By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
A 130-page FBI report written only last July lays out the numerous connections of U.S.-based “personnel and entities controlled by the Saudi Arabian government” to the al Qaeda terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
It’s the first time since the public learned of the existence of a secret investigation into the Saudis’ role in 9/11 – code-named Operation Encore – that the Justice Department has declassified records previously declared to be “state secrets” that say Saudi government officials knowingly provided a support network for the first two al Qaeda hijackers to enter the U.S.
The new report lays out what it calls the FBI’s “investigations and supporting documentation” regarding the religious “militant network that was created, funded directed and supported by the KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] and its affiliated organizations and diplomatic personnel within the U.S.”
That network, as described in the report, was intertwined with the hijackers.
“As Saudi government officials and intelligence officers were directly operating and supporting the entities involved with this network, their involvement with the activities of these organizations/individuals would logically be supposed to have the knowledge or concurrence of the KSA government. This knowledge and/or concurrence by the SAG [Saudi Arabian Government] is related to the 9/11 investigation not only [by] the direct involvement of some personnel but also via the creation of a larger network for such activities.”
The FBI report, dated July 23, 2021, was written and approved by FBI officials whose names are redacted. It states that it consolidates and highlights the findings of two decades of investigation now “deemed essential for future case agents of this program to understand the origin of the investigation.”
The report is among thousands of pages of formerly secret documents about Operation Encore ordered reviewed, declassified and released by President Biden starting last September to “maximize transparency.” Encore was the FBI’s follow-up to its original 9/11 investigation, code-named PENTTBOM, and examined the Saudi role in 9/11. Encore’s existence was first reported by Florida Bulldog in late 2016.
The FBI refers repeatedly in the report to the existence of U.S.-based Saudi “support networks” for the 9/11 hijackers. Previously, the FBI had not acknowledged that such networks were found.
The new report goes on to provide an updated “analysis” about “the ties of some of these entities to Saudi Arabian intelligence services,” noting that much information has come to light since the 9/11 Commission published its report in 2004.
Much of the report zeros in on the apparently nefarious roles of a pair of religious offices operating within the Washington, D.C. Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – the Islamic Affairs Department and the Office of Da’wa (or Propagation).
“Investigation of the 9/11 hijackers and their support networks identified significant connections to these offices either directly or via the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Los Angeles,” the report says.
FBI REPORT NAMES PRINCE BANDAR
The report also names Prince Bandar, then Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S., and the Saudi Embassy as being involved with the funding “of a multitude of Islamic organizations, imams and other religious figures within the U.S. – many of which were involved with militant ideology.
“Several of these were known to be tied directly to Prince Bandar. As the propagation of militant ideology would naturally provide justification for those who were in the hijacker’s support network, these organizations will also be listed below.”
Those passages, coupled with the report’s other details, seriously undermine what now appear to be outdated 9/11 Commission statements long cited by Saudi Arabia to bolster its contention that it had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
The Commission’s final report concluded it had found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” al Qaeda. Further, “Commission staff found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or as individual senior officials knowingly support or supported al Qaeda.”
At the same time, however, the commission also stated, “The intelligence community identified [Saudi Arabia] as the primary source of money for al Qaeda both before and after the September 11 attacks.” A 2013 report by the European Parliament on Saudi Arabia’s support for religious extremism around the world noted, “It has been estimated that Saudi Arabia has invested more than $10 billion to promote its Wahhabi agenda through charitable foundations.”
A sizeable slice of those funds was allegedly siphoned off by al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations like Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and the Haqqani network. “Al Qaeda and JI’s operatives were then diverting about 15-20 percent of the funds to finance their operations,” the 2013 report says.
Wahhabism is Saudi Arabia’s dominant faith, a fundamentalist sect of Sunni Islam akin to puritanical Salafism.
THUMAIRY, BAYOUMI AND JARRAH
A 2012 FBI status report on Encore released to Florida Bulldog in 2016 amid Freedom of Information litigation identifies a trio of Saudis “known to have provided substantial assistance to 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar” after they arrived in Los Angeles in January 2000. Hazmi and Mihdhar were among the five al Qaeda hijackers that seized control of American Airlines Flight 77 after leaving Washington Dulles International Airport and crashed it into the Pentagon. Some 125 people in the building and 59 passengers and crew were killed.
