FBI Releases First New Material on ‘Operation Encore’ Investigation of Saudi Support for 9/11 Hijackers
Sept. 12, 2021 (EIRNS)—Pursuant to President Joe Biden’s Sept. 3 executive order, the FBI has declassified a redacted copy of its April 4, 2016 report on Operation Encore, an investigation into support for 9/11 hijackers. While much of the material is redacted, either on the initiative of the FBI or other agencies, fresh details emerge that strengthen the case that Saudi Arabia directed support towards the hijackers.
One significant component is the meeting between Omar al-Bayoumi — a “ghost employee” of Saudi aviation company Dallah AVCO, and a person considered by the FBI for years to be an agent of the Saudi government — and future hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi who were based in San Diego. Bayoumi was considered a “very high status” person at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, although he was not officially on the staff there. The meeting occurred at a Los Angeles restaurant, and was, according to Bayoumi’s telling, a “chance encounter” based on Bayoumi’s hearing Mihdhar and Hazmi’s “Gulf accents” as they spoke in Arabic. But another eyewitness reports that Bayoumi sat in the restaurant looking out the window, and approached the two men as they entered, inviting them to join him at his table. Mihdhar and Hazmi had been brought to the restaurant by an individual who was directed to do so. Bayoumi was at the Saudi consulate just one hour before the restaurant meeting.
(This restaurant meeting is similar to the “chance meeting” at a Virginia 7-11 that led to support from a small network in Falls Church, Virginia.)
Unusual transactions in Bayoumi’s bank accounts coincide with transactions wherein he provided assistance to Hazmi and Mihdhar. When Bayoumi’s phone was inspected during his post-9/11 detention in the U.K., his contact list was found to include phone numbers associated with Shaykh al-Khudayr, “identified as the spiritual advisor to [a] senior Usama Bin Laden lieutenant.”
While the two hijackers were in San Diego, Bayoumi was in almost daily contact with Osama Bassnan, who, along with his wife, received direct cash payments from Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then Saudi ambassador in Washington. Bassnan had hosted a party for the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman, who had been convicted for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which killed 6 and injured another 1,000 in the Twin Towers. In another demonstration of their close ties, Bassnan’s and Bayoumi’s wives were arrested together in early 2001 while attempting to shoplift jewelry at a JCPenney’s.
Hazmi and Mihdhar were supported while in San Diego by Fahad al-Thumairy, an imam at the King Fahad Mosque connected to al-Qaeda and to a plot to bomb Los Angeles airport. The two were involved in hijacking American Airlines Flight 77 from Dulles International Airport in Virginia, which they crashed into the Pentagon.
Another link is seen through Ziyad Khaleel, an Osama bin Laden logistics coordinator who transferred money from the Islamic American Relief Agency to bin Laden. His roommate for four months was Mutaib al-Sudairy, whose phone number was also found in Bayoumi’s phone; Bayoumi had called Sudairy five times while the hijackers were in San Diego. The calls coincide with logistical support for the hijackers, including the day after the “chance” meeting at the restaurant and immediately after their apartment and living arrangements were organized in San Diego, with Bayoumi fronting the money. Two months after that call, Sudairy was at the Falls Church address—not far from Dulles Airport—at which four hijackers later established residence.
In order to downplay the report, some pundits point out that no top-level Saudi government officials are directly implicated in the release, this is a willful evasion of the increasingly clear dynamics, and also ignores the funding from Prince Bandar.
The release of this report raises issues that go beyond Saudi Arabia, whose involvement has become undeniable. Who within the U.S. institutions has allowed the Kingdom’s role to be covered up, and where within the United States will a full investigation lead?