There is increasing pressure on the executive branch to release 28 pages of information redacted from the 9/11 Commission report that critics believe may connect support from the government of Saudi Arabia to two of the hijackers who participated in the deadly attacks. According to a CBS News “60 Minutes” report, officials familiar with the report are raising questions about possible Saudi support for terrorists Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar upon their arrival in Los Angeles in January, 2000.
Tim Roemer, who served as U.S. Ambassador to India and a Democratic congressman said that the two Saudis managed to find housing and flight lessons despite their “extremely limited language skills and no experience with Western culture.” “L.A., San Diego, that’s really you know, the hornet’s nest,” said Roemer. “That’s really the one that I continue to think about almost on a daily basis.”
According to the 2003 report, witnesses said that al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar met at the King Fahad mosque in Culver City CA with Fahad al-Thumairy, “a diplomat at the Saudi consulate known to hold extremist views.” Thumairy was denied reentry to the U.S. in 2003 because of his suspected terrorist ties. Thumairy was “a ghost employee with a no-show job at a Saudi aviation contractor outside Los Angeles while drawing a paycheck from the Saudi government”, said the report.
Thumairy may also be linked, according to the report, to Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi who became the hijackers’ biggest benefactor. Former Senator Bob Graham said he believes Bayoumi was a Saudi agent. Graham told Steve Kroft of CBS News that Bayoumi had “been listed even before 9/11 in FBI files as being a Saudi agent.” The “60 Minutes” report said that Bayoumi visited Thumairy at a Saudi consulate office where he worked on the morning of February 1, 2000. The two had lunch “at a Middle Eastern restaurant on Venice Boulevard”, which Bayoumi later claimed was a “coincidence”, Roemer said.
Former Sen. Bob Kerry, a former 9/11 Commission member who has read the redacted 28 pages, told reporter Kroft that “a solid majority of former 9/11 commissioners” believes they should be declassified. “We all have dealt for our careers in highly classified and compartmentalized in every aspect of security,” Kerrey said. “We know when something shouldn’t be declassified…those 28 pages in no way fall into that category.”
Following the 60 Minutes broadcast, the Saudi embassy issued a statement saying, in part: “The CBS 60 Minutes program was a compilation of myths and erroneous charges that have been thoroughly addressed not just by the Saudi government but also by the 9-11 Commission and the U.S. courts.”
The White House is reviewing whether to declassify the 28 pages.
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.