastating terrorist attack on U.S. soil in America’s history, with 2,977 people killed when hijackers crashed two planes into the twin towers in lower Manhattan and one plane into the Pentagon. Another hijacked plane, believed also to be headed for Washington, was brought down by passengers in a field in Pennsylvania.
The event fundamentally shifted U.S. global involvement in the Middle East over the next two decades, with the initiation of two devastating wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to address the threat from global terrorism.
Victims and families of victims of the attacks have also sought to maintain pressure on the U.S. government to identify and reveal in full the conspirators of the attack.
The Saudi government has long denied any involvement in the attacks. The 9/11 Commission report said it found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials funded al Qaeda, the group that funded and carried out the attack, although the report did not rule out “the likelihood” that charities supported by the government of Saudi Arabia contributed to al Qaeda.
The letter sent Wednesday is calling for Haines to release an April 2016 report by the FBI that is said to summarize the findings of Operation Encore, a 15-year investigation into the circumstances surrounding the 9/11 attack, and to lay out what role the government of Saudi Arabia played in the attacks.
“According to public reporting, the April 2016 Review Report summarizes the principal findings of Operation Encore, the FBI’s long-secret investigation of Saudi government officials who provided substantial assistance to Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar, the first arriving 9/11 hijackers,” the letter reads.
Al Hazmi and al Mihdhar, Saudi nationals, were two of the 19 hijackers.
The letter was signed by families of five people who were killed in the twin towers and two people who were injured in the attacks, Sharon Premoli and Tim Frolich.
The signatories include Terry Strada and Kaitlyn Wallace, spouse and child of Tom Strada, who was killed; Donald Arias, brother of Adam Arias, who was killed; Robert Kobus, brother of Deborah Kobus, who was killed; Brett Eagleson, son of Bruce Eagleson, who was killed; and Christine O’Neill, spouse of John O’Neill, who was killed.
The signatories are all party to a massive lawsuit seeking billions of dollars in damages from Saudi Arabia for its alleged role in the attacks. In 2019, the FBI reportedly disclosed the name of one Saudi official who sought to provide logistics for al Hazmi and al Mihdhar surrounding the attacks.
The lawsuit — In re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001 — is pending in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The signatories are calling on the Biden administration to go farther and release the full report.
“There have been hints of transparency in recent months, but it’s still not enough. When a presidential candidate, Joe Biden made strong commitments to transparency and accountability in general and even referred to justice for 9/11 families as a ‘moral obligation.’ You echoed those commitments in your confirmation hearing, a position we welcome and applaud,” the letter reads.
The signatories point to Haines following through on releasing in February a declassified intelligence report that assigned responsibility to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the gruesome killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Haines released that report in accordance with federal law that the former Trump administration rebuffed.
The 9/11 families and victims said the Khashoggi report’s release “felt to us a bit like salt being rubbed in a deep wound we have long endured.”
“Indeed, the much-trumpeted release of that report, less than three years after the murder of a single U.S. resident, stands in stark contrast to the stonewalling we have historically endured in relation to our efforts to secure transparency and accountability for Saudi government involvement in the murders of nearly 3,000 Americans, and injuries inflicted on thousands more, almost twenty years ago,” the letter reads.
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