FBI sought to question two Saudi princes about unknown man accompanying two 9/11 hijackers in still secret LAX airport video

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Los Angeles International Airport Photo: LAX

By Dan Christensen,

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.)

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U.S. visas for 9/11 hijackers Khalid al Mihdhar, left, and Nawaf al Hazmi

“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’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.

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller

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.


“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.”

Andrew “Duke” Maloney

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.


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.”

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  • as usual, great reporting Dan!

    while the saudi line is interesting, let’s focus on others who might have known about the 9/11 attacks and not prevented them…

    how would a surveillance video exist for a bunch of al qaeda terrorists/hijackers at an airport in june 2000 when the official story is that the FBI/CIA/NSA had no idea the terrorists were inside the country until August 2001?

    Who took the video off of the LAX security cameras in june 2000? and, for what purpose? was there a warrant issued to get the video surveillance footage in 2000? what’s that warrant say? and what criminals/terrorists is the warrant connected to? why was the video itself kept for so long by the FBI? what is the chain of custody of the video?

    additionally, was the LAX video footage taken from an angle that corroborates that it could have only been taken from an LAX fixed closed circuit security camera (the kind that they had back in 2001)?

    or, could the footage have come from another source–like an undercover agent following the men as they visited LAX.

    if so, why were these particular men under agency surveillance?

    it should be noted that two of the men (mihdhar and hazmi) in the video were known and identified al qaeda operatives to our intelligence agencies, so it wouldnt be surprising if they were under surveillance at LAX–particularly since LAX was a bombing target of al Qaeda’s 6 months earlier in the Millenium plot that was thwarted by the FBI. What would, however, be surprising is to learn that our FBI was surveilling two men that they said they lost in the streets of bangkok in january 2000.

    when did the hijackers really arrive in the US? was it january 2000? or early fall 1999?

    Why wasn’t the 9/11 Commission given this video or told about its existence?

    Doesn’t the existence of the video and the chain of custody of the video raise an awful lot of questions above and beyond the subjects captured in the video?

    To me, whomever took that video and kept that video could have and should have prevented the USS COle bombing and the 9/11 attacks. And moreover, the whole story that the FBI/CIA/NSA didn’t know the hijackers were inside the country planning terrorist attacks– at any time–before 9/11 is total bunk.

    There is no statute of limitations on murder.

  • Were extraordinary shipments of currency — Federal Reserve Notes, $100 bills specifically — in July/August 2001 ever investigated for links to this? A longer story. Along the lines of “Pandion’s” comment above, soon after 9/11 I was sitting in on a financial markets conference in Chicago, and one question from the came out of the blue — “When are the people who traded before 9/11 going to be prosecuted?” A person on the panel asserted that such trading wasn’t insider trading, given fiduciary relationships etc. That’s when somewhen else in the audience spoke up, loudly, “Maybe those people should just be investigated for murder, then.”

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