9/11 Families Continue to Demand Answers About Saudi Connection

9/11 Families Continue to Demand Answers About Saudi Connection

By Troy Rosasco

9/11 Families Continue to Demand Answers About Saudi Connection. There has long been a belief that Saudi government officials were not only aware that the attack was being planned but that they provided critical support to the first hijackers who arrived in the U.S.

Attorneys for family members of victims have poured over newly released documents to gain answers that could provide new fuel for a lawsuit that could not move forward without them. The U.S. government has kept these results of a lengthy, classified FBI investigation under wraps.

What We Know About Saudi Involvement in 9/11

As noted in a September 2020 report by the New York Times, the investigative trail into the origin of the terror attacks immediately led to Saudi Arabia. Obvious clues included that Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens. The FBI investigation quickly found the first of the hijackers had arrived in Los Angeles in early 2000, where they soon made their way to a Saudi mosque. A few weeks later, they moved to San Diego, where they received assistance from a middle-aged Saudi student long suspected of spying for the Kingdom.

A former FBI investigator who worked on the case and has now agreed to talk to families seeking to file a claim noted that even as the investigation began cementing a Saudi connection, the U.S. government began changing its stance, issuing statements that no senior-level Saudi government officials supported the terrorists or that even low-level Saudis with government ties who assisted the terrorists did not know that the plot involved murdering thousands of people.

However, while the U.S. government kept details of the FBI investigation under wraps over the years, the now-retired FBI investigators and others who worked on the case have given additional information, including:

  • The two early hijackers who arrived in Los Angeles and later traveled to San Diego were known al-Qaeda operatives, whose names were listed in databases maintained by both the CIA and the National Security Agency. These men were under surveillance in Malaysia in January 2020 and it was known that at least one of them flew to Los Angeles that month. The FBI was alerted of their presence in the country by the National Security Agency weeks before the attacks took place.
  • Though security personnel in both Saudi Arabia and the U.S. knew them, the men traveled using their own names and did not attempt to conceal their identity.
  • The FBI investigator began receiving information from a friend of one of the hijackers, who was helping provide details about the hijackers’ activities before the attacks took place. However, that source quickly dried when higher-level agents arrested the man and took him for questioning before a grand jury. The man was never charged in connection with the attacks. However, he was charged with immigration fraud and sent to a federal detention facility. Under the advice of a public defender, the man quit providing information to the FBI.
  • Prison informants reported that the man had some forewarning about the attacks.
  • Other individuals who the FBI investigated for connections between the Saudi government and the 9/11 hijackers were believed to be spies for the Saudi government.
  • The 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, later told investigators that the initial hijackers were sent to Los Angeles without any contacts at all, which the investigators found highly unlikely as neither man could speak English and knew very little about the West.
  • A Saudi woman in San Diego who was close friends with one of the individuals suspected of assisting the hijackers reportedly received payments of around $70,000 from the wife of a powerful Saudi ambassador to the United States.
  • The top leadership at the FBI repeatedly made public statements that there was no established connection between the Saudi government and the attacks, even while concluding that the investigation revealed that Qaeda associates had infiltrated and exploited the Saudi government.
  • An official attached to the Saudi industry has been linked to financing at least two of the hijackers, making monetary donations through a New Jersey mosque. That official’s name was accidentally leaked in an FBI court filing earlier this year.
  • The now-retired investigator spent several years, even after the official statement that there was no proof that the Saudi government had knowledge of or supported the attacks, investigating the Saudi connection with a small team under the name Operation Encore. The team uncovered additional evidence suggesting participation by two young Saudi religious officials who were believed to be intelligence officers and were also linked to some of the hijackers. While investigating these two officials, who had recently sought new visas to study English at the University of Oklahoma, the investigators found a need to place them under surveillance. However, that mission quickly ended when the CIA objected to the plan, stating that they did not want to give the Saudis a black eye if their guys walked into a trap. At the last minute, the Saudis canceled their plan to travel to Oklahoma, and some believe someone in the Saudi government warned them.

