The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has finally released the notorious “28 pages” from the 9/11 Report, which had been kept classified, and which detail more or less exclusively with the culpability of the Saudi Arabian government in the attacks.
Though the White House claimed, even after the release, that the pages “proved” the Saudis had nothing to do with it, they did anything but that, providing considerable evidence that the hijackers had contact with two probable Saudi intelligence officers in advance of the attacks, and had received support from those officers.
The information centers on two men, Omar Bayouni and Osama Bassman. Bayouni was said to have provided “substantial assistance” to the hijackers in 2000, and had extensive contact with the Saudi government at the same time.
Bayouni was nominally an employee of Ercan, a subsidiary of a company with substantial ties to the Saudi Defense Ministry, and was in frequent contact with a Defense Ministry official responsible for air traffic control. Though he was only confirmed to have ever actually gone to Ercan one time, he received a $465 per month “allowance” from them, which was increased to $3,700 a month after he met with the hijackers.
In addition to the money he got from Ercan, Bayouni’s wife also received $1,200 a month from Princess Haifa Bint Sultan, the wife of the then Saudi Ambassador to the United States. The two kept receiving this money after Bayouni’s contact with the 9/11 hijackers right up until late July or early August of 2001, when they left the country.
Bassman, on the other hand, lived across the street from the hijackers, and says he was introduced to them by way of Bayouni. The CIA says they believe he got a fake passport from the Saudi government, and the FBI says he was a known support of al-Qaeda who spoke of bin Laden “like a god” as far back as 1992. He and his wife also received significant financial support from Princess Haifa, to the tune of $74,000 for “nursing services” that there is no evidence were ever provided.
The FBI also reported millions of dollars in wire transfers from Saudi Arabia, purportedly laundered through the Tamiyah Mosque in Culver City, delivered to al-Barakaat, a Somali company affiliated with Osama bin Laden. The FBI said they believed this was a way for the Saudi government to covertly and indirectly fund al-Qaeda.
The 28 pages also mention that several active-duty Saudi Naval officers had contact with the hijackers in the lead-up to 9/11. Interestingly, however, despite the high-profile “declassification” of this documents, essentially this entire section is redacted in the final release, meaning the details are still secret.
FBI officials ultimately conceded they hadn’t focused on Saudis in the lead-up to 9/11 because they were supposed to be an American ally, and even by the time of the 9/11 report they told the Joint Inquiry neither they nor the CIA could “definitively” identify the true extent of Saudi government ties to al-Qaeda or terrorism in general, though it had become a priority. Both agencies also noted the Saudis were extremely uncooperative with their investigations into 9/11, though one FBI official noted this wasn’t out of the ordinary, and that the Saudis were “useless and obstructionist” for years on any investigation they didn’t think was directly in their interest.
The Joint Inquiry ultimately tried to shrug off the myriad evidence provided by the FBI and CIA, saying that independently confirming the reports was beyond the scope of their investigation, and that there were conceivably “innocent” explanations for all the aid provided to the hijackers in the lead-up to the attack.
Still, the document certainly provides more ammunition for families of 9/11 victims who have sought to sue Saudi Arabia over its involvement in the attack, and despite the White House’s protestations, will only fuel the fire of questions about whether this high-profile American ally actually played a role in the largest attack in history on US soil.