9/11 attacks: a declassified FBI memo suggests Saudi involvement
Eva Deschamps / September 12, 2021
The U.S. government declassified on Saturday an FBI memo that reinforces suspicions of Riyadh's involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks committed by al-Qaida, but does not provide the evidence that the families of the victims had hoped for in suing Saudi Arabia.
Of the 19 hijackers who hijacked four airliners, two of which flew into the World Trade Center's twin towers killing nearly 3,000 people, 15 were Saudi nationals. The memo just declassified on the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, dated April 4, 2016, emphasizes the links between Omar al-Bayoumi, a suspected Saudi operative who was based in California, and two men who would become part of the hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, to whom he was suspected of providing logistical assistance. The document, which is based on interviews conducted in 2009 and 2015 with a source whose identity is classified, details Omar al-Bayoumi's contacts and meetings with Nawafal-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, both of whom arrived in California in 2000 before the attacks. It also shows even stronger links than those already known between these two men and Fahad al-Thumairy, a conservative imam of a Los Angeles mosque and a diplomat accredited to the Saudi consulate in the late 1990s.
According to the document, phone numbers associated with the source show contact with a number of people who assisted Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, including Omar al-Bayoumi and Fahad al-Thumairy and including the source himself. The source told the FBI that al-Bayoumi, beyond his official status as a student, held a very high rank at the Saudi consulate. Bayoumi's assistance to Hamzi and Midha included translations, travel, housing and funding, the memo said. The source's wife said al-Bayoumi often talked about jihad, the document continues. The memo also establishes other links, via meetings, phone conversations or other communications, between al-Bayoumi and Thumairy with American-Yemeni Anwar al-Aulaqi, an al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqpa) propagandist killed by U.S. drones in Yemen in September 2011.
However, the released document has been heavily redacted and does not offer a direct link between the Saudi government and the hijackers. It was declassified after pressure was brought to bear on U.S. President Joe Biden by victims' families who are suing Saudi Arabia for complicity in the attacks. Three successive administrations have refused to declassify and publish documents on the attacks and have been accused of wanting to protect the historic alliance between Washington and Riyadh. The Sunni oil monarchy has always denied any involvement in the September 11, 2001 attacks and was cleared of any suspicion by a U.S. commission of inquiry in 2004.