FBI releases first Sept. 11 document following Biden executive order
The FBI released its first document related to an investigation of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks Saturday night, less than 10 days after President Biden signed an executive order directing the Justice Department and related agencies to make some files public.
The FBI released a heavily redacted 16-page report from April 2016 related to its investigation regarding the role that the Saudi Arabian government played in supporting the hijackers who carried out the terror attacks. It did not, however, include conclusive evidence regarding whether the kingdom had a function in the 2001 attacks.
FBI agents, in the newly released memo, discussed their examination of phone records that seemed to link some of the subjects of the probe to an associate of Osama bin Laden or other individuals who ultimately became detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
The report also detailed instances in which some witnesses offered information that was inconsistent with claims made by some subjects of the investigation, who rejected having any knowledge of the plot.
The report shines a light on the bureau’s probe of Omar al-Bayoumi, who was thought to be a Saudi student in California. He had been suspected of providing logistical support to two of the hijackers, Nawaf Al-Hazmi and Khalid Al-Mihdhar.
The document details information from interviews conducted in November 2015 with a person who, according to the FBI, had contact with Bayoumi. The name of the individual was redacted from the report.
In addition, the report detailed that the person interviewed had connections to the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles and maintained “anecdotes of personal interactions with Consular leadership.”
In the report, the FBI details that Bayoumi provided translation, travel assistance, lodging and financing to the hijackers.
The report said that a month before the hijackers arrived, Bayoumi checked into a hotel in Culver City, Calif., along with a man whose phone numbers were connected to a spiritual adviser to a bin Laden lieutenant. Those two men reportedly had associations with the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles.
The 2004 9/11 Commission Report found scant evidence that the Saudi government had been linked to the hijackers.
However, according to a 2017 court record by a former FBI official in Los Angeles, investigators found evidence that Bayoumi was an undercover intelligence operative and was active in a terror cell along with Fahad al-Thumairy.
The FBI in 2006 launched Operation Encore, which investigated possible Saudi involvement in the attacks. The operation lasted for about a decade before ending in 2016.
Saturday’s action comes as the U.S. commemorates the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that cost nearly 3,000 lives and led to America’s longest conflict in Afghanistan.
Biden earlier this month ordered the Justice Department and other agencies to review certain documents and declassify them.
The Saudi Embassy in the U.S. said last week that the kingdom “welcomes” the release of the documents related to the 2001 attacks.
“Any allegation that Saudi Arabia is complicit in the September 11 attacks is categorically false,” the embassy said in a statement.
It added that that it supported the “full declassification of any documents and materials” related to the U.S.’s investigation of the attacks with hopes that it will “end the baseless allegations against the Kingdom once and for all.”
The group 9/11 Families United, which advocated for the release of the FBI files, announced the first document in a statement on Saturday.
Terry Strada of 9/11 Families United, whose husband Tom was killed in the World Trade Center, said it was “well past time for the Kingdom to own up to its officials’ roles in murdering thousands on American soil.”