By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
U.S. Attorney General William Barr has until Friday to decide whether to take the unusual step of asserting a “state secrets privilege” to conceal who tasked a pair of Saudis living in Southern California with helping two 9/11 hijackers.
The name of that person, believed to be a Saudi government official, is contained in a highly-censored October 2012 FBI summary report obtained by Florida Bulldog in 2016 during ongoing Freedom of Act litigation. The report is now at the center of a massive, consolidated civil lawsuit in New York as lawyers for thousands of 9/11 survivors and victims’ families seek to obtain an uncensored copy, with the name, in the face of what they say is FBI stonewalling.
“We feel like there has been a lot of delay in the case, delay in terms of a response on certain key issues in the case, first and foremost of which is the 2012 FBI report,” plaintiffs’ attorney Steven Pounian told a federal judge last May.
Pounian and other lawyers now have asked the court to compel the FBI to produce an unredacted copy of the 2012 report. The judge has given the government until Sept. 6 to “submit any affidavits or declaration in support of assertions of privilege (state secrets or otherwise) or any other grounds to withhold information from the 2012 summary report.”
Barr’s action will be significant. A claim of the state secrets privilege, in which the attorney general must personally assert that full disclosure might endanger national security, would likely result in the exclusion of that evidence.
Agreement not to implicate Saudis?
More importantly, it would strongly suggest that the censored name is indeed that of a Saudi government official, and further, that the U.S. is either shielding the name to avoid embarrassing the kingdom, or more likely has agreed not to release information that would implicate Saudi government officials in the 9/11 attacks.
Before the October 2012 report came to light, the FBI had publicly maintained that “9/11 is history,” as former Florida Sen. Bob Graham put it. Graham co-chaired Congress’ Joint Inquiry into the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Sean Carter, a Philadelphia lawyer also representing plaintiffs in the New York case against the kingdom, called the release “a powerful and important disclosure,” saying: “We’ve been repeatedly told by U.S. officials that all questions of Saudi involvement were resolved by the 9/11 Commission and now you have confirmation that there was an active investigation happening years after the 9/11 Commission shut its doors.”
The four-page FBI report discusses “Updates and Initiatives (as of 5 October 2012)” and disclosed for the first time that federal prosecutors and FBI agents in New York City were actively exploring filing charges against a suspect for providing material support to the 9/11 hijackers and other crimes.
The suspect’s identity is blanked out, but declassified portions of the report state that the probe targeted a support network for two 9/11 hijackers – Saudis Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar – who with three other terrorists crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon.
The ‘main subjects’
The report lists three “main subjects” of the investigation, Fahad al-Thumairy, Omar al-Bayoumi and the third person whose name was censored but is described as having “tasked al-Thumairy and al-Bayoumi with assisting the hijackers.”
Thumairy was a Saudi diplomat and imam at Los Angeles’ King Fahd Mosque when Hazmi and Mihdhar first arrived in the U.S. in January 2000. The report says Thumairy “immediately assigned an individual to take care of them during their time in Los Angeles.”
Bayoumi was a suspected Saudi agent who befriended Hazmi and Mihdhar in Southern California. The report says Bayoumi “was living in San Diego on a student visa, despite not attending classes, and receiving a salary from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for job duties he never performed.” Bayoumi has told authorities he accidentally met the two future hijackers at a Los Angeles restaurant shortly after their arrival.
The report goes on to say that Thumairy, Bayoumi and their superior “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. [Redacted] seeks to prove these subjects provided such assistance with the knowledge that al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar were here to commit an act of terrorism.”
No charges were ever filed.