An American flag is unfurled at the Pentagon in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, at sunrise on the morning of the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. The American flag is draped over the site of impact at the Pentagon. In the foreground, the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, opened in 2008 adjacent to the site, commemorates the lives lost at the Pentagon and onboard American Airlines Flight 77. (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A declassified FBI document related to logistical support given to two of the Saudi hijackers in the run-up to the Sept. 11 attacks details contacts the men had with Saudi associates in the United States but does not provide proof that senior kingdom officials were complicit in the plot.

The document released Saturday, on the 20th anniversary of the attacks, is the first investigative record to be disclosed since President Joe Biden ordered a declassification review of materials that for years have remained out of public view. The 16-page document is a summary of an FBI interview done in 2015 with a man who had frequent contact with Saudi nationals in the U.S. who supported the first hijackers to arrive in the country before the attacks.

Biden ordered the Justice Department and other agencies to conduct a declassification review and release what documents they can over the next six months. He was under pressure from victims’ families, who have long sought the records as they pursue a lawsuit in New York alleging that Saudi government officials supported the hijackers.

The heavily blacked-out document was released hours after Biden attended Sept. 11 memorial events in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon. Victims’ relatives had said they would object to Biden’s presence at those remembrances as long as the documents remained classified.

The Saudi government has long denied any involvement in the attacks. The Saudi Embassy in Washington has it supported the full declassification of all records as a way to “end the baseless allegations against the Kingdom once and for all.” The embassy said that any allegation that Saudi Arabia was complicit was “categorically false.”

The documents have come out at a politically delicate time for the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, which have forged a strategic, if difficult, alliance, particularly on counterterrorism matters. The Biden administration in February released an intelligence assessment implicating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the 2018 killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but drew criticism from Democrats for avoiding a direct punishment of the royal himself.

Victims’ relatives said the document’s release was a significant step in their effort to connect the attacks to Saudi Arabia. Brett Eagleson, whose father, Bruce, was killed in the World Trade Center attack, said the release of the FBI material “accelerates our pursuit of truth and justice.”

Jim Kreindler, a lawyer for the victims’ relatives, said in a statement that “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.

“This document, together with the public evidence gathered to date, provides a blueprint for how (al-Qaida) operated inside the US with the active, knowing support of the Saudi government,” he said.

That includes, he said, Saudi officials exchanging phone calls among themselves and al-Qaida operatives and then having “accidental meetings” with the hijackers while providing them with assistance to get settled and find flight schools.

Regarding Sept. 11, there has been speculation of official involvement since shortly after the attacks, when it was revealed that 15 of the 19 attackers were Saudis. Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaida at the time, was from a prominent family in the kingdom.

The U.S. investigated some Saudi diplomats and others with Saudi government ties who knew hijackers after they arrived in the U.S., according to previously declassified documents.

Still, the 9/11 Commission report in 2004 found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” the attacks that al-Qaida masterminded, though it noted Saudi-linked charities could have diverted money to the group.

Particular scrutiny has centered on the first two hijackers to arrive in the U.S., Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, and support they received.

In February 2000, shortly after their arrival in Southern California, they encountered at a halal restaurant a Saudi national named Omar al-Bayoumi who helped them find and lease an apartment in San Diego. He had ties to the Saudi government and had earlier attracted FBI scrutiny.

Bayoumi has described his restaurant meeting with Hazmi and Mihdhar as a “chance encounter,” and the FBI during its interview made multiple attempts to ascertain if that characterization was accurate or if the meeting had actually been arranged in advance, according to the document.

The 2015 interview that forms the basis of the FBI document was of a man who was applying for U.S. citizenship and who years earlier had repeated contacts with Saudi nationals, who investigators said, provided “significant logistical support” to several of the hijackers. Among the man’s contacts was Bayoumi, according to the document.

The man’s identity is blacked out throughout the document, but he is described as having worked at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles.

Also referenced in the document is Fahad al-Thumairy, at the time an accredited diplomat at the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles who investigators say led an extremist faction at his mosque. The document says communications analysis identified a seven-minute phone call in 1999 from Thumairy’s phone to the Saudi Arabian family home phone of two brothers who later were detained at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison.

