The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Saturday released the first of what is expected to be several documents related to its investigation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and suspected Saudi government support for the hijackers, after US President Joe Biden issued an executive order for declassifying the information.
The newly declassified 2016 document, gives details of the FBI's work to investigate the alleged logistical support that a Saudi consular official and a suspected Saudi intelligence agent in Los Angeles provided to at least two of the men who hijacked planes on September 11, 2001.
The document, released on the 20th anniversary of the deadly 9/11 terror attacks that led to the 20-year war against Afghanistan, however, contains significant redactions.
It details multiple connections and testimony by witnesses that prompted FBI suspicion of Omar al-Bayoumi, who was purportedly a Saudi student in Los Angeles but whom the FBI suspected to be a Saudi intelligence agent. The FBI document describes him as deeply involved in providing "travel assistance, lodging and financing" to help the two hijackers, according to a CNN report.
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The Saudi embassy in Washington had said earlier on Wednesday that it "welcomes the release of" the FBI documents and that "any allegation that Saudi Arabia is complicit in the September 11 attacks is categorically false."
Biden's executive order came after more than 1,600 people affected by the attacks sent Biden a letter saying he should not go to Ground Zero in New York City to mark the 20th anniversary unless he released the information. The letter in part questioned the role of Saudi Arabia, suggesting that members of the Saudi Arabian government had been involved in "supporting the attacks."
Shortly after the letter, the Department of Justice announced it would review what previously withheld information or documents related to the September 11, 2001, attacks it can disclose to the public.
A Justice Department spokesperson said in August that the government advised a Manhattan federal court that the FBI had recently closed an investigation related to certain September 11 hijackers.
"Although this development followed the U.S. District Court rulings upholding the government's privilege assertions, the FBI has decided to review its prior privilege assertions to identify additional information appropriate for disclosure. The FBI will disclose such information on a rolling basis as expeditiously as possible," the spokesperson said.
Biden praised the DOJ's decision at the time, saying it followed through on his campaign promise to have the department work on releasing 9/11 records as desired by the families of victims of the September 11 attacks.