The names Fahad al Thumairy and Omar al Bayoumi had previously been public. Musaed al Jarrah’s name, originally redacted when the report was first released, was new.
Jarrah, then the Saudi Embassy’s director of Islamic Affairs, was said in the 2012 report to have “tasked” Thumairy – a diplomat at the Los Angeles consulate and imam at the nearby King Fahd mosque – and Bayoumi, a suspected Saudi spy, with aiding the future hijackers.
The 2021 report affirmatively identifies Jarrah for the first time as also working for Saudi Arabia’s primary intelligence agency, the General Intelligence Presidency (GIP). A heavily redacted section of the report states that as early as 2001 the embassy’s Islamic Affairs section was one of the largest spy operations in the world with approximately 50 officers.
“The above information helps verify the involvement of the GIP within the MIA [Ministry of Islamic Affairs] offices,” the report says. “This is significant considering the MIA/Dawa office’s involvement, and al Jarrah’s in particular, with the support network of the 9/11 hijackers as well as with the creation, funding, direction and support of the extensive Salafi proselytizing network that extended throughout the U.S.
“The purpose of the MIA/Dawa offices is also of relevance…to obtain intelligence on individuals and communities of value to Saudi Arabia intelligence or government purposes.” And Jarrah, “a key figure of the 9/11 investigation,” is described as having a “controlling, guiding and directing influence on all aspects of Sunni extremist activity in Southern California.”
FBI QUERIES OF ‘HIGHEST INTEREST’ TO SAUDIS
Further, the report notes Jarrah was close to Prince Bandar and later worked for him in Saudi Arabia at the National Security Ministry.
None of that was known, or confirmed, in January 2010 when one FBI report stated, “It has been uncovered that Musaed al Jarrah may have played a leadership role in the overall coordination of logistics support for 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar…Al-Jarrah oversaw the handling of the hijackers through his subordinates Fahad al-Thumairy and Omar Ahmed al-Bayoumi and by personal contact with the hijackers on numerous occasions.”
Jarrah, who has denied any connection to 9/11, is identified in other declassified FBI reports written as early as 2003 as being “heavily connected/linked to Saudi Sunni extremists operating inside the U.S.’’
In addition to his religious duties in Los Angeles, Thumairy was also an employee of the embassy’s Da’Wa office. “FBI queries [about him] were of interest to the highest levels of the Saudi government,” says the 2021 report. “Al Thumairy was a close contact of the 9/11 hijackers support network and may have known al Hazmi and al Mihdhar and/or arranged for their meeting key members of the support network.”
Thumairy and Jarrah, his supervisor, were in frequent telephonic contact, FBI records show.
A recently declassified January 2008 FBI report says agents interviewed a man whose name is redacted. Following a few lines blanked out “at the direction of another U.S. Government Agency or Department,” the report goes on, “At KFM [King Fahd Mosque] BLANK there was a phone call from overseas, possibly from Malaysia or Indonesia, and someone asked for Thumairy and stated that ‘the guys’ were coming in and needed to be picked up at the airport. ‘The guys’ in the community meant the two 9/11 hijackers that passed through Los Angeles before going to San Diego.”
TWO ‘VERY SIGNIFICANT’ GUYS
Hazmi and Mihdhar had attended the “al Qaeda summit” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in early January 2000. The meeting, at which the U.S. attacks were reportedly planned, was headed by admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Hazmi and Mihdhar flew to Los Angeles on Jan. 15.
Thumairy has denied knowing Hazmi or Mihdhar. But the 2008 report says agents were told Thumairy had an Arabic-speaking taxi driver who ran errands for him to pick up “the guys” at the airport and take them to an apartment complex that Thumairy had rented.
