Family members of 9/11 victims say court documents released Saturday confirm long-standing concerns that the U.S. government knows more than has been made public about links between Saudi Arabia and the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
In a two-page declaration provided to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in June, former American Airlines pilot and Federal Aviation Administration Safety Inspector Robert Brown said that in 2012, FBI agents presented him with a drawing of a plane and an equation — ostensibly a diagram working out the rate of descent necessary to fly an airliner into a building — that he was told came from a raid on the home of a Saudi man associated with two of the 9/11 hijackers.
The 9/11 families, who in their lawsuit accuse the Saudi government of complicity in the attacks, are pushing the Biden administration ahead of next month’s 20th anniversary to declassify information and evidence the FBI has gathered in the years after the publication of the official 9/11 Commission Report — including information used in the questioning of Mr. Brown.
Past investigations, including the 9/11 Commission Report, have outlined ties between Saudi nationals and some of the hijackers, but have not established the Saudi government was directly involved. The Saudis, citing the 9/11 Report findings, have denied any involvement in the attacks.
In the declaration released Saturday, Mr. Brown, who had experience as a commercial pilot flying one of the hijacked routes, said the FBI told him in 2012 the drawing was taken in a raid on the home of Omar al Bayoumi, a Saudi national described in the 9/11 Commission Report as a business student in the United States who was “supported by a private contractor for the Saudi Civil Aviation Authority, where Bayoumi had worked for over 20 years.”
The commission concluded in 2004 that there was no evidence Mr. al Bayoumi “believed in violent extremism or knowingly aided extremist groups,” but the FBI kept digging in the years that followed.
Now the 9/11 families want President Biden to open the books on those investigations.
“We commend Capt. Brown for standing with us in our pursuit of the truth and for coming forward with this critical piece of evidence that demonstrates the direct corroboration between a Saudi official and the 9/11 hijackers,” said Brett Eagleson, co-founder of 9/11 Community United, an organization that advocates for 9/11 victims and their families. “This revelation concerning Bayoumi’s drawing of an aircraft on a graph to calculate distance to a ground target like the Pentagon demonstrates a close operational link and is the closest evidence I have seen to a smoking gun regarding the 9/11 attacks on our nation.”
“Compounding this critical piece of evidence is the disturbing realization of how much has been kept behind closed doors and intentionally hidden by our own government about the worst terrorist attack in our country’s history, Mr. Eagleson said. “Why won’t the FBI produce this drawing to the American people?”
Saturday’s release comes amid growing calls for the Biden administration to declassify more documents.
Earlier this month, Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut introduced The September 11th Transparency Act of 2021, which would require a full declassification review of the 9/11 investigation and justification for any decisions to keep details out of the public eye going forward.
Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Chuck Grassley of Iowa also have signed on to the legislation.
“For 20 years, 9/11 families and survivors have worked to hold the perpetrators of this attack responsible and bring them to justice,” Mr. Menendez, New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said during a press conference. “Yet year after year, their own federal government has refused to declassify documents that could shed light on any role that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or individuals from Saudi Arabia or from any country may have played in the 9/11 attacks.”
Previous attempts to uncover Saudi involvement in 9/11 have been met with pushback by previous administrations in an effort, some say, to prevent potentially explosive information from being disclosed and to preserve the U.S.-Saudi relationship.
In May, 22 members of Congress led by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland challenging the previous administrations’ assertion of “state secret privilege” in blocking declassification of documents that many believe expose Saudi involvement in the attacks.
In June Reps. Ted Deutch, Florida Democrat, and Thomas Massie, Kentucky Republican, called on FBI Director Christopher A. Wray to release the documents.
Earlier this month, the FBI signaled that it would review documents related to its 9/11 investigation for possible disclosure.
“While this link between a Saudi aviation official who is known to have assisted 9/11 hijackers Hazmi and Mihdhar and the 9/11 hijacker flight planning materials is new to us, our government has known about it for years and chose to keep it from not only the 9/11 community, but the American public,” said Dennis McGinley whose brother Daniel died in the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11.
Mr. McGinley called on President Biden to come forward with the full details about any links the Saudi government had to the attack.
“Ahead of the 20th anniversary, we implore President Biden to put an end to this pattern of concealing evidence and protecting Saudi Arabia to the detriment of American citizens and our country’s safety,” he said. “After nearly 20 years, asking for the full truth of what happened to our loved ones is not asking too much.”
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