WASHINGTON — 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 US 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 US 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 US-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.