Declassified FBI documents link senior Saudi official to suspected spy who helped September 11, 2001 hijackers

The FBI declassified a 2017 report this month that links a senior Saudi official to a suspected spy with known ties to at least two of the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackers.

The release came roughly 20 years into an ongoing legal battle to hold the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accountable in U.S. courts for its alleged role in supporting the terrorist attacks. We believe it is the clearest indication yet of a money trail connecting Saudi officials to an individual knowingly affiliated with the hijackers.

The suspected Saudi spy, Omar al Bayoumi, was based in California and claimed to be working in aviation in the months leading up to the deadliest terrorist attacks ever committed on American soil, an article by details. Investigators suspect, however, that Bayoumi may have had advanced knowledge of the attacks given that he seems to have helped find housing in San Diego for some of the hijackers and introduced the al Qaeda members to a Saudi-backed mosque based in Los Angeles.

Newly released documents now reveal that a senior Saudi official and influential former ambassador to the U.S., Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, secretly paid Bayoumi a monthly stipend in exchange for intelligence information in the late 1990’s and leading up to Sept. 11, 2001. Bandar then forwarded the information provided by Bayoumi to the Saudi General Intelligence Presidency for further vetting and investigation, the documents allege.

The 2017 report became public as a part of a massive declassification effort brought on by President Biden’s September 2021 executive order prompted the unveiling of long-hidden investigatory documents in favor of transparency and accountability for the attacks. While the report does not specify whether Bayoumi knew or told Bandar about the terrorist plot in advance of Sept. 11, 2001, the discovery is the clearest public link yet connecting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to someone who is known to be affiliated with the perpetrators. As documents continue to be produced pursuant to President Biden’s executive order, we anticipate uncovering more truths on Saudi Arabia’s involvement as we continue this long battle for the families.

The ongoing fight for accountability

Motley Rice represents more than 6,600 family members and survivors of September 11 in litigation that seeks to hold alleged financiers and material supporters of al Qaeda accountable in U.S. Courts for their role in the attacks, In re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001.

“The Sept. 11, 2001 families and survivors have worked for 20 years to prove that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia helped orchestrate this atrocity. The accountability they seek is not possible without the full cooperation of the U.S. government and, primarily, the release of crucial documents, such as this latest report on Omar al Bayoumi’s involvement,” said Motley Rice antiterrorism attorney for the families and survivors of Sept. 11, 2001, Jodi Westbrook Flowers. “We commend the Biden administration for its willingness to commit to long overdue transparency, and we strongly encourage the continued declassification and release of all relevant documents as quickly as possible. The families and survivors of Sept. 11, 2001 have waited long enough for the truth to come out.”

Through the litigation, the families and survivors have repeatedly demanded full transparency from the U.S. Government, including pressing for the release the 28 redacted pages that were withheld from the Congressional September 11, 2001 Joint Inquiry Report and kept locked in a vault beneath the U.S. Capitol for 14 years until their release in 2016. The families and survivors also pushed for the passage of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which allows for foreign sponsors of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil to be tried in U.S. courts. They also joined Sens. Menendez, Blumenthal and Majority Leader Schumer in D.C. in August ahead of the 20th memorial of the attacks for the announcing of The September 11th Transparency Act of 2021. President Biden signed an executive order weeks later approving the declassification of pertinent investigatory documents.

Read more on the milestones and achievements in the legal fight for accountability for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks