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9/11 Families ask DOJ Inspector General to probe FBI mishandling of key evidence; ‘Innocent explanation is not believable’

9/11 families
Photo: National September 11 Memorial and Museum

By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org

A missing videotape of two 9/11 al Qaeda hijackers partying in Southern California with a suspected undercover Saudi agent. Records of interviews with key witnesses and phone records among 9/11 co-conspirators that have vanished from FBI files. An unredacted copy of a joint FBI-CIA Intelligence Report about Saudi Arabia’s 9/11 involvement that’s nowhere to be found.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Inspector General has been asked to investigate the FBI’s apparent mishandling of such critical 9/11 evidence by more than 3,500 victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

“The Inspector General should examine whether one or more FBI officials committed willful misconduct with intent to destroy or secrete evidence to avoid its disclosure,” says the complaint, filed by James Kreindler, a lead lawyer for the 9/11 Families who are suing Saudi Arabia in federal court in New York. “Given the importance of the missing evidence at issue to the 9/11 investigation, as well as the repeated mishandling by the FBI of that evidence, an innocent explanation is not believable.

“It appears that the motive for these acts was to hinder review of the FBI’s 9/11 investigation and avoid embarrassment of the FBI for its failure to pursue cases against the terror co-conspirators who provided critical support for the 9/11 hijackers. In 2004, the FBI provided Congress with incorrect testimony concerning the support network for the 9/11 hijackers. Rather than fix that record and face the consequences, one or more FBI officials chose to impede production of the evidence that would reveal the agency’s mistakes,” the complaint says.

According to the seven-page complaint addressed to Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the FBI “lost, hid or destroyed” a videotape that showed “Saudi agent, Omar al-Bayoumi, hosting a party in San Diego for two 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar shortly after their arrival in the U.S.” in January 2000.

The hijackers stayed at Bayoumi’s apartment for several days as Baymoui assisted them with banking and living arrangements. He also introduced them to Anwar Al Aulaqi, a San Diego imam, radical jihadist and alleged al Qaeda recruiter.

HIJACKER’S PARTY

“Bayoumi organized a party at the hijackers’ apartment shortly after they moved in and invited approximately 20 hand-picked guests from the local community. The objective of the so-called party was to infiltrate Hazmi and Mihdhar into the community and introduce them to potential co-conspirators in the plot,” the complaint says.

9/11 families
Hijackers Salem al-Hazmi (right) and Nawaf al-Hazmi (left) clear security at Washington Dulles Airport on 9/11

One attendee recorded the party on a video camera. The FBI obtained a copy, used it to question various witnesses and provided a copy to the 9/11 Commission, but when the 9/11 families asked the FBI to produce the video the bureau “evaded” the request “for over two years” and “ultimately claimed that it could not locate this key piece of evidence,” the complaint says.

The complaint says there is also a “lost” photo depicting Fahad al Thumairy, another radical imam with diplomatic credentials, with hijackers Hazmi and Mihdhar “outside the King Fahd Mosque, which would directly disprove Thumairy’s implausible insistence that he had never met the two men.”

A senior director of the mosque testified in a deposition that FBI agents showed the photo to King Fahd Mosque personnel after the 9/11 attacks. “Now the FBI is claiming that two case agents were not aware of the photograph and that its [records] search did not reveal the photograph,” the complaint says.

Many of the missing FBI records are allegedly of interviews agents conducted with “directors, employees and congregants” of the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, CA. Those individuals “are likely to have had important information” about Thumairy, who “arranged support” for the two hijackers upon their arrival in the U.S., the complaint says.

REPORTS, RECORDS VANISH

Further, the FBI could not locate a January 15, 2002 witness statement to the 9/11 Commission by Mohdar Abdullah, who FBI reports have said “played a key role in facilitating the daily lives on the future Flight 77 hijackers.” American Airlines Flight 77, with Hazami and Mihdhar aboard, crashed into the Pentagon.

“Whether by intent or incompetence, the FBI has failed to produce interview summaries that they admit are clearly relevant to and within the scope of the 9/11 Families’ subpoena,” the complaint says. “This failure to locate key evidence must be investigated.”

Saudi Arabia and fahad al thumairy and omar al bayoumi
Suspected Saudi agent and friend to two 9/11 hijackers Omar al-Bayoumi, right, and former Saudi diplomat and former Los Angeles Imam Fahad al-Thumairy

The missing home and cell phone records, obtained by the FBI years ago but no longer maintained by phone companies, included those of Bayoumi, Thumairy and Abdullah, “all of which the FBI obtained and should be able to locate,” the complaint says. But the FBI’s document management system “was either (a) in such disarray as to interfere with the production of key phone records concerning the largest crime in U.S. history or (b) stored the documents in such a manner that they could not be located. Either conclusion shows gross negligence or willful misconduct,” the complaint says.

The 2004 Joint FBI-CIA Intelligence Report the complaint says was “lost, hid or destroyed” was an assessment of the “nature and extent of Saudi government support for terrorism.” A “nearly completely redacted copy” was made public in 2005.

The FBI, however, could not find “its own original document without redactions. Amazingly, this report, which documents findings by United States law enforcement agents and intelligence officers detailing the official role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia played in providing material support for terrorist acts could not be located.”

AGENT MAGUIRE’S ‘MISSTATEMENTS’

The complaint goes on to accuse FBI Agent Jacqueline Maguire, an important investigator on the FBI’s PENTTBOM investigation, of twice making “material factual misstatements” under oath to the 9/11 Commission 2004. That testimony “demonstrates the FBI’s motive to hide or destroy documents,” the complaint contends.

One “misstatement” involved Abdullah, who had previously told FBI agents in 2002 that he’d taken 9/11 hijacker Hazmi to the King Fahd Mosque where they met Thumairy. Maguire, however, latest testified there was no evidence that Hazmi had ever gone to the mosque. “This statement was demonstrably false,” the complaint says.

But Maguire was also asked by 9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer about a June 2001 CIA notification to the FBI, and its distribution. The notification, the complaint says, contained “detailed information from the CIA that Osama bin Laden had been preparing operatives to go to the United States for the upcoming attack.” Maguire, however, testified that she could not have seen it because she was still in training at Quantico at the time.

FBI agent Jacqueline Maguire testifying before the 9/11 Commission June 16, 2004

Maguire, however, graduated from Quantico a year earlier, in June 2000, and worked at the FBI’s New York Field Office until October 2001. “This information fell squarely within Agent Maguire’s terrorism responsibilities in the New York City field office and would have been a matter of red flag importance before and after 9/11. Yet Agent Maguire denied knowledge and avoided further questioning…” the complaint says. “The Inspector general must investigate whether Agent Maguire’s contradictory sworn statements were made intentionally to divert further questioning by 9/11 Commissioner Roemer about the FBI’s receipt of the CIA information.”

Finally, the 9/11 families ‘ complaint accuses the FBI of making false and misleading statements about Operation Encore, a once secret probe of possible Saudi complicity in 9/11 whose existence was first disclosed to Florida Bulldog during Freedom of Information litigation in 2016.

Last month, the FBI told the judge in the New York civil suit that Operation Encore, also referred to as “Subfile investigation” of PENTTBOM, had been recently closed. The government said it would review previously withheld FBI documents for possible release to the 9/11 families. The announcement came after repeated statements by top FBI officials that Encore remained open and active – meaning that its records were classified.

Lawyers for the 9/11 Families had challenged the FBI “with proof that a decision was made by the FBI in 2016 to effectively shut down the investigation, as reported in a New York Times story.” You can read the only document about Operation Encore that has ever been made public here. “The district court relied on the FBI’s declarations to limit discovery because of an active investigation,” the complaint says. “The Inspector General should investigate these representations made to a United States federal court and determine whether the investigation had effectively been closed when the FBI submitted its declarations and other papers to the federal court. The FBI should not be allowed to assert that an investigation is ‘open’ in order avoid the production of relevant and responsive documents.”

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