More information was obtained in March 2020 when Operation Encore agents interviewed a confidential source about the relationship between another unidentified man – apparently the taxi driver – and the hijackers. The source said the man told him Thumairy “asked him to look after two very ‘significant’ people,” who turned out to be Hazmi and Mihdhar. The source said he saw the man with Hazmi and Mihdhar at the King Fahd Mosque “almost every day, even sometimes in the company of al-Thumairy in the library of the mosque.”
Omar al Bayoumi, the third initial focus of Operation Encore, was a middle-aged student and allegedly one of about 50 “ghost” employees who were paid by the Saudi aviation company Dallah Avco but didn’t actually work.
Bayoumi helped Hazmi and Mihdhar with many day-to-day activities, like obtaining a place to live. Bayoumi has said he met the future hijackers by chance at a Los Angeles restaurant – a claim skeptical FBI agents did not believe.
FBI CONFIRMS BAYOUMI A SAUDI SPY
Bayoumi has long been described publicly as a “suspected” Saudi spy. A newly declassified FBI report dated June 14, 2017 says flatly that “in the late 1990s and up to September 11, 2001 Omar al Bayoumi was paid a monthly stipend as a cooptee of the Saudi General Intelligence Presidency [GIP] via then Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan al Saud. The information al Bayoumi obtained on persons of interest in the Saudi community in Los Angeles and San Diego and other issues, which met certain GIP intelligence requirements, would be forwarded to Bandar. Bandar would then inform the GIP of items of interest to the GIP for further investigation/vetting or follow up.”
“Allegations about al Bayoumi’s involvement with Saudi intelligence were not confirmed at the time of the 9/11 Commission report. The above information confirms these allegations,” the 2017 report says.
Jarrah, Thumairy and Bayoumi have all been deposed in the massive New York civil litigation that pits 9/11 family members against Saudi Arabia. What they had to say is secret, however, due to a court-approved FBI “protective order.” (A transcript of Jarrah’s testimony was leaked to Yahoo! News by an employee of one of the law firms representing the families and is now before the court for possible sanctions.)
Saudi clerics and diplomats Adel al Sadhan and Mutaib al Sudairy also receive special attention in the 2021 report. FBI records from 2010, but declassified and released only late last year, say the pair 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 tam involved in laying the groundwork for [them] before their arrival in Southern California in early 2000.” Sadhan worked under Jarrah at the Saudi Embassy.
For about four months in 2000, Sudairy roomed in Columbus, MO, with Ziyad Khaleel “a known key communications equipment procurement officer for UBL [Usama bin Laden] and provided satellite phones used in the 1998 embassy bombings in Africa,” says the 2010 report.
Sudairy was called five times by Bayoumi while the hijackers were in San Diego with Bayoumi. “The dates of the calls are significant,” says the report. For example, it notes that one call was on Feb. 2, 2000. Two days later, “Bayoumi co-signed a loan agreement for the apartment he obtained for the hijackers and brought them to a Bank of America to assist them in opening a bank account.”
BASNAN AND ANTHRAX
Osama Basnan, a former Saudi embassy employee whose wife received thousands of dollars in monthly payments from the wife of Prince Bandar, was “a known associate of the hijackers in Southern California” according to the 2021 report. “In 1992, Basnan hosted a party for blind Sheik Omar Rahman in Washington, D.C. prior to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing…After Rahman was jailed [for conspiracy in the bombing] Rahman dispatched a messenger to Basnan to instruct him not to contact Rahman in jail.”
“Basnan was living in the same [San Diego] apartment complex on 9/11/01 where al-Bayoumi and the hijackers had resided and al-Bayoumi’s mail was being forwarded to Basnan’s apartment. Basnan harbors anti-American sentiments and espouses pro-UBL opinions,” the 2021 report says.
Much in the report about Basnan, said to be considered the “Omad,’’ or informal mayor, of San Diego’s Saudi community has come out previously. This has not:
On an unspecified date in 2001 Basnan “asked BLANK specific questions about how Anthrax and Small Pox are transmitted and what affects infection has on the human body. On BLANK 2001, Basnan asked BLANK specific questions about how Small Pox infection advances through the human body. Basnan BLANK was true that just prior to dying a Small Pox victim suffers extreme abdominal pain. On BLANK 2001, BLANK Basnan’s wife, Majeda Dweikat, in possession of a book title ‘Chemical and Biological Weapons: Anthrax and Sarin.’ The book was in Basnan’s residence. BLANK Dweikat had tabbed a section of the book that showed the skin coming off a body.” A paragraph after that is redacted.
The anthrax attacks in the U.S. began a week after 9/11 when letters laced with anthrax spores were mailed to several news media outlets and two Democratic senators. Five people were killed and 17 others infected. Years later, federal authorities put the blame on a scientist at Fort Detrick, MD, who committed suicide while under FBI surveillance.
Ahmed Kattan, currently adviser to the Saudi Royal Court with the rank of minister, was at the Saudi Embassy in Washington from 1984 to 2005 where he served as deputy to Prince Bandar. Much about him in the 2021 report is redacted, but not this new disclosure: “Kattan was responsible for the departure of the Bin Laden family members [from the U.S.] following 9/11.”
According to Saudi Arabia’s website, “The Royal Court is the link between the King of Saudi Arabia and the governmental institutions, and it is the Chief Executive Office of the King.”
FBI REPORT ON SAUDI CHARITIES AND TERRORISM
The 2021 FBI report lists detailed information about numerous other Saudi individuals, educational institutions, and charities, most notably the Muslim World League (MWL).
“The primary NGO [non-government organization] of Saudi Arabia was MWL which operated the International Islamic Relief Organization [IIRO], Sana Bell [Sanabel Alkeheer Seeds of Charity, an investment arm], Alharamain and World Assembly of Muslim Youth [WAMY],” the report says. They were collectively run out of offices in Herndon, VA.
The 2021 report about those other offices “associated” with the Saudi Embassy “documents the extensive ties to the Saudi Arabian government as well as extensive ties to terrorism – specifically AQ [al Qaeda]. AQ members were employed within these organizations and utilized funding for terrorism support and used the offices for cover for movement of personnel.”
The Institute of Islamic and Arabic Sciences of America (IIASA), Fairfax, VA, is a U.S subsidiary of Imam Mohammed bin Saud University in Saudi Arabia. The 2021 report says the Saudi Embassy “was known to finance the IIASA and its primary administrators and teachers were Saudi Arabian diplomats. The IIASA was one of the many pieces of Saudi proselytizing activity in the U.S.”
IIASA’s president was Prince Bandar.
More than a half-dozen pages about IIASA were heavily censored for national security and other reasons. But not this curious sentence: “between BLANK and BLANK 2003 the IIASA deposited approximately $23,318,623 into its accounts. The primary source of these funds was the Saudi Embassy and the Saudi Arabian Monetary Association [SAMA].”
FBI: ‘EXTREMIST NATURE OF SAUDI SOCIETY’
The 2021 report also discusses “Saudi Arabian perception management campaigns” employed in Saudi schools and mosques and to influence Americans’ view of the country after it came out shortly after 9/11 that 15 of the 19 individuals who perpetrated the airplane attacks were Saudis.
9/11 was also followed by news reports about inflammatory teaching material in both Saudi K-12 schools and Saudi-run mosques in the U.S. and overseas. The report says, “The Saudis launched various public relations campaigns to discredit these reports.”
More than a decade later, a CIA report about Saudi elementary and middle school curriculums stated, “The monotheism texts teach hatred as part of the doctrine of disavowal which promotes hostility toward non-Muslims. This doctrine, which jihadists often advocate, is included throughout many other books in the curriculum…The monotheism textbooks for all five grades also stress the theme of religious violence.”
“The report states, ‘Even if the Saudis moderate some of the offending passages in the higher-grade textbooks, the youngest and most impressionable segment of Saudi society will still have been exposed to this incitement to religious hatred and violence, and many will have already internalized these teachings.’”
“This analysis as well as more recent open-source reports regarding the Saudi clerical establishment highlight that the extremist nature of Saudi society is still prevalent,” the 2021 FBI report concludes.