By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
In a powerful sworn statement, the FBI agent who led a 400-member Los Angeles-based task force on the 9/11 attacks has accused the 9/11 Commission of making “incorrect” statements to the American public about his team’s investigative findings.
The 9/11 Commission Report, published in July 2004, included statements that tended to absolve a pair of Saudis living in Southern California before the attacks of sinister involvement with two Saudi hijackers – Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar. The two were among five terrorists who seized control of American Airlines Flight 77 and crashed it into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
But now-retired FBI agent Stephen K. Moore said in a declaration filed last week in federal court in New York City that the 9/11 Commission misstated his team’s findings.
“Based on evidence we gathered during the course of our investigation, I concluded that diplomatic and intelligence personnel of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia knowingly provided material support to the two 9/11 hijackers and facilitated the 9/11 plot. My colleagues in our investigation shared that conclusion,” Moore said in his statement filed on behalf of thousands of 9/11 survivors and the relatives of nearly 3,000 dead.
Moore, an agent for nearly 25 years before his retirement in 2008, said he was put in charge of the Los Angeles task force investigating 9/11 – code-named PENTTBOM – within days of the attacks and continued through 2003. He described himself as a hands-on leader whose duties included regularly providing information “to FBI headquarters for Director [Robert] Mueller’s daily briefing to the President.”
Moore’s declaration is part of a trove of new court documents filed as part of the sprawling, 14-year-old lawsuit that seeks to hold Saudi Arabia, its official charities and others accountable for the attacks. The Saudi government is seeking the complaint’s dismissal.
Specifically, Moore took issue with the 9/11 Commission’s conclusory statements about Fahad al-Thumairy and Omar al-Bayoumi. Thumairy was a Saudi diplomat and Imam at Los Angeles’ King Fahad mosque with a reputation for extremist views. Bayoumi was a suspected Saudi agent in the U.S. on a student visa who FBI records say drew a salary from the kingdom for a job he never performed.
The first to arrive
Law enforcement focused on the pair after it was learned that Bayoumi had befriended the two future hijackers shortly after their arrival in the U.S. on January 15, 2000. Hazmi and Mihdhar were the first of the 19 September 11 hijackers to enter the U.S., arriving just days after attending a meeting of high-level al Qaeda operatives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
In his six-page declaration, Moore lays out the scope of his team’s PENTTBOM duties, highlights evidence it collected and offers its conclusions about Thumairy and Bayoumi.
“I have read the statements in the 9/11 Commission report that ‘we have not found evidence that Thumairy provided assistance to the two operatives (Hazmi and Mihdhar).’ In light of the proof assembled in our investigation this statement is incorrect. There was clearly evidence that Thumairy provided assistance to Hazmi and Mihdhar,” Moore said in the statement he signed last Sept. 15.
“I also disagree with the statement in the 9/11 Commission Report that Bayoumi is ‘an unlikely candidate for clandestine involvement with Islamist extremists.’ Again, this statement is incorrect. Based on the proof in our investigation, Bayoumi himself was a clandestine agent and associated with radical extremists, including Thumairy.”
Moore said Thumairy was “the primary point of contact” for the two future hijackers. He called Thumairy and Bayoumi “active participants in a terror cell associated with al Qaeda that provided substantial financial and logistical support” to them.
“We learned that the al Qaeda plotters were methodical in their preparations for the attacks and would not have sent Hazmi and Mihdhar to Los Angeles without a support structure in place,” Moore said. “Neither Hazmi nor Mihdhar could speak English. They were completely unfamiliar with life and customs in the United States and lacked even the most basic skills to begin pilot training. They would have had zero chance for success without a support structure.”
Moore said PENTTBOM investigators also found evidence of “extensive” contact between Bayoumi and Thumairy, both by phone and in person at the King Fahad mosque where Thumairy personally directed Bayoumi “regarding the assistance need by Hazmi and Mihdhar.”
The declaration says agents found “substantial evidence” that Bayoumi was “an undercover Saudi intelligence officer.” The statement says that conclusion was based “on numerous witness statements; the fact that he was paid by Saudi Arabia with laundered funds in a manner typical of clandestine arrangements used by a foreign intelligence agency; his regular videotaping of people and events; and the consistent patterns of deception in his dealings.”
“We also learned that Thumairy invited (hijacker) Hazmi to lead the prayers at the King Fahad Mosque where Thumairy was an Imam. We determined that this was a significant and unusual honor for Thumairy to bestow on Hazmi, a young Saudi visitor who was not even a member of the mosque, and showed that Thumairy had an awareness of Hazmi’s mission,” Moore said.
Why no criminal charges?
Agent Moore’s declaration, however, does not address why, given the evidence he says was unearthed, no criminal charges were brought against Thumairy or Bayoumi.
That lack of action may be partly explained, however, by an FBI report obtained by Florida Bulldog last year during ongoing Freedom of Information Act litigation. The heavily redacted document was written in October 2012 and describes an active investigation by federal agents and prosecutors in New York targeting a support network for Hazmi and Mihdhar.
Declassified portions of the report say authorities were exploring filing charges against a suspect for providing material support to the hijackers. The suspect’s name was redacted. The report lists three “main subjects” of the probe, including Thumairy and Bayoumi. The name of the third subject, an apparent superior to Thumairy, was withheld for reasons of national security.
The FBI has declined to comment on the status of that investigation.
Moore’s declaration goes on say it is “noteworthy” that Bayoumi and Thumairy both left the U.S. several weeks before the 9/11 attacks.
“Thumairy returned to the United States on December 24, 2001,” Moore said. “In 2002, we sought to question Thumairy regarding his involvement with Hazmi, Mihdhar and the 9/11 plot but were unable to do so before he left the country.’
9/11 Commission investigators did interview Thumairy, then 32, in Saudi Arabia in 2004 in the presence of Saudi secret police. Thumairy denied any ties to terrorists.
Moore doesn’t think much of that interrogation. “To my knowledge, Thumairy has never been the subject of a genuine law enforcement interview conducted by the actual agents who investigated him.”
At the conclusion of his statement, Moore observed that “much of the PENTTBOM investigation remains classified. I have taken care in this declaration not to reference any of that classified information.”