___





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Ukraine-010

A member of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, trains in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have been joining Ukraine's army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invasion. (AP Photo)

Ukraine-015

Members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have been joining Ukraine's army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invasion. (AP Photo)

Ukraine-019

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Russia-002

Russia-002

A convoy of Russian armored vehicles moves along a highway in Crimea, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. Russia has concentrated an estimated 100,000 troops with tanks and other heavy weapons near Ukraine in what the West fears could be a prelude to an invasion. The Biden administration is unlikely to answer a...

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Russia-001

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Russia-011

Russia-011

A view from the cockpit of a Russian Su-30 fighter jet as it takes part in a training mission in Krasnodar Region, Russia, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. (AP Photo)

Russia-003

Russia-003

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Russia-005

Russia-005

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0003

A close-up of a heliport under construction in Rutog County.

0001

On volatile border between India and China, a high-altitude military buildup is underway

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Construction crews are now scattered around Ladakh as Indian authorities speed up their infrastructure race with China.

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An overview of a heliport under construction near Aksai Chin Lake, in a region administered by China but contested by India, on May 28.

0002

An overview of a heliport under construction in Rutog County in the Ngari Prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, on Nov. 28.

0003 0001 0004 0005 0002




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Runway

Runway

China is expanding the construction of its facilities on Fiery Cross Reef. Provided by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), this June 28, 2015 photo reveals Beijing has nearly completed a 3,000 meter (9,800-foot) airstrip, long enough to accommodate most Chinese military aircraft. Two h...

Expansion

Expansion

Reclamation on Fiery Cross Reef, which lies on the west side of the Spratly Islands, began in August of 2014 and its principal landmass was finished by November. Dredgers have created a land mass that spans the entire existing reef and is approximately 3,000 meters long and 200-300 meters wide.

Facilities

Facilities

This picture taken last November shows construction work being carried out on Fiery Cross Reef. The reef reportedly already houses a helicopter landing pad, a 300-meter-long wharf, a harbor large enough to dock military tankers, barracks and artillery emplacements.

South Johnson Reef

South Johnson Reef

This reef was one of the first facilities to finish principal land reclamation. This recent picture shows that a radar tower is nearing completion at the north end of the land mass. According to AMTI, a new large multi-level military facility has been built in the center of the island. Up to six sur...

A naval base?

A naval base?

Beginning in early 2015, Mischief Reef - also located in the Spratlys - has undergone extensive reclamation activity. Experts say that the recent widening of the southern entrance to the reef, coupled with sightings of Chinese navy vessels, may suggest a future role for the reclaimed reef as a naval...

From reef to island

From reef to island

Significant construction on Gaven Reef began in 2014, with a total of 114,000 square meters of land already created. Satellite pictures show just how fast construction has progressed on the reef. A new artificial island was created between March (left) and August (right) 2014.

Troop garrison

Troop garrison

According to AMTI, China has had a troop garrison on Gaven Reef since 2003, which has included a large supply platform where ships can dock. Experts say a new main square building in the reef appears to be an anti-aircraft tower.

A standardized process

A standardized process

As seen in this image, the basic process of expanding these features involves dredging sand from the seafloor and dumping it onto the reefs. The structure is raised above the high water line, hiding the status of the bank or reef beneath. The sand is then smoothed out and workers surround the island...

'Historic rights'

'Historic rights'

China claims most of the potentially energy-rich waterway, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The US Pacific Fleet commander recently said China was "creating a great wall of sand" in the South China Sea, causing serious concerns about its territorial intentions. Beijin...

Territorial disputes

Territorial disputes

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims, which have led to territorial disputes in the area. Last summer, China's deployment of a massive oil rig in waters also claimed by Hanoi escalated tensions in the region, sparking a standoff at sea and violent anti-C...

US concerns

US concerns

Washington is concerned China's efforts carry a military dimension that could undermine the US' naval and economic power in the Pacific, and has weighed sending warships and surveillance aircraft within 12 nautical miles of the new artificial islands. Washington has repeatedly called on Beijing and ...

Ecological impact

Ecological impact

The Philippines filed a formal plea at the UN last year, challenging Beijing's territorial claims. Manila said China's reclamation activities are causing "irreversible and widespread damage to the biodiversity and ecological balance of the South China Sea." It also claimed that the destruction of co...

Runway Expansion Facilities South Johnson Reef A naval base? From reef to island Troop garrison A standardized process 'Historic rights' Territorial disputes US concerns Ecological impact