Alleged Saudi role in the September 11 attacks
|United Arab Emirates|
The alleged Saudi role in the September 11 attacks is the belief that the Saudi Arabian government was connected to the September 11 attacks, an allegation that the government of Saudi Arabia has regularly denied. The 2004 Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States "found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded [Al Qaeda]" to conspire in the attacks, or that it funded the attackers even though the "report identifies Saudi Arabia as the primary source of al-Qaeda funding". Although 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens, the Saudi government had broad immunity from September 11 tragedy lawsuits in the United States before a U.S. District Court for the SDNY judge allowed a suit against the government in March 2018.
Evidence submitted in a lawsuit against the Saudi Arabian government revealed that it had funded flights to research security weaknesses. Specifically, the suit alleges the Saudi Arabian government funded two individuals who asked flight attendants technical questions and tried to enter the cockpit of a domestic flight in the US, which caused the flight to make an emergency landing and the individuals to be interrogated by the FBI. They were later released.
In July 2016, the U.S. government released a document, compiled by Dana Lesemann and Michael Jacobson, known as "File 17", which contains a list naming three dozen people, including Fahad al-Thumairy, Omar al-Bayoumi, Osama Bassnan, and Mohdhar Abdullah, which connects Saudi Arabia to the hijackers. According to the former Democratic US Senator Bob Graham, "Much of the information upon which File 17 was written was based on what’s in the 28 pages."
The Saudi government has long denied any connection. Relatives of victims have tried to use the courts to hold Saudi royals, banks, or charities responsible, but these efforts have been thwarted partly by a 1976 law giving foreign governments immunity. According to Gawdat Bahgat, a professor of political science, following the 11 September attacks the so-called "Saudi policy of promoting terrorism and funding hatred" faced strong criticism by several "influential policy-makers and think-tanks in Washington".
The US government has actively collaborated with the Saudis in suppressing the revelation of evidence of the Saudi government's responsibility for the attacks, denying FOIA requests and supplying inside information to the lawyers representing the Saudis involved. Graham characterises the strategy as not a 'cover up' but "aggressive deception".
According to the New York Post in 2017, the Saudi government was accused of performing a "dry run" by paying two Saudi nationals, al-Qudhaeein and Hamdan al-Shalawi, "living undercover in the US as students, to fly from Phoenix to Washington," two years before the attacks. Based on the FBI documents, Qudhaeein and Shalawi were in fact members of "the Kingdom's network of agents" in the United States. The documents also claimed that they were "trained in Afghanistan with a number of other al-Qaeda operatives that participated in the attacks." In November 1999, they boarded an America West flight to Washington, reportedly paid for by the Saudi Embassy. During the flights they tried to access the cockpit several times, in order to "test out flight deck security before 9/11." The pilots made an emergency landing in Ohio since they were "so spooked by the Saudi passengers and their aggressive behavior."
In March 2016, Saudi Arabia threatened the Obama administration to sell US$750 billion worth of American assets owned by Saudi Arabia if the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) designed to create an exception to the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act was enacted, which caused fears of destabilizing the US dollar. U.S. president Barack Obama also warned against "unintended consequences", while other economic analysts believed that this action would damage the Saudi government.
The JASTA was enacted, after Barack Obama's veto was overridden by Congress, on September 28, 2016. Although Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton publicly supported the proposed legislation, due to 2016 campaign schedule conflicts, Sanders and Tim Kaine, Clinton's running mate, were the only two senators who refrained from voting to override Obama's veto. Senator Harry Reid was the sole "No" vote.
In March 2018, a US judge allowed a suit to move forward against Saudi Arabia brought by 9/11 survivors and victim's families, that the government should pay billions of dollars in damages to victims.
Operation Encore was an FBI investigation into Saudi Arabian links to the September 11 attacks. Circumstantial evidence was uncovered but no direct links were established. Potential leads were not initially pursued and some FBI agents believe that the CIA interfered with its attempt to place two Saudis under surveillance.
The 28 pagesEdit
The alleged Saudi role in the September 11 attacks gained new attention after Bob Graham and Porter Goss, former U.S. congressmen and co-chairmen of the Congressional Inquiry into the attacks, told CBS in April 2016 that the redacted 28 pages of the Congressional Inquiry's report refer to evidence of Saudi Arabia's substantial involvement in the execution of the attacks, and calls renewed to have the redacted pages released.
The panel's findings 'did not discover' any role by 'senior, high-level' Saudi government officials, but the "commission’s narrow wording", according to critics, suggests the possibility that "less senior officials or parts of the Saudi government could have played a role". Florida Democratic Senator Bob Graham, who chaired the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence at the time the report said in his sworn statements that "there was evidence of support from the Saudi government for the terrorists."
In 2017 a New York lawyer, Jim Kreindler, said that he had found "a link between Saudi officials and the hijackers." In January 2020, it was revealed that the FBI had an investigation named Operation Encore into Saudi Arabian government links to the attacks.
FBI names Saudi diplomatEdit
In April 2020, the FBI neglected to redact one of several instances of the name of Saudi diplomat Mussaed Ahmed al-Jarrah (MAJ) in a court filing in the lawsuit brought by 9/11 families. In 1999–2000 MAJ was a mid-level Saudi Foreign Ministry official who was working in the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC. Former embassy officials said MAJ reported to the Saudi ambassador to the U.S, Prince Bandar, and managed the employees throughout the United States of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs at Saudi-funded mosques and Islamic centers.
The October 2012 FBI "update" to the FBI's own investigation of possible Saudi involvement in the 9/11 attacks stated that FBI agents had uncovered "evidence" that Saudi diplomat Fahad al-Thumairy, a Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs official and radical cleric who served as the imam of the King Fahd Mosque in Los Angeles, and Omar al-Bayoumi (OAB), a suspected Saudi government agent, had been “tasked” to support the 9/11 hijackers by yet another individual, MAJ, whose name was redacted throughout the October 2012 "update" document in all but one instance. FBI agents suspected that MAJ had directed crucial support for two of the 19 hijackers of 9/11: Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmihad, who participated on 9/11 in the hijacking of American Airlines Flight 77. After Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmiand arrived in Los Angeles on January 15, 2000, and later took flying lessons in San Diego, they were allegedly assisted by Saudi diplomat Fahad al-Thumairy and by OAB. For example, OAB found them an apartment, lent them money, and set them up with bank accounts. Al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi were on the FBI's terrorist-alert list at the time. According to the court declaration of former LA-based FBI agent Catherine Hunt, who is now working with the 9/11 families, during the investigation by the 9/11 Commission, the FBI believed that MAJ was "supporting" and "maintaining" al-Thumairy.
On September 11, 2020, US Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn ordered two members of the Saudi Arabian royal family including, Prince Bandar bin Sultan to answer the questions in raised under the 9/11 lawsuit. The victims have called it a turning point in a long-running lawsuit. Relatives of the September 11 attack victims claim that the agents of Saudi Arabia knowingly supported al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden, before hijacking and crashing the planes into New York’s World Trade Center Twin Towers.
2021 FBI Files releasesEdit
On September 11, 2021, following an executive order by Joe Biden, the FBI started releasing documents related to the alleged Saudi role in the September 11 attacks. The first of these documents was dated to 2016, is heavily redacted, and is based on interviews with a source whose identity is classified and outlines contacts between a number of Saudi nationals and two of the hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar. In the document it is stated that Omar al-Bayoumi was a Saudi-Arabian intelligence agent that had links to known terrorists, provided significant support to 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar upon their arrival in the US, and communicated with a key logistics facilitator for Osama bin Laden, each time immediately following significant logistics support to Hazmi and Mihdhar. The FBI document also stated that there were links between the two hijackers and Fahad al-Thumairy, a conservative imam at the King Fahad Mosque in Los Angeles who was described as having "extremist beliefs."
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