10 things we know about US, Saudi Arabia and 9/11 so far

FILE PHOTO: A U.S. Army helicopter hovers before landing in front of the damaged area of the Pentagon Building September 17, 2001© Larry Downing
As President Obama holds off a major decision about whether to release 28 pages from the 9/11 report, a slew of details have been coming to light exposing Saudi links to the 2001 terror attacks.

The pressure to declassify the 28 pages, which allegedly recount the connections between Saudi Arabia and Al-Qaeda’s deadly September 11 attacks, has been mounting over the past few months.

However, the White House is still reportedly evaluating the files that have been kept under lock and key since 2002 and the decision about whether they should be released is not expected to occur until later this summer.

READ MORE: Suspected 9/11 mastermind’s defense wants prosecution to step down, alleges destroyed evidence

In the meantime, as if to either assuage the public or press harder on Obama’s decision-making, more and more details have been surfacing here and there. These revelations have been bringing the disturbing facts pointing to the Saudis, both officials and citizens, and their supposed involvement in helping make the Al-Qaeda attacks a terrifying reality.

“There was an awful lot of participation by Saudi individuals in supporting the hijackers, and some of those people worked in the Saudi government,” John F. Lehman, an investment banker in New York who was Navy secretary in the Reagan administration, told the Guardian. 

Some of the files about 9/11 investigation have been declassified under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and are said to mirror the information contained in the much-demanded secret pages. 

With so much information floating around, it can be hard to make sense of things. RT collects the major facts that have come to light so far. 

1. Unnoticed declassified files detail US investigations on Saudi soil 

Over the last 18 months, the National Archives has released a number of declassified files, which until recently failed to attract much scrutiny. These overlooked files, however, contained some very interesting details, which can essentially serve as a timeline of the 9\11 commission investigation into allegations of the Saudi government’s links to the attacks. Among documents are reports about staff meeting face-to-face with some of the Saudi citizens who allegedly helped the hijackers to settle in the US prior to 9/11. 

2. Southern California’s Saudi ‘terrorist support network’

The files show that the Saudi expatriate community living in Southern California may have helped finance and support 9/11 hijackers, including giving them food and shelter. Two of them, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, arrived in Los Angeles in January 2000. The next year, they were aboard American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon. Neither of them arrived in the US speaking English or being able to fly a plane, but a network of Saudi expats lent a hand.

3. Saudi family’s help - flight school by two hijackers 

Among those helping hijackers were Omar al-Bayoumi, who, the US government believes played a central role in aiding and abetting the two men. It was Bayoumi, who assisted in finding them an apartment in San Diego and enrolling them in a flight school. According to the report, he had links to and was paid by a Saudi aviation contractor. When questioned by US investigators, Bayoumi failed to say what his role in the company was. His acquaintance with the hijackers he later called a coincidence. This “network” of Saudi helpers involved other influential people, such as Osama Basnan, who was known as an “informal mayor” of San Diego’s Islamic community prior to 9/11. Caught by investigators in lies several times, he denied his role in a terrorist support network.

4. Saudi diplomat involved 

Thirty-two-year-old Fahad al-Thumairy fell under scrutiny not only for his role as a Saudi diplomat and imam in a local Saudi government-built mosque, but for his known support for extremist groups outside of his home country. According to US investigators, Thumairy had allegedly been in direct contact with Bayoumi, but appeared to deny the allegation when asked. However, there is evidence that the two met on several occasions and spoke on the phone. Presented with the evidence, Thumairy became nervous, his interrogation report said. He suggested that he might have been mistaken with someone else or his rivals were spreading lies about him.

When asked of his support and discussions of jihad, Thumairy said that he only spoke about “good” jihad. He was detained in the US, but then deported to Saudi Arabia as a diplomat, where he was never charged. 

5. Saudi embassy funded hijackers’ stay and training? 

The commission’s report also reveals that before September 11, Osama Basnan’s wife received up to $70,000 from a charitable fund run by the wife of the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Princess Haifa al-Faisal. Some of this money ended up in the hands of Omar al-Bayoumi. The issue of Saudi embassy money was taken seriously back in October 2003, when it was raised at a meeting between the commission’s investigators and then-deputy Saudi foreign minister Nizar Madani. From what Nizar said, it looked like Princess Haifa believed that money was intended to cover the medical costs of Basan’s wife, who had thyroid issues, and the family’s living expenses.  

6. FBI’s 80,000 secret files 

A Florida federal judge, meanwhile, is poring over some 80,000 documents pertaining to the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks, deciding whether or not they should be released to the public. These papers are currently in the possession of the FBI. The pages were uncovered when journalists and former Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) requested to see FBI documents related to the alleged Saudi role in 9/11, leading them to find these thousands of files. Until then, only 35 pages’ worth of data on the subject were known to exist.

7. Florida Saudi family’s suspected role

These papers focused on a wealthy Saudi family living in an upscale, private community near Sarasota, Florida: Abdulazzi al-Hiijjii, his wife Anoud, and their three small children. Neighbors had mentioned to the FBI that the couple were “aloof,” according to the Daily Beast. They also told the Tampa Times that Anoud was “religious,” and that Abdulazzi was a student who “would come over for a cigarette and a drink and to get away from that praying every two hours.”

8. The Saudi family mysteriously disappears

Two weeks before the 9/11 Attacks, al-Hiijjii and his family abruptly left their Florida home. According to the FBI investigation, the home looked as if they’d left in a hurry. Toys were floating in the pool, food was left in the refrigerator and out in the kitchen, cars were parked in the garage, and an empty safe was left open.

READ MORE: ‘Americans need to tell their government to declassify 28 pages of 9/11 report’

FBI agents didn’t begin a probe until April, 2002, based on repeated calls from the family’s concerned neighbors. The family is suspected of having links to 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta and two of his co-conspirators.

9. The secret 28 pages 

Out of the nearly 850-page 9/11 report, only the 28 pages dealing with Saudi Arabia remain classified. The government previously defended the decision by citing the need to protect the sensitive sources and methods of investigation.

In the past month, however, the argument has recently shifted toward disparaging the documents’ content. Despite that, advocates of declassifying the documents, such as Graham, say the government’s justification does not hold water. 

10. Saudi Arabia blackmailing 

Strained by the Iranian nuclear deal, relations between the Washington and Riyadh risk souring should the US go ahead and release the documents. In April, Saudi Arabia threatened to sell some $750 billion in US assets if the bill passes, fearing it could leave the country vulnerable in US courts.

Families of 9/11 victims have tried to sue Saudi Arabia in court over the country’s possible role in the attacks before, but US law grants foreign governments protection in domestic courts.