Recently, the Obama administration de-classified the long-anticipated “28 pages,” a collection of documents that details the conclusions of the 2002 Congressional Joint Inquiry into the 9/11 attacks. It’s a dry and fairly bland report, despite the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Information’s shadowy aura of mystery and secrecy. The Muslim Observer is here to break down this critical insight into American intelligence into a readable set of 7 points for you:
The hijackers had a lot of help Many were definitely skeptical about how the 19 hijackers, with their scanty knowledge of English and unfamiliarity with the United States were able to pull off such a highly coordinated attack. The truth is that they weren’t alone—many people were there to help them along the way.
The “help” has definite ties to the Saudi government Most of the information in the report comes from CIA memos and FBI investigation case files and documents, much of which has to be independently verified. For this reason, law enforcement agencies can’t move forward with a definite conclusion to pin the blame on the Saudi government for sponsoring terrorism. Whether the “help” were lone actors, or willingly acted on behalf of the Royal Family is something the report makes no assertions on.
The first helper: Omar Al-Bayoumi Omar Al-Bayoumi was closely linked with the plane hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar. His links to these two are almost set in stone; he was responsible for co-signing their first lease, throwing them a welcome party and directing them to Modhar Abdullah, a San Diego resident who acted as their translator, assisted them in obtaining drivers’ licenses and finding flight schools. His links with the Saudi government are more tenuous, but still very strong—he served a previous job as an accountant for the Saudi Civil Aviation Administration up until he relocated to the United States. During his time there, he was in regular contact with the Emir of the Ministry of Defense. FBI agents later found financial records detailing a payment of $20,000 from the Saudi Ministry of Finance during his time here. Al-Bayoumi also had no “visible source of income.” Officially, he held a job at a Saudi-based company named “Ercan” which held contracts to manage and clean Saudi Airports. Al-Bayoumi received a monthly salary and allowances from Ercan but only ever showed up to work once. The owner allegedly tried to refuse payment to him, but was told his company would lose its contract if Al-Bayoumi wasn’t paid.
The second helper: Osama Bassnan Osama Bassnan was a close associate of Al-Bayoumi and an ardent follower of Osama bin Laden. An FBI source reported that Bassnan “spoke of Bin Laden as if here were a god,” referring to him as the “official Khalifate and the ruler of the Islamic world.” He lived across the street from Hazmi and Mihdhar’s San Diego apartment and once suggested to an FBI source that “he did more for the hijackers than al-Bayoumi did.” Similar to Al-Bayoumi, Bassnan did not have a clear source of income, instead, agents found several records of cash deposits from Princess Haifa bint Sultan into his account. However, this link is tenuous—the FBI didn’t confirm what the money was used for and Princess Haifa was known to send money to many different groups and people around the world with no known particular preference for “terrorist” organizations.
There are many more suspicious links, but no definite evidence The hijackers were also aided by a number of other individuals, including an unnamed Saudi national official. Among these were Shaykh Al-Thumairy who “may have had a physical or financial connection al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar.” He was an accredited diplomat at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles and one of the imams at the King Fahad mosque in Culver City, California, a masjid frequented by Consulate officials and paid for by then-Crown Prince Abdulaziz in 2002. Another significant person of interest was Saleh Al-Hussayen, a Saudi Interior Ministry official who was interviewed by FBI agents. He claimed not to know the hijackers but agents suspected otherwise. However the interview “was terminated when al-Hussayen either passed out or feigned a seizure requiring medical treatment. He was released from the hospital several days later and managed to depart the United States despite law enforcement efforts to locate and re-interview him.”
The Saudi government didn’t like the investigation FBI and CIA agents regularly complained of the Saudi government’s uncooperative nature when it came to disclosing information related to counterterrorism investigations on 9/11. When discussing how the 9/11 attacks could have been prevented, FBI agents cited greater Saudi cooperation as one major factor that could have changed the outcome. The Saudi government refused to hand over any information on Osama bin Laden, along with other individuals who aided the operation on the Twin Towers. One example was Madani al-Tayyib, a man who served as OBL’s financier. Saudi officials refused FBI and CIA requests to talk to Al-Tayyib, saying, in the words of one agent, “he’s just a poor man who lost his leg. He doesn’t know anything.”
The report neither confirms nor denies the Saudi government of sponsoring terrorism. Typical of a bureaucracy shrouded in darkness and red stamps marked “Top Secret,” the de-classified report is heavily redacted and concludes with the Joint Inquiry stating “”It should be clear that this Joint Inquiry has made no final determinations as to the reliability or sufficiency of the information.” Partly due to Saudi Arabia’s status as an American ally and other diplomatic nuances, the Joint Inquiry didn’t go through with an extensive detailing of an investigation into Saudi links to terrorism in the report, “recognizing that such a task would be beyond the scope of this Joint Inquiry.”