The Government Kept the Documents Secret for Years

According to a bank executive who was seriously wounded in the 9/11 terror attacks and is among the victims and families who have long sought to hold everyone responsible for the attacks accountable, the war for justice and accountability has been being fought by these families on two fronts: against the Saudi government, and the U.S. government.

Part of the difficulty in understanding who was behind 9/11 and the events that led up to the attack is that the U.S. government—through several Presidential administrations—has refused to allow the public access to the information. President Biden, in September of this year, finally released a 2016 final report from the Operation Encore team. It was the first of many documents about 9/11 that the families have asked for years to see. Biden has assured them that his administration will provide more documents soon.

The families have sought the information for years. FBI leadership in the past warned the investigators who worked as part of that team that they risk violating secrecy laws. Investigators have even reported in a sworn declaration that FBI lawyers told him that cooperating with the families’ requests for information would imperil the good diplomatic relations that the country enjoys with Saudi Arabia.

The Status of the Lawsuit Against the Saudi Government

The 9/11 victims and their families have long wanted to hold those responsible for the terror attacks accountable in court, including foreign governments found to have provided support or assistance for the attack. However, they did not have the means to file a claim against the Saudi government until 2016, when federal lawmakers passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).

This act, which passed both the House and the Senate, was the first veto of Barack Obama’s presidency and came just four months before his presidency ended. Obama stated at the time that the legislation was political and it would create an environment where government officials or even military members could face prosecution in other countries in retaliation. The House and the Senate quickly moved to override his veto and JASTA became law.

Within two days of the law becoming enforceable, the widow of Navy Commander Patrick Dunn, who was killed in the Pentagon attack filed the first lawsuit. The widow, Stephanie DeSimone, was two months pregnant when she lost her husband. She filed her claim against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for wrongful death and the intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Obtaining the right to sue the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through JASTA was only part of the battle, however. Many of the documents and even the names of potential witnesses to the claim were unavailable due to the government’s secrecy surrounding the investigations. In 2018, the attorneys for the families were permitted to do a limited fact-finding investigation.

Near the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, certain information was released to the attorneys under a protective order that limited access to the information to attorneys only. Lawyers have been working to have that protection order lifted so that the families can also access this information.

Earlier this year, the lawsuit gained more traction as attorneys were allowed to depose certain Saudi officials under oath. During the hearings, 9/11 families often witnessed U.S. Justice Department officials sitting alongside Saudi officials—an additional sting after years of being denied access to the information under the excuse that pursuing an investigation would harm diplomatic relations with one of the U.S. government’s strongest allies in the Middle East. The depositions, like many of the documents related to the case, remain under seal.

“Sooner or later, this trial is going to become mainstream,” said Brett Engelson, whose father the terrorists killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11. “And there’s going to be a tremendous amount of public pressure, and they can’t keep things secret forever.”

How Did JASTA Change the History of Foreign Sovereignty?

JASTA replaced a 40-year-old law known as the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which protected foreign governments and their heads of state from being sued by U.S. citizens. JASTA removed that immunity, paving the way to sue foreign governments for acts of violence and terrorism occurring on U.S. soil.

The plotting of these acts does not have to occur on U.S. soil for the foreign government to face liability, and governments can also now be held accountable for actions such as aiding and abetting acts of violence, even if they did not perform those acts of violence themselves.

What Would a Lawsuit Against Saudi Arabia Accomplish?

According to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, the lawsuit against Saudi Arabia could accomplish three things:

  1. Provide victims and family members of those lost in the 9/11 terror attacks with compensation for their losses.
  2. Provide accountability for the Saudi Arabian government, while also providing detailed information of the attacks in an attempt to obtain answers from the greater 9/11-impacted community and the world in general as to how and why these attacks took place.
  3. Force Saudi Arabia to take a stand against terrorism in its own country.

Learn if you qualify today!

Posted under: 9/11 Victim Compensation



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