By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Family members of the murdered and two survivors of the September 11 attacks wrote to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines on Wednesday asking her to make public a 16-page FBI report of its investigation of Saudi government agents in the U.S. who helped the 9/11 hijackers.
The FBI has refused to release the report, and a federal judge in New York sided with the government in November after then-U.S. Attorney General William Barr and then-acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell broadly invoked the state secrets privilege to block the release of that report and other FBI records about Operation Encore.
“Even as we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we face the painful and heartbreaking reality that our own government still has not provided us basic information and documents concerning the involvement of Saudi government agents in supporting the attacks,” the letter says. “The same is true for U.S. intelligence on how Saudi Arabia fueled the rise of al Qaeda through its pre-9/11 campaign to promote a radical, pro-jihadist, and anti-American variant of Islam globally.”
Those who signed the letter are Terry Strada and Kaitlyn Wallace, wife and child of Tom Strada, who was killed in the World Trade Center (WTC); Donald Arias, brother of Adam Arias, killed at the WTC; Sharon Premoli, severely injured in the collapse of the North Tower of the WTC; Robert Kobus, brother of Deborah Kobus, killed at the WTC; Brett Eagleson, son of Bruce Eagleson, killed at the WTC; Tim Frolich, injured in the South Tower of the WTC, 80th floor; and Christine O’Neill, widow of John P. O’Neill, the retired FBI agent who long had tracked Osama bin Laden.
The existence of Operation Encore was first disclosed in 2016 when the FBI released a copy of a heavily censored 2012 FBI Summary Report to Florida Bulldog amid Freedom of Information litigation. In that report the Encore name was censored and the FBI referred to the operation as a “subfile” investigation of PENTTBOM, its original investigation of the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Encore was opened in 2007 “to sharpen the focus on allegations that the circle of 9/11 conspirators may be broader than reported in the 9/11 Commission report,” U.S. Magistrate Sarah Netburn wrote in her order siding with the government. “In its current form, the Subfile investigation is focused on individuals who may have provided substantial assistance to the 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar” in Southern California.
The four-page Summary Report said that as late as October 2012 – eight years after the 9/11 Commission shut down in 2004 – federal prosecutors and agents in New York were actively investigating an apparent U.S. support network for Hazmi, Mihdhar and three other al Qaeda terrorists, all Saudis, who crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon.
The Summary Report said the FBI had designated three Saudi agents as “principal subjects” of the FBI’s investigation. It said they helped Hazmi and Mihdhar settle in the U.S. in order to begin preparations for the attacks. Two were identified as Fahad al Thumairy, a diplomat and imam at the Saudi-funded King Fahad Mosque in Los Angeles, and Omar al Bayoumi, a salaried employee of the Saudi government then living in San Diego on a student visa. The third individual’s name was blanked out, but was released to plaintiff’s attorneys on the personal intervention of former President Trump. The person’s name later became public through a government court filing: Musaed al Jarrah, deputy head of Islamic Affairs at the Saudi Embassy in Washington.
Since its disclosure, the FBI Summary Report has been at the center of the 9/11 families’ massive New York lawsuit that seeks to hold Saudi Arabia responsible for 9/11. The existence of the 16-page 2016 FBI Review Report that the letter asks Haines to release was first reported in January 2020 by the New York Times Magazine.
The 9/11 families’ letter to Haines juxtaposes her declassification of the intelligence assessment concerning Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi with the lack of disclosure regarding Saudi involvement in 9/11.
“Its release felt to us a bit like salt being rubbed in a deep wound we have long endured,” the letter says. “Indeed, the much trumpeted release of that report, less than three years after the murder of a single U.S. resident, stands in stark contrast to the stonewalling we have historically endured in relation to our efforts to secure transparency and accountability for Saudi government involvement in the murders of nearly 3,000 Americans, and injuries inflicted on thousands more, almost 20 years ago.”