Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Twenty years on, families of 9/11 victims demand Washington finally declassifies documents – could they shed light on CIA’s role? — RT Op-ed

Posted by M. C. on August 12, 2021

By Kit Klarenberg, an investigative journalist exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg Relatives believe the information will prove the Saudi government was complicit in the attacks – while newly available files have already raised questions about Langley’s involvement.

Family members of 9/11 victims have warned Joe Biden to stay away from the upcoming 20th anniversary memorial events, unless officials are willing to declassify documents that the relatives believe will prove the Saudi Arabian government was involved in the attacks.

There is simply no reason – unmerited claims of ‘national security’ or otherwise – to keep this information secret,” an open letter, signed by 1,700 people directly affected by the incident, stated. 

Allegations of Riyadh’s involvement in the tragedy have long abounded, not least because 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens. The highly controversial 9/11 Commission Report of 2004 found no evidence “the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually” funded Al-Qaeda, but did identify Saudi individuals and organizations as Al-Qaeda’s primary funding source. Two commission co-chairs, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, have since asserted that the investigation was “set up to fail.”

In March 2018, after many years of fruitless struggle, a US court finally allowed a lawsuit against the government of Saudi Arabia brought by the families of the attack’s victims, businesses, insurers, and over 20,000 people injured that fateful day, to proceed. 

One of the key questions under consideration is the level of contact between the hijackers and potential or confirmed Saudi government operatives – be they diplomatic or intelligence staff, or otherwise. Nonetheless, the presiding judge has to date restricted plaintiffs’ discovery to just two individuals, Omar al-Bayoumi and Fahad al-Thumairy.

According to previously classified memoranda, the FBI “believes it possible” Bayoumi “was an agent of the Saudi Government and that he may have been reporting on the local community to the Saudi Government officials.” The Bureau also discovered that he had “ties to terrorist elements.” Thumairy was a Saudi Islamic Affairs official and imam at King Fahd Mosque in Los Angeles.

Both had intimate contact with American Airlines Flight 77 hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar after their January 2000 arrival in the US, and were named in a 2012 FBI report on the progress of Operation Encore, its investigation into Saudi government involvement in 9/11. The document was only released due to Freedom of Information litigation, and so comprehensively censored that even the probe’s title was redacted. 

What remains extant indicates that Bayoumi and Thumairy “provided (or directed others to provide) the hijackers with assistance in daily activities, including procuring living quarters, financial assistance, and assistance in obtaining flight lessons and driver’s licenses,” with the latter “immediately [assigning] an individual to take care” of Hazmi and Mihdhar after meeting them. 

Washington has gone to enormous efforts to suppress the unexpurgated FBI report, and any and all records related to Operation Encore, which collapsed in 2016 due to a purported byzantine bust-up within the Bureau over investigative methods. Throughout his tenure as Attorney General, William Barr has consistently blocked release of this additional information by asserting the government’s “state secrets privilege”.

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