By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
In a blow to thousands of 9/11 families, a federal magistrate has ruled that their New York law firm and its chief investigator “willfully breached” court “protective orders” by leaking to a reporter the deposition of a Saudi diplomat “to embarrass Saudi Arabia and gain an advantage in this case.”
U.S. Magistrate Sarah Netburn immediately sealed her order. But docket notes about it state, “When the Court tried to investigate this breach, Kreindler & Kreindler engaged in a sustained campaign of delay and obstruction.”
The Saudi diplomat whose deposition was leaked, Musaed al Jarrah, has long been secretly implicated in a leadership role in the 9/11 plot. His name didn’t become public until May 2020 when it was disclosed by a government filing error in the case.
The “embarrassment” cited by Netburn appears to refer to the fact that FBI agents found “numerous” child porn images on Jarrah’s computer in 2004-2005. Testimony during Netburn’s public inquiry into the leak late last year did not establish where or why the FBI examined Jarrah’s computer.
Netburn found sanctions appropriate. For Kreindler investigator John Fawcett, that means he is officially “barred from further participating in this case in any capacity.” The law firm had previously announced that it had parted ways with Fawcett.
KREINDLER FIRM SANCTIONED
As for Kreindler & Kreindler, the lead firm targeting the Saudis, it “will be removed immediately from the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committees (PECs) and required to pay the attorneys’ fees and costs for Saudi Arabia associated with this breach,” the docket says. The PEC is the lawyers’ group, appointed by the court, that takes a leading role on behalf of all the firms representing clients in related civil cases that are consolidated in the Multi-District Litigation.
“One year after the entry of this Order, the PECs shall submit a letter to the Court certifying that they have checked with plaintiffs’ counsel and confirmed that Fawcett has not worked on this case for any party in the preceding year,” the docket says.
Netburn sealed her order until Sept. 28 to give the PECs, Saudi Arabia and the FBI time to request redactions before it is made public.
Notably, the docket makes no mention of the court referring the matter to the local U.S. Attorney’s Office for investigation and possible prosecution.
Saudi Arabia is represented by the Washington, D.C. law firm Kellogg Hansen Todd Figel & Frederick. The firm did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
MAGISTRATE ‘BLOWING UP THE CASE’
Brett Eagleson, a Kreindler client who on 9/11 lost his father in the south tower of the World Trade Center, called Netburn’s Wednesday decision “the most egregious ruling I’ve ever seen. Something’s got to be up. She’s blowing up the case, basically taking away our counsel. All John Fawcett did was expose a child pornographer.”
The Kreindler firm released this statement: “We plan to appeal the Magistrate’s order, which completely misstates and misrepresents the facts and record to the benefit of the Saudi government.
“We take our obligations to the Court seriously. Unfortunately, the Magistrate’s response to this episode — which included allowing the Saudi government to access attorney work product prepared for American terrorism victims and allowing them to cross-examine Kreindler & Kreindler attorneys — is unjustifiable and unprecedented. In short, the Magistrate has allowed the Saudis to attack our firm that for 20 years has tirelessly fought to hold the Kingdom accountable.
“The complete testimony presented at the hearing and the full evidentiary record demonstrate that an independent consultant who breached the protective order did so without the knowledge or encouragement of anyone at Kreindler & Kreindler. Upon learning that this individual was responsible, Kreindler & Kreindler immediately informed the Magistrate, terminated the consultant’s access to its systems, and has since taken steps to bolster these systems to protect all confidential designated material.
“We will continue to lead the charge on behalf of 9/11 families to hold the Kingdom accountable for the worst terrorist attack in our nation’s history. Our focus remains on prosecuting this case in accordance with the Court’s orders and obtaining justice for 9/11 Families.”
Fawcett’s job was to manage and evaluate all the 9/11 discovery documents the firm obtained as it seeks to hold Saudi Arabia financially responsible for the 2001 attacks that left 2,996 people dead and injured 25,000 others. Fawcett testified that he leaked the transcript of Jarrah’s deposition to Yahoo! News reporter Michael Isikoff in July 2021 because of his concerns that Jarrah was consuming and possibly trafficking in child porn.
NEWS REPORT ON JARRAH’S CHILD PORN
Isikoff reported that FBI agents investigating 9/11 questioned Jarrah “at least three times and even threatened him, confronting him with photos of child pornography found on his home computer in an apparent attempt to ‘flip’ him and gain his cooperation, according to a closed-door deposition of the Saudi national taken last month by lawyers for the families of the 9/11 victims.
“But the gambit does not appear to have worked,” the story continued. “After acknowledging he was confronted by an FBI agent with a photo of a naked child taken off his computer, Jarrah testified that he basically told the agent to take a hike.
“Then I told him, ‘If you are here to threaten me with the pictures, just go ahead, go to the Embassy,’” Jarrah testified. “Then I got in my car and drove off.” He never spoke to the FBI again, he later said, according to Yahoo! News.
While little news appears to have been in Jarrah’s 610-page deposition, Fawcett’s leak of it violated protective orders imposed by the court to keep certain sensitive national security and privacy information from becoming public. Plaintiffs’ lawyers testified those orders have kept thousands of pages of information off the public record.
The irony is that since then the FBI has declassified and made public an avalanche of new and illuminating records about Saudi government involvement in 9/11 – including much information about the role played by Musaed al Jarrah.
The public release of material that the Trump administration claimed were “state secrets” whose disclosure would harm national security were made in the wake of President Biden’s executive order last September requiring the FBI to conduct a declassification review regarding records about Operation Encore – a once secret probe into apparent Saudi government complicity in 9/11.
NUMEROUS SAUDI GOVERNMENT TIES TO 9/11
Thousands of Encore records have been released to the public. Among other things, those records document numerous connections of U.S.-based Saudi “personnel and entities” to the 9/11 attacks.
In 2016, amid Freedom of Information Act litigation, the FBI released to Florida Bulldog the first documents about Operation Encore. At the time, that code name was kept secret, as was Jarrah’s name.
What was clear at the time, however, was that a man, later identified as Jarrah, had “tasked” two Saudi men in Southern California to aid Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar, two of the five-member al Qaeda team that crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon.
A 2021 FBI report identified 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 Saudi embassy’s Islamic affairs section – of which Jarrah was the director – was one of the largest spy operations in the world with approximately 50 officers.
A January 2010 FBI report that’s only recently become public states, “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.”
Thumairy was a Saudi diplomat and religious leader in Los Angeles. A June 2017 FBI report describes Bayoumi as paid “cooptee of the Saudi General Intelligence Presidency 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…”
Jarrah, who worked for Bandar and in turn supervised Thumairy, who has denied any connection to 9/11, is named in other declassified FBI reports written as early as 2003 as being “heavily connected/linked to Saudi Sunni extremists operating inside the U.S.”