By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Newly declassified FBI documents show that agents pushed hard to interview a pair of Saudi princes who they believed might help identify an unknown man captured on airport surveillance video accompanying two future 9/11 hijackers.
There is no indication in the records, however, that FBI headquarters ever approved the Los Angeles field agents’ May 2007 request to interview Prince Nawaf bin Saud bin Mohammed bin Al Saud or his brother, Prince Meteb bin Saud bin Mohammed bin Al Saud.
The June 10, 2000 surveillance footage from a security camera at Los Angeles International Airport has never been made public, nor is there any mention of it in the 2004 report of the 9/11 Commission. The new FBI records make clear it has been kept hidden over the objections of FBI field agents in Los Angeles who wanted it made public years ago to aid their investigation.
“Los Angeles believes it is imperative to identify the UNSUB [unknown subject] to determine his association with [future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf] al-Hazmi and [Khalid] al-Mihdhar,” says an eight-page report sent to FBI Director Robert Mueller on Sept. 21, 2009. (Hazmi and Mihdhar were aboard American Airlines Flight 77 when it slammed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.)
“The longer the FBI waits to release the LAX UNSUB Video to the public, the ability to obtain bank, telephone, property, rental records or any other evidence to identify the UNSUB, support any criminal charges, or conduct any other investigative actions could be severely hampered. Releasing the LAX UNSUB Video will increase the chances that these records may still be available to investigators.”
MUELLER AND LAX VIDEO
Mueller’s response, if any, is not among more than 1,500 pages of FBI records released to date in response to President Biden’s September Executive Order requiring declassification reviews of records about Operation Encore, the FBI’s probe of possible Saudi government complicity in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The existence of Operation Encore was first reported by Florida Bulldog in 2016.
Biden’s order reversed the position of Trump administration officials, including former Attorney General William Barr, who invoked the so-called state secrets privilege in court to hide FBI records about Encore.
The FBI field agents’ apparently fruitless effort to interview the Saudi princes, as well as FBI leadership’s decision to suppress the LAX UNSUB Video, are among a number of recent revelations about Saudi government officials that raise questions as to why such information about the 9/11 investigation has been hidden from the public for so long.
The new records show agents also sought Mueller’s permission to use the LAX video to chase “outstanding leads” overseas by showing it to individuals “closely associated with the hijackers” and at foreign media events.
“With a foreign press conference, the FBI LEGATS [legal attachés] can leverage the media release with their foreign counterparts to get the interviews accomplished expeditiously,” the 2009 report says.
That didn’t happen either.
‘SCREAMS OF COVER-UP’
“Everything about this FBI investigation, over the course of many years, just screams of cover-up,” said Andrew “Duke” Maloney, a lawyer who represents thousands of 9/11 survivors and family members who are suing Saudi Arabia in U.S. District Court in Manhattan for the kingdom’s role in supporting the attacks. “Records show FBI field agents were going in the right direction, but when the evidence led them close to the Saudis, and thus close to the truth, their supervisors at the bureau or beyond said let’s not look there.”
The report indicates the Los Angeles FBI agents first approached Mueller about releasing the LAX video in December 2008. Before that might happen, however, several “unresolved issues” were to be addressed, including determining “the object in the UNSUB’s hands.”
The video features Hazmi, Mihdhar and Mohdar Abdullah, described by the 9/11 Commission as a “key associate” of the hijackers. Hazmi and Abdullah are walking with Mihdhar before Mihdhar’s return trip to Yemen to visit his family.
“More importantly, this footage also shows one additional unknown male subject (UNSUB) who appears to be accompanying Abdullah, al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar through LAX security. The UNSUB appears to be holding a camera and may have been conducting reconnaissance of LAX security measures,” the September 2009 report says.
A forensic analysis of the video was made. Previously, the FBI had determined that the UNSUB, who was wearing a blue hat, was about 5-feet-6. A more detailed study, “frame by frame,” found “with a high degree of certainty” that the UNSUB was holding a digital camera and that he made “slow 360-degree movements around the area.” He was seen tapping his index finger on the camera in a way that “resembles the motion one makes to snap a photograph or start and stop a video camera.”
Abdullah, who an October 2012 FBI report obtained by Florida Bulldog says was an FBI target for indictment for providing material support to the two hijackers, told agents he didn’t know the UNSUB’s name.
SAUDI PRINCES AND LAX VIDEO
NBC News first reported the existence of the LAX video in September 2006, stating the video was not known to exist until shortly after Abdullah was deported to Yemen in May 2004. A grand jury subpoenaed the tape in October of that year, NBC said.
How the 2000 video came to be discovered, and why it even existed so long after it was filmed because security videos are typically recycled, has not been explained.
A newly released May 2007 FBI report about the LAX video is heavily censored before it discusses where Mihdhar and Hazmi lived, and where Prince Nawaf al Saud also resided. It does, however, say agents confirmed he had lived at an apartment complex, apparently with his brother, Meteb.
The 2007 report describes Prince Nawaf as a “poor prince” who at the time was “number 56 in line to the throne” of Saudi Arabia. He was believed to be attending Santa Monica College and UCLA extension school while living in Los Angeles.
“FBI believes that Prince Nawaf al Saud and his brother Meteb [who was possibly residing in Los Angeles at the time] are not the individuals in the 6/10/2000 LAX video with 9/11 hijackers al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi. However…,” the report says before redacting several lines citing national security.
The report then lists several possible scenarios, the “most likely” being that the unknown individual in the video was “around, associated or worked for Prince Nawaf al Saud. It was also theorized that UNSUB worked for or was associated with Meteb al Saud.
Additional information about both those scenarios is obscured by more national security black-outs. A third scenario is entirely redacted.
The FBI wanted to interview the princes to see if they could identify the UNSUB in the LAX video. But the report lists a second objective that is only partly uncensored, to “Determine the user of one of [several excised words] in June 2000.”
The 2007 report concludes that a request be sent to a legat, presumably stationed in Saudi Arabia, to “advise FBIHQ and Los Angeles on the feasibility of interviewing Prince Nawaf al Saud and Prince Meteb al Saud on this sensitive matter. Los Angeles believes that they could be critical witnesses in this investigation.”