The FBI has released a newly declassified document detailing support given to the Saudi hijackers in the lead up to the 9/11 terror attacks.
Released on the 20th anniversary of the attacks, it details contact the hijackers had with Saudi associates in the US but does not provide proof senior Saudi government officials were complicit in the plot.
The 16-page document is the first to be disclosed since President Joe Biden ordered a declassification review of materials.
Families have long sought the information in hopes of implicating the Saudi government, with many coming out against Biden’s involvement in 9/11 memorial events if the documents remained classified.
A long-running lawsuit in federal court in New York aims to hold the Saudi government accountable and alleges Saudi officials provided significant support to some of the hijackers before the attacks.
The file is a summary of an FBI interview done in 2015 with a man who had frequent contact with Saudi nationals in the US who supported the first hijackers to arrive in the country before the attacks.
The man had been applying for US citizenship and had repeated contact with those who, investigators said, provided “significant logistical support” to several of the hijackers.
The man’s identity is redacted but he worked at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles.
The document was released just hours after President Biden attended memorial events in New York, Pennsylvania, and northern Virginia.
“The findings and conclusions in this FBI investigation validate the arguments we have made in the litigation regarding the Saudi government’s responsibility for the 9/11 attacks,” Jim Kreindler, a lawyer for the victims’ relatives, said in a statement.
“This document, together with the public evidence gathered to date, provides a blueprint for how (al Qaeda) operated inside the US with the active, knowing support of the Saudi government.”
That included, he said, Saudi officials exchanging phone calls with al Qaeda operatives and having “accidental” meetings with hijackers.
However, the Saudi government has long denied involvement in the attacks.
The Saudi embassy in Washington said that any allegation that the country was complicit was “categorically false”.
The embassy has supported the full declassification of all records as a way to “end the baseless allegations against the Kingdom once and for all”.
There has long been speculation about Saudi Arabia’s involvement after it was revealed 15 of the 19 attackers were Saudis.
Osama bin Laden, the leader of the terror group at the time, was from a prominent family in the kingdom.
Still, the 9/11 Commission report found in 2004 “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” the attacks that al Qaeda masterminded, though it noted Saudi-linked charities could have diverted money to the group.
It comes at a difficult time for the two countries, which have formed a strategic alliance, particularly on counterterrorism matters.
In February, the Biden administration released a report implicating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in in the 2018 killing of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi
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