CULVER CITY (CBSLA.com/AP) — The U.S. on Friday released once-top secret pages from a congressional report into the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that questioned whether Saudis who were in contact with the hijackers after they arrived in the U.S. knew what they were planning.
The newly declassified document (PDF), which was released with light redactions, names people the hijackers associated with before they carried out the attacks, killing nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and on a plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.
It also identifies individuals who helped the hijackers get apartments, open bank accounts, attend local mosques and get flight lessons. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals and several were not fluent in English and had little experience living in the West.
Among the findings: according to FBI documents and a CIA memo, hijackers Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi may have been in contact with Saudi diplomat Shaykh al-Thumairy, who is linked to the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles and an “imam” at the King Fahad mosque in Culver City.
The report – which cites FBI documents stating the mosque was built in 1998 with “funding provided by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdulaziz” – says the mosque is “reportedly attended by member of the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles and is widely recognized for its anti-Western views”.
The King Fahad mosque – which is also referred to as the “Ibn Tamiyah Mosque” – was identified by the FBI as a site of “extremist-related activity both before and after September 11”, according to the report.
According to the commission’s findings, “several subjects of FBI investigations prior to September 11 had close connections to the mosque and are believed to have laundered money through this mosque to nonprofit organizations overseas affiliated with Usama Bin Ladin.”
The report goes on to state that an FBI agent told commissioners “he believed that Saudi Government money was being laundered through” the Fahad/Tamiyah mosque.
The document goes on to say Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi national who helped two of the hijackers in California, was suspected of being a Saudi intelligence officer. The 9/11 Commission report found him to be an “unlikely candidate for clandestine involvement” with Islamic extremists.
The new document says that according to FBI files, al-Bayoumi had “extensive contact with Saudi government establishments in the United States and received financial support from a Saudi company affiliated with the Saudi Ministry of Defense. … That company reportedly had ties to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida,” which orchestrated the attacks.
The document also points to Osama Bassnan, who lived across the street from two of the hijackers in San Diego. According to an FBI document, Bassnan told another individual that he met the hijackers through al-Bayoumi. Bassnan told an FBI asset that “he did more than al-Bayoumi did for the hijackers.”
Later investigations found no evidence that the Saudi government or senior Saudi officials knowingly supported those who orchestrated the attacks.
Saudi Arabia has called for the release of the chapter since 2002 so the kingdom could respond to any allegations and punish any Saudis who may have been involved in the attacks.
In a statement posted to the Saudi Embassy’s official Twitter account, Foreign Minister Adel Aljubeir said he hopes the report will “bring an end to the speculation and conspiracy theories.”
“Since 2002, the 9/11 Commission and several government agencies, including the CIA and the FBI, have investigated the contents of the `28 Pages’ and have confirmed that neither the Saudi government, nor senior Saudi officials, nor any person acting on behalf of the Saudi government provided any support or encouragement for these attacks,” Abdullah Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, said in a statement Friday.
The office of the Director of National Intelligence on Friday also released part of a 2005 FBI-CIA memo that said “there is no information to indicate that either (Bayoumi) or (Bassnan) materially supported the hijackers wittingly, were intelligence officers of the Saudi government or provided material support for the 11 September attacks, contrary to media speculation.”
Included in the document was a comment from former FBI Director Robert Mueller. “If I have one preliminary note of caution, it is that at this point there are more questions than answers, and I would caution against jumping to conclusions before we know a lot more,” Mueller said in an Oct. 9, 2002 closed hearing.
Several investigations into 9/11 followed the congressional inquiry, which released its report — minus the secret chapter — in December 2002. The most well-known investigation was done by the 9/11 Commission, led by former Gov. Tom Kean, R-N.J., and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind.
Kean and Hamilton said the 28 pages were based almost entirely on raw, unvetted material that came to the FBI. They said the material was then written up in FBI files as possible leads for further investigation.
They said the commission and its staff spent 18 months investigating “all the leads contained in the 28 pages, and many more.” The commission’s 567-page report, released in July 2004, stated that it found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” al-Qaida. “This conclusion does not exclude the likelihood that charities with significant Saudi government sponsorship diverted funds to al-Qaida.”
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