By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
FBI records about Operation Encore ordered declassified by President Biden have yielded significant new information about a trio of Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs officials operating inside the U.S. who agents concluded worked to support al Qaeda and advance the 9/11 plot.
Two of those Saudis, religious propagators and diplomats Adel al Sadhan and Mutaeb al Sudairy, were “assessed to be part of a network of individuals connected to the facilitation of two 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar… [and] possibly served in the capacity of an advance intelligence team involved in laying the groundwork for [them] before their arrival in Southern California in early 2000,” says a 2010 Encore “overview” report.
“There is no indication al-Sadhan and al-Sudairy had direct contact with the hijackers, however, similar associations, communications, and logistics mirror those of the hijackers upon their arrival,” the report says.
Hazmi and Mihdhar were part of the five-member al Qaeda team that hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 after leaving Washington Dulles International Airport and crashed it into the Pentagon, killing 59 passengers and crew, and another 125 people in the building on Sept. 11, 2001.
That report, and others amid hundreds of pages of FBI records released last month, have been marshaled by lawyers for thousands of 9/11 family members who are now asking New York U.S. District Court Judge George B. Daniels to order Saudi Arabia to produce its internal documents about the trio. In a parallel push, the 9/11 plaintiffs also asked the court this month to modify a three-year-old order that has significantly limited the scope of allowable discovery in the long-running case based on two recent appellate rulings that broaden the scope of aiding and abetting liability in terrorism litigation.
“While the court has previously stated discovery was over and has denied plaintiffs’ prior requests for discovery concerning the three kingdom officials, the recent FBI production provides good cause to reopen discovery,” says a plaintiffs’ motion filed Dec. 17.
MINISTRY OF ISLAMIC AFFAIRS AND QAEDA
More secret FBI records are to be released within days. President Biden’s executive order obliges the FBI to declassify and release by Jan. 2 “all interview reports, analytical documents, documents reporting investigative findings, or other substantive records (including phone records and banking records, if any) from the FBI’s initial investigation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks — known as the Pentagon/Twin Towers Bombings (PENTTBOM) investigation — that reference the individual subjects” of Operation Encore that “may be found through search terms, keyword identifiers, and other diligent means.”
The third Ministry of Islamic Affairs official identified in the FBI reports is Omar Abdi Mohamed, a propagator also known as Omar al Khatib. The reports identify Abdi Mohamed as an al Qaeda member who worked in San Diego with a pair of Saudis – diplomat and religious leader Fahad al Thumairy and suspected Saudi intelligence agent Omar al Bayoumi – previously identified in an October 2012 FBI report first obtained by Florida Bulldog as being at the center of the Encore investigation.
“The FBI production shows that Thumairy, together with other Saudi embassy and consulate officials, funded extremists and terror organizations prior to 9/11, and that the FBI had information that ‘UBL [Usama bin Laden] money’ was ‘distributed’ by Thumairy,” the plaintiffs’ motion says. “The FBI described Abdi Mohamed as a radical extremist who ‘was also a member of Al Qaeda.’ FBI documents previously produced in this litigation show that Abdi Mohamed reported directly to Thumairy.”
Thumairy was the Imam at the King Fahad Mosque near Los Angeles and Abdi Mohamed’s supervisor when future hijackers Hazmi and Mihdhar first arrived in the U.S. FBI reports say he “immediately assigned an individual to take care of them during their time in the Los Angeles area.”
The motion also ties Abdi Mohamed to Thumairy’s boss at the Saudi embassy in Washington, Khalid al Sowailem.
Abdi Mohamed was so extreme that he was once removed as leader of the U.S. arm of an Islamic extremist group in East Africa “because he was too radical,” according to a June 18, 2004, FBI report.
Court records show that between December 1998 and May 2001 Abdi Mohamed assisted al Qaeda by laundering nearly $400,000 from a pair of Islamic charities later designated as front organization terrorist groups using a California charity he’d set up called the Western Somali Relief Fund. The cash was funneled to “a money transfer agency whose office in Pakistan was controlled by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,” the motion says.
MONEY LAUNDERING FOR QAEDA
In January 2004, U.S immigration officials charged Abdi Mohamed with fraud after he allegedly lied about receiving approximately $350,000 from one of those front groups. Nevertheless, Abdi Mohamed walked away from the charge.
“The Department of Justice told the US. Immigration Court in San Diego, California that the U.S. decided not to prosecute Abdi Mohamed for this crime ‘due to concerns of diplomatic reasons,’ ” the motion says.
The motion goes on, “The FBI documents show that Saudi Arabia’s hiring of a known extremist and member of al Qaeda did not occur by accident: rather, the FBI found that to obtain his MOIA [Ministry of Islamic Affairs] position Abdi Mohamed ‘had to have been trained in a Saudi-supported madrassa and recommended by an influential Islamic scholar.’ In this context, the FBI’s reference to an ‘influential Islamic scholar’ necessarily means that a senior MOIA religious official nominated Abdi Mohamed for his MOIA job.”
The new FBI documents confirmed “key details” for plaintiffs’ lawyers at New York’s Kreindler & Kreindler regarding how Abdi Mohamed, and apparent “advance team” members Sadhan and Sudairy, worked with Thumairy and Bayoumi, who otherwise helped the two hijackers and assigned a local student, Mohdar Abdullah, to care for them.
Abdullah, who now lives in Sweden, was another focus of the Encore probe. Florida Bulldog reported last month that other newly public FBI records stated that in 2012 the FBI was seeking to indict Abdullah in New York for providing “material support” for Hazmi and Mihdhar. Abdullah, however, was never charged with any crime.
The plaintiffs’ motion says an FBI timeline of 9/11 events makes clear that “al Qaeda’s decision to send Hazmi and Mihdhar to California was made only after Kingdom officials Sadhan and Sudairy had confirmed the arrangements on the ground.”
FBI CONNECTING THE DOTS
One new FBI Encore report from Sept. 28, 2010, disclosed that Bayoumi called Sudairy, who at the time was a Saudi diplomat living in Virginia, five times while he was with the hijackers in San Diego. “The dates of the calls are significant,” the report says.
For example, the FBI report notes the calls occurred the week Bayoumi has stated he “accidentally” met the hijackers at a restaurant in Los Angeles before inviting them to come to San Diego where he helped them open a bank account and co-signed a loan to obtain an apartment for the two men.
“It is reasonable to infer that Bayoumi was reporting to Sudairy on the arrival of the two hijackers and the arrangement that he, Thumairy, and others had made for them in Southern r California, up to such a point where the hijackers’ affairs were in order,” the motion says.
Another 2010 FBI report also discusses assessment of Sadhan and Sudairy’s ties to al Qaeda. It notes that sometime in 2000 both men moved to separate locations in Kansas and Missouri.
In Columbus, MO, Sudairy “lives with Ziyad Khaleel for about four months in 2000. Khaleel was a known key communications equipment procurement officer for UBL [Usama bin Laden] and provided satellite phones used in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa.”
At the time, Sudairy attended an intensive English program at the University of Missouri where a source later told investigators that “faculty members were suspicious of him since he didn’t appear interested in learning English and his peers believed he was a Saudi Arabian intelligence agency officer,” the FBI report says.
“Beyond their suspicious activity patterns prior to 9/11, there is no independent [redaction word] information that they were working at the behest of al Qaeda. The only identified direct link to al Qaeda beyond the Operation Encore network is through al Sudairy’s association with Ziyad Khaleel, who was killed in Saudi Arabia in 2002. Subsequent to al Sudairy’s departure from the US in 2001, he met with Khaleel twice in Saudi Arabia for unknown reasons,” the FBI report says.