By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Thousands of 9/11 family members sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday demanding access to up to 25,000 pages of government documents kept from them in their lawsuit against Saudi Arabia but turned over to attorneys defending accused 9/11 terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The letter contends those documents identify “multiple witnesses who transported two of the hijackers to Los Angeles International Airport, information about the terrorist support cell in California during the time of the plot and pictures identifying members of this support cell.”
“This situation is reprehensible and unacceptable. How can it be that the mastermind (Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) behind the deadliest attack on American soil is somehow entitled, under your DOJ’s direction, to relevant U.S. government investigative documents about the 9/11 plot, yet the families whose love ones were wrenched from us so painfully and ruthlessly that day are prohibited from seeing this same information?” says the 125-page letter – two pages of text and 123 pages with the names of 3,361 family members who signed it.
Also on Tuesday, Florida Bulldog and The New Yorker reporter Dexter Filkins sent a letter to presiding Judge George B. Daniels asking that he unseal court records filed this month by lawyers for the plaintiffs. The pleadings were made in opposition to the Trump Administration’s assertions in April of state secrets privilege to block the 9/11 families from obtaining evidence they believe is crucial to their multi-billion dollar damages lawsuit against the Kingdom. Both Barr and then-Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell told the court that their assertions of the privilege were necessary to protect national security.
Demand for access
Lawyers for the 9/11 families recently discovered that the FBI and other agencies had turned over once classified records to lawyers for Mohammed and other al-Qaeda figures who are jailed while awaiting trial at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay.
A key aspect of the 9/11 families’ demands is for access to records about Operation Encore, an FBI investigation into the Saudi role in 9/11 whose existence was first reported by Florida Bulldog in late 2016 amid then-ongoing Freedom of Information Act litigation.
A highly censored FBI report made public then showed that in October 2012 federal prosecutors and FBI agents in New York City were actively exploring filing charges against a suspect for providing material support to Saudi-born 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, who with three other terrorists crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon in 2001. The suspect’s identify was censored.
Further, the report listed three “main subjects” of the probe: Saudi diplomat and imam at the Los Angeles area’s King Fahd Mosque Fahad al-Thumairy, suspected Saudi agent Omar al-Bayoumi and a third man who had “tasked” them with helping the future hijackers. The third man’s name was censored, but became public in May when the FBI inadvertently released it in public court papers. The third man is Mussaed al-Jarrah, a former Saudi Foreign Ministry official who worked at the Saudi embassy in Washington in 1999-2000.
Retired U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-FL, co-chair of Congress’s Joint Inquiry into the terrorist attacks, said the release of the 2012 report was a milestone. “This has never been disclosed before and it’s to the contrary of almost everything the FBI has produced so far that has indicated that 9/11 is history.”
In January, The New York Times disclosed the name of the probe, Operation Encore, and said it caused an internal rift within the FBI before it was unceremoniously shut down in 2016.
“We know from credible sources that Operation Encore uncovered substantial damning information about the Saudi government’s support of the terrorists, information that was not available to the 9/11 Commission during its earlier investigation,” Brett Eagleson, who lost his father Bruce Eagleson in the attacks, said in a statement.
The 9/11 families’ letter to Barr comes days before the Attorney General’s scheduled July 28 appearance before the House Judiciary Committee. Family members are asking House members to press Barr to reconsider his decisions to assert the state secrets privilege.
In April, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler announced that he will soon reintroduce the “State Secrets Protection Act” to “ensure independent judicial review of state secrets claims.”
“The state secrets doctrine undermines the rule of law by giving the Executive the ability to dismiss a case or withhold information without having to prove to a court that it has legitimate concerns about revealing sensitive national security information – and that it not simply using it as an excuse to shield embarrassing or illegal acts or information,” Nadler said at the time.