By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
The FBI, complying with President Biden’s recent executive order, made public late Saturday night a previously classified April 4, 2016 “review and analysis” report about Operation Encore, the bureau’s highly sensitive investigation of possible Saudi complicity in the 9/11 terrorist attack.
The 16-page report is nevertheless heavily redacted in ways that will likely disappoint members of the 9/11 Families who have pushed to learn more about Encore since its existence was first disclosed in December 2016 in documents released to Florida Bulldog amid Freedom of Information Act litigation.
For example, the names of many persons who were interviewed by FBI agents during Encore were blanked out to protect their privacy. Those gaps, as well as chunks of information withheld because it was derived from a federal grand jury, remained classified by the FBI, or was “withheld at the direction of another USG agency or department,” make deciphering the report’s information difficult.
Still, the document’s release not only fulfilled the first part of Biden’s pledge to strive for 9/11 transparency, it was warmly greeted by attorneys for the 9/11 Families.
“With this first release of documents, 20 years of Saudi Arabia counting on the U.S. government to cover up its role in 9/11 comes to an end,” said New York attorney James Kreindler. “The findings and conclusions in this FBI investigation validate the arguments we have made in the litigation regarding the Saudi government’s responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. This document, together with the public evidence gathered to date, provides a blueprint for how al Qaeda operated inside the US with the active, knowing support of the Saudi government.”
Brett Eagleson, a Connecticut resident who lost his father, Bruce Eagleson, at the World Trade Center on 9/11, said, “The release of the 2016 FBI Operation Encore Final Review accelerates our pursuit of truth and justice against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the worst terrorist attack to occur on U.S. soil. We look forward to more transparency and releases of information from the Biden administration that finally provide the American people the truth they have long-deserved, while our resolve strengthens to hold the Saudi government fully accountable for the tremendous pain and losses we suffered.”
The April 2016 report says the Encore investigation was initiated on October 26, 2007, three years after the 9/11 Commission issued its final report that concluded it had found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” al Qaeda. While Encore prosecutors and agents were seeking to bring criminal charges of providing material support to a pair of suicide hijackers in Southern California – Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar – no charges were ever filed and the probe was quietly shut down five years ago.
Hazmi and Mihdhar were part of a team of five al Qaeda hijackers who flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon.
The new Encore report includes a variety of new information about the movements and contacts of Hazmi and Mihdhar both before and after their arrival in Los Angeles in January 2000. Three of the most significant areas as identified by Kreindler:
• Saudi officials exchanged phone calls among themselves and with al Qaeda operatives and then had ‘accidental meetings’ with the 9/11 hijackers, while providing them with substantial assistance to get settled, find flight schools, and become acclimated to life in the U.S..
• Mutaeb al Sudairy, a Saudi Embassy official with diplomatic immunity, lived in the U.S. in 2000 with the key procurement officer for al Qaeda who bought communications equipment for Osama bin Laden. Sudairy had phone calls with another Saudi government official, Omar al Bayoumi, at the same time Bayoumi was helping the hijackers get established in San Diego. Witnesses overheard Bayoumi speak openly about jihad.
• Saudi diplomat Fahad al Thumairy, who provided hijackers with lodging and other help in Los Angeles, had contacts with other al Qaeda operatives including Ahmed Ressam, the so-called Millennium bomber who was planning to attack Los Angeles Airport on January 1, 2000 and two al Qaeda operatives, the al-Khalidi brothers, who are now detained in Guantanamo Bay.
This is a